DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Holy days and observances spring 2020

Holy days and observances: An appreciation for human connection

Spring flowers
(DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)
April is a spiritually significant month for people of many faiths around the world. This week - Holy Week - represents the most important period of days in the Christian calendar. The Jewish community also celebrates Passover this week, and later this month, the Muslim community will begin the holy month of Ramadan. While COVID-19 forces many of us to adapt our traditional plans for the coming holy days and observances, I encourage the DePaul community to reflect, as Jo and I have, on our blessings – quite simply, our appreciation for life.

Holy Week is a time when Catholics celebrate the Paschal mystery – a celebration of Jesus' life, his passion and death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter. This year, we may feel like we're in the midst of a long and painful Good Friday. The most vulnerable people and communities all around the world are experiencing suffering in particularly painful ways as the global pandemic compounds already existing issues. We can visualize the experience of the resurrection right in front of us, and we believe it is going to come. We all would like it to be soon – as soon as possible. But we do not control this timetable.

We do, however, have a role to play. In this resurrection, the resurrection of today, we need to work as one family united by a spirit of caring and love. From the individuals keeping our food shelves stocked to the healthcare workers in our intensive care units, we must support all those working to keep us safe and healthy. We must adhere to medical guidance and respect science. We must all think and act in socially responsible ways.

Social distancing is challenging and isolating, but it is how we can best answer the call to care for others.  By not being with the family members and friends we all miss deeply, we are demonstrating our value for human life. We are committing to the preservation of life. To borrow the words of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot: stay home, save lives.

Our Seders and Easter brunches and communal prayers will be different this year. But COVID-19 does not cancel the sacredness of our religious holidays, nor the deep human need for connection. We hope all members of the DePaul community will find ways to safely celebrate with loved ones and friends.

Many Jewish congregations are hosting virtual Seders. While others, including those which prohibit the use of electricity during the holidays, are helping congregants to lead their own Seders. Some Rabbis are leading the traditional hunt for the hidden piece of matzo by carrying a laptop from room to room and having children guess where it is hidden.

The joy of Easter may not be experienced in a church or around a crowded dining room table. But it may be celebrated with a live streamed Easter mass or a family egg hunt in the home. Those who are apart may still decorate Easter eggs or cook traditional dishes together virtually.

Though Ramadan is often marked by communal prayer and large social gatherings to break the fast at sundown, individuals will know they pray in concert with millions of others. Families may connect virtually, enabling the values of Ramadan to transcend shelter in place orders.

No matter what or how you celebrate, Jo and I pray for you to find moments of peace and gratitude. Many members of our DePaul community are now juggling intensified and even brand new responsibilities both for home and work. Be patient with yourself and one another. Sheltering in place indeed presents countless challenges, but it also can give us renewed appreciation for human connection and the relationships we hold most dear. We hope you and your loved ones have a blessed holiday. Stay home. Stay healthy. Stay safe.