Our Jubilee got run over by a pandemic. Well, yes and no. Already, several of the events that were to highlight the 175th anniversary of our founding have been cancelled, and a number of others in the summer will likely suffer the same fate. More than the events themselves, the anxieties and preoccupations that go along with a global health crisis seem a far cry from the celebratory nature of a Jubilee year.
But not all is lost. We are stuck inside, and our bodily confinement, strange as it is, can be the occasion for seeing ourselves more clearly. It can be a window to the soul, opening us in a more transparent way to a communion with ourselves, with those with whom we share these days, and with our God. It is unsettling time, to say the least, but it also qualifies as a grace of this Jubilee year, given to us by a God who specializes in the unexpected.
Times of crisis have a way of clarifying things, of forcing us out of accustomed ways of thinking and acting. The two pillars of our Assumptionist tradition, St. Augustine and Fr. d’Alzon, are instructive in this respect. Both of them lived in unsettling times, when the world as they knew it was coming to an end. In the face of deep crisis, they both zeroed in on what was most essential: the place of God in the world and at the center of the human heart.
I am typing these words on the feast of the conversion of St. Augustine, anno Domini 2020, the time of pandemic. In another place, before the virus became known, I spoke of the Jubilee year in these words:
It is a time to attach ourselves more completely and steadfastly to the person of Jesus Christ, the source of our joy and the only true hope for our world. The charism of Fr. d’Alzon has stood the test of time, but its renewal will come only by turning toward Christ and allowing ourselves to be refashioned by him again and again.
There’s nothing in this, a description of the road to Christian conversion in every time and place, that is not given weight and urgency by the new conditions in which we are living. Not every community has a chance to celebrate a Jubilee in the midst of a pandemic. Let’s take advantage of it.