It broke the heart of Deacon Tom Hardie when the onset of the pandemic prevented him from distributing the Eucharist to Catholics at Homestead of Knoxville Assisted Living. He knew the Eucharist would bring them joy and hope during a difficult time of uncertainty. One day while shopping at Fareway Grocery in Knoxville, he saw a member of one of the two parishes he serves, St. Anthony in Knoxville. The parishioner, Shana Krpan, worked at Homestead. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he asked Krpan about her interest in training to be an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist to distribute Communion at Homestead. She received the training and, as a result, nurtured hope in the residents longing to receive the body of Christ.
The second reading for the first Sunday of Advent speaks of the love that motivated Deacon Hardie and Krpan in their ministry to the residents at the assisted living residence:
“Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones …” (1 Thes. 3:12-4.2).
So how do we strengthen our hearts to abound in love for one another and for all? Living City Magazine (October 2021) published a column that Maria Voce, the former president of the Focolare Movement, wrote in 2012. Focolare is an international movement of spiritual and social renewal that aims to spread the message of unity worldwide.
Voce identified the following elements, which she described as the “Art of Loving that can be found in the Gospel” and that can help us to let go of “the prevailing culture of suspicion” (even more present today). These elements serve as excellent guidance for strengthening our hearts so that we can abound in love for one another and for all. Christian love:
1. Takes the initiative in loving. We do not expect to be loved. We do not love for self-interest or for other reasons.
2. Consists in loving one’s neighbor “as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Someone else is really “another me.”
3. Prompts us to act as our heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:45). That is, love referred to in the Gospel urges us to love everyone, really everyone, without the usual distinctions that we make so easily between people of different political parties, different churches and different views.
4. Includes love for our enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:43-48).
We “exercise” these elements of love in some of the following ways:
• Join the Diocese of Davenport CRS (Catholic Relief Services) Chapter for an Advent Journey with Migrants and Refugees via Zoom video conference Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. (https://tinyurl.com/2j3u8mfr). CRS carries out the commitment of the U.S. bishops to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas. The event combines prayer, discussion and information about migrants and refugees. The event will highlight the Holy Family’s experience as migrants and refugees with their journey to Bethlehem, flight to and time in Egypt, and their return to Nazareth. Learn more about CRS
• Encourage the use of the COVID-19 vaccination