I bet those two words, “free falling” bring to your minds a song that Tom Petty sang many years ago. I bet it conjures all kinds of images in your memories as well.
Well, I heard those two words strung together in Fr. Joseph Scolaro’s homily that he gave on a Sunday at Notre Dame Church in New Hyde Park. He wasn’t talking about Tom Petty either! He was talking about belief in God! Yes, we seem to be “free falling” at a rapid descent especially since the Coronavirus (Covid-19) came to do battle with not only our lives but with our souls.
I can’t help myself when it comes to words! I was always a lover of the game of Scrabble and for that reason, my nose was always in a dictionary long before you could look up words online. Of course, now I had to look up the definition of “free falling.”
So here it is:
verb (used without object), free-fell, free-fall·en, free-fall·ing.
(of parachutists) to descend initially, as for a designated interval, in a free fall:
The jumpers were required to free-fall for eight seconds.
denoting or suggesting a free fall:
a free-fall recession.
Can you imagine what it is like to free fall? You step out blindly from a place of “terra firma” under your feet and then you are falling through the air weightless, free, hopefully praying that your parachute opens to land you safely on the ground.
But what if you are not praying and what if you don’t know what you are free falling to?
So once again I had to research some more information for my own head, even though Fr. Scolaro delivered the figures quite aptly to the masked parishioners sitting before him.
U.S. Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace
This is the information regarding an update on America’s changing religious landscape that I discovered online. It was written by the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life on October 17, 2019.
“The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.”
This little blurb uses another word for free falling. Again, two little words, “rapid clip.” Hmm. . . what does that mean? Another definition! So if something moves at a “fast clip,” it moves or happens quickly.
Fr. Joseph Scolaro, on the East Coast, nailed it with the words “Free Falling!” Now I will give you another viewpoint from the West Coast, by Fr. Joseph Illo who is Pastor of Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco, California. I found his words ringing loud and true, especially the last line bolded below.
A West Coast View
Fr. Illo gave his homily for the 15th Sunday in ordinary time and I quote directly from his blog the following:
Yesterday I met with an engaged couple that is scrambling to find a church for their wedding on August 15th, since churches in San Francisco remain closed. “After we are allowed to move about normally…” he [the future groom] said. I had to say that I didn’t think we would ever be able to move about as freely as we did before.
This is not a conspiracy, but a consensus, which is much worse. Most of us have chosen “safety” over freedom. Most of us have too easily given up freedom of worship and the Sacraments. Most churches in San Francisco have been closed since March, and do we think Catholic life and worship will resume?
Most Catholics will not return to the sacraments, because for five months we have been told that the Eucharist is not essential. 75% of Catholics did not attend Sunday Mass before Covid; I expect only five or ten percent of the total Catholic population will attend Mass after Covid. And five percent is just about what we have here at Mass this morning. But God can save the world with very small numbers (Homily from July 12, 2020).
Children of God
Yes! We are Children of God! We are the “small numbers – the remnant!”
Fr. Illo impacts our hearts with the following statement of Truth:
Covid is the Great Revealer: how strong is our Christian faith when we face opposition? We must be revealed as the children of God, not the children of this age. We must put our hope and trust not in politics, or technology, or economic security, or physical health, but in God.
Fr. Illo continues with a quote from GK Chesterton. . .
In the years of social disintegration leading up to the Great War of 1914, GK Chesterton wrote an exquisite hymn, “O God of earth and altar.” It calls upon God’s chastisement, which is our only hope of regaining our freedom.
“O God of earth and altar,/ bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,/ our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,/ the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,/ but take away our pride.”
To hear the statistics that Fr. Scolaro provided during his homily at Mass that day shook me, in the same way that reading the Pew Research Center study on the religious landscape of the United States had. Also, I pondered the words as well from Fr. Illo’s homily that I quoted from. . . of “Covid-19 being the great revealer”. . .
