On March 27, 2020, Pope Francis gave a special urbi et orbi (“to the city and to the world”) blessing. This moment of global prayer, usually reserved for Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, came in response to what had quickly become a global crisis. After recalling the Gospel account of Jesus calming the storm and sea (Mark 4:35–41), Pope Francis said, “For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities.... We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel, we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.” He went on: “The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.”
At the time, I did not appreciate the extent to which my “false and superfluous certainties” would be uncovered. The length and severity of the storm seems to have set me on a prolonged period of self-evaluation. What we’ve been through since last March has forced me to face some accumulated falsehoods, to confront what had been uncovered in me. This past year has provided me a time to construct a new daily schedule, to embrace new projects and habits, to identify priorities that would align more authentically with the Spirit within me. We associate Lenten spirituality with letting go of our sinfulness, it’s true, but we forget that Lenten spirituality is also about getting in touch with our authentic selves. We are invited to see ourselves through the omniscient gaze of the Divine.