2020 was a year marked by sickness, death, unrest, isolation, and economic difficulty — a year that has challenged the faith of many. 

And so, one might ask: What good could come out of a year like this one?

So, for our final issue of 2020, Angelus invited a lineup of writers — some regular contributors, others guests — to reflect on how they've seen God's providence at work in their own lives during this difficult year. Their reflections will be published on AngelusNews.com from Dec. 21-24. 

Each week as I pull into my parents’ driveway, I put the car into park. I take a few deep breaths. In the faintest whisper, I pray, “Jesus, help me be a good ‘Simon’ to my dad.” Several times a week I go to my parents’ home to help care for my dying father. His physical body is rapidly declining from a rare neurological disease similar to ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

We are navigating the painful reality that these are the last holidays together as a family, while preparing for things like his final resting place and funeral plans. 

Throughout the difficult year that has been 2020, I have had the additional challenge of caring for a dying parent. While COVID-19 has interrupted many aspects of daily life as we knew it, those who were terminally or chronically ill before the pandemic have experienced their disease progress. 

Unfortunately, time did not stop, even though life seemed to. For some, the pandemic feels like a big “time out” of normal life, which we hope will return after our vaccinations. But for my family, time has marched forward, bringing with it a future we know will at some point not include my dad’s physical presence in our daily lives.

In this anxious and exhausting period unlike anything most of us lived through, I’ve found inspiration in one particular figure from the Gospels. 

Simon of Cyrene was a helper to Jesus, a companion on the hard road of suffering. He showed up and met Jesus when he needed help most. While not taking away the immense physical or emotional suffering Jesus endured, he helped to lighten the load. He was a quiet, supportive presence. Simon accompanied Jesus.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has called for a “ministry of accompaniment,” one in which the Church is willing to get messy and go into the spaces of the human heart that hurt the most. He has called for a Church that is unafraid of suffering with people.

My father’s illness has shown me what this ministry is really about, as I accompany him toward death; a chance to walk with Jesus, like Simon. And I have found it to be life-giving. 

I am Simon when I help my dad wash his face and beard because he can no longer bathe himself. 

I am Simon when I help dad get up from his chair, lift his legs into bed to take a nap, or help put his compression socks on.

I am Simon when I validate his emotions and feelings when he feels scared or lonely.

I am Simon when I cry with my dad and tell him how much I love him.

This pandemic has felt like an endless Good Friday. This disease has felt the same for my dad and our family. But there is a promise for us in whatever “Good Friday” we are facing or walking through in life. Good Friday does not have the final say. It surely did not for Jesus.

It has been devastating to watch my dad suffer like this. And yet, somehow it is sacred and holy. 

Life right now may feel like Good Friday, but Easter Sunday is coming.

If you have a personal story or experience in which you have seen God’s provide at work in this difficult year, please email us at [email protected]. Submissions will be evaluated and published as part of an ongoing series on our website.