Yes, Fr. Illo, “Covid-19 is the “great revealer” and it also has shaken the world to its core!
You can see in the above image that this particular neighborhood somewhere in the U.S. was shaken right down to the ground by a tornado. It sure seems like a “tornado” of great force is shaking the world right now!
The words “ground zero” float around in my head now and I remember it was only two weeks ago that I wrote my blog on the 9-11 attacks and that of the first fatality claimed on the life of Fr. Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department.
It was horrific, frightening and surreal and it sent us all flying back to “sacred ground, holy ground.” Churches were once again filled to capacity and people were on their knees imploring God to hear their prayers.
People were scared and rightfully so. It was a return back to God and that of His Commandments. People were more kind to each other, looked out for each other and tried harder. Respect was shown for the “other” and the “fruits” of returning back to our Creator were being manifested in the day-to-day.
Is that happening now?
Now? Not so much. We are free falling at a rapid clip.
Crying out to Heaven
What do we do? How can we change what we see being shaken all around us?
The Blessed Mother shown here looking to Heaven with rosary beads clasped in her hands gives us the answer.
We need to cry out to Heaven and to our Lord! We are the “remnant!” We are “the small numbers.” The Mother of God tells us Pray, Pray, Pray! Pray the Rosary for Peace.
What does God tell us? What does He promise us in the Holy Bible? He makes it very clear and gives us a step-by-step instruction on what we should do and what He will do and accomplish for us.
2 Chronicles – 7:14-15
“If then my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, I myself will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.”
What is a parachute?
It is a cloth canopy that fills with air and allows a person or heavy object attached to it to descend slowly when dropped from an aircraft, or which is released from the rear of an aircraft on landing to act as a brake.
When I read this definition, the word “canopy” appealed to me. Just picturing that image brings to mind ways to help us not “free fall” but to help us to be on “terra firma” once again during these challenging times that we face. Hopefully, the canopy will not only help us but help those all around us who are free falling to concrete.
I believe the image above of the shaken neighborhood shows clearly that the Blessed Virgin Mary statue stayed intact as a sign for us to look to.
We look to her, the Mother of God, and ask her help for all to return back to her Son, Jesus Christ.
She is Our Canopy. . .
She is our parachute, our canopy to guide us to firm ground, not to ground zero, not at a fast clip and certainly not free falling. She gently guides us back to the doorways of sacred ground which are our churches where we come to meet and greet our God in worship and thanksgiving.
Our Blessed Mother, Mary brings us to firm ground; ground that is not shaken, but solid. It’s where we find priests like Fr. Scolaro who gives his young life to bring “young blood” to those who are in need of life-giving spiritual transfusions. It’s where we find priests like Fr. Illo who speaks truth to guide and illumine the flock he has been given to shepherd.
The “little ones,” young and old alike, whose hearts are open to the Word of God and are eager to learn with childlike spirits. We need our priests to lead us through this maze of confusion and we also need the faithful to stand up and witness. With the Blessed Mother’s help we can all do this!
Our Lady always brings us to the “Sacred Altar” of her Son where we can receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Who else would she bring us to but the Creator of the Universe? The One who blew the breath of life into our lungs.
She brings us to our source, our love. She brings us to our terra firma.
All Are Invited
Yes, all are invited. Her son makes that very clear in words from Holy Scripture:
Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.
Shoulder my yoke and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls!
Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
She brings us to her Son, Jesus Christ, and she brings us to her priest-sons where we find solid ground!
Where we cry out at the “Feet of Jesus. . . Holy, Holy, Holy!”
Let us run back to our Churches and let us “hit the ground running” to
spread the Good News to a virus-ridden world,
a world that is “free falling.”
©2020 Anita Guariglia
Featured Image – Pexels
Parts of homily given by Fr. Joseph Illo quoted from his blog
Scripture taken from The Jerusalem Bible
Youtube: We Fall Down/Josh Baldwin