Isolated in their homes on a Good Friday unlike any other, Catholics across America tuned in April 10 for a litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, led by the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, who himself stood nearly alone in a cathedral built to welcome thousands.
Archbishop Jos é H. Gomez of Los Angeles said Friday that amid the questions raised by Christ’s death, and by the global pandemic, the most important answer is God’s love.
“We stand today at the foot of the cross with Mary, our Blessed Mother, and we look upon her Son, crucified. And we ask God: Why did he have to die? Couldn’t there be some other way?”
“Today we are also asking God: Why this coronavirus? Why have you allowed this disease and death to descend on our world?”
“We know that Jesus on the cross is the only answer,” Gomez said, in a homily he preached both in English and Spanish, while at least 10,000 people tuned in to a livestreamed broadcast of a liturgy of the Word, and a moment of prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.
“In the heart of Christ — wounded by the soldier’s spear, pierced by our sins — we see how much God loves the world. We see how precious we are in our Father’s eyes,” Gomez said.
“Jesus has opened his heart for us. He has given his life out of love for us. Now he calls us to entrust our lives to him — our whole heart, our whole mind; all our feelings and thoughts, our words and actions.”
“In this moment, Jesus is inviting every one of us in the Church to take up our cross and to follow him along the path of humble love, the path of reverence for God and service to our neighbors,” the archbishop added.
After his homily, Gomez led a litany, in which Catholics expressed their faith in the mercy of God. “Jesus, I trust in you,” Archbishop Gomez repeated, “¡Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, en ti confío!”
In Wilmington, Delaware, Colin Stapleton-Bradley, 26, was consoled by the archbishop’s words.
“I thought that the litany helped me deal with the uncertainty of suffering, especially in light of the coronavirus, why it happens, and how we can use our own suffering to, in some small way, relate to Christ's passion,” he told CNA.
Robert and Jess Nayden watched the archbishop’s litany while their children, ages 3 and 1, ate lunch in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
“I really appreciated that Archbishop Gomez organized this. It was simple and prayerful, and his homily about trusting the Sacred Heart of Jesus spoke to a lot of what I’ve been praying about recently,” Robert told CNA.
“We’ve also struggled to get into live-streamed liturgies these past few weeks, but this was a moment where I felt united in prayer with people across the country,” he added.
Seminarian Ryan Mau of San Jose expressed a similar sentiment.
“I was very happy to join other American Catholics in this,” he told CNA.
“I haven't been able to attend Mass since I was sent home from the seminary so to join in on a service like this reminds me how much I miss community and we can still be unified by prayer, even though most of us are not physically able to,” Mau said.
The seminarian mentioned gratitude for the witness of Gomez.
“I felt a sense of leadership and the guidance that really only a father can give me. I felt like he has been a great example especially in this odd time that we are all currently experiencing.”
Of a liturgy that switched between English and Spanish, Mau expressed support. “We need to reach out to all of God's children and need to be able to speak the languages necessary to do it,” he said.
Bo Bonner of Des Moines, Iowa, watched the litany with his five children. He said he had a bit of difficulty with the livestream, and he wasn’t sure what he needed to do to obtain the plenary indulgence attached to the litany. But, he said, “I thought the recitation by the archbishop was good and that is most important, and his words were timely and appreciated.”
While he said he appreciated more the optics of the Urbi et Orbi blessing offered by Pope Francis March 27 than those of LA’s cathedral, “I am very glad we did it as a nation.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to earn an indulgence during such a singular Good Friday,” he added.
Claire Breaux of Washington, DC, also watched online. Family members in Louisiana and Salt Lake City alo tuned in, while they met together in a Zoom meeting to pray as a family, along with the archbishop.
Breaux said praying with her family over Zoom has been edifying in a time of difficulty.
“We’ve done night prayer together this way a couple times already. We all agree it gives the prayers an added richness — we feel closer to each other and more united and encouraged in growing in holiness while we are apart,” she told CNA.
“My whole prayer through this weird time has been for an outpouring of grace for holiness, that we see how much we need God — which of course is easier to miss when life is good — and that [God] has already provided everything we need.”
“Certainly on Good Friday I look at the cross and see that it’s all been accomplished for us,” Breaux added.
In LA, Gomez, too, looked to the cross.
“Let us love one another, joining our sufferings to the heart of Christ, open for us on the cross. Let us sacrifice for one another, take care of one another, forgive one another,” the archbishop said at the conclusion of his homily.
“May our Blessed Mother Mary intercede for us in her sorrows today.”
“May she help us to be meek and humble of heart, and to persevere in this Good Friday of disease and death, to hasten to the Easter morning of the resurrection.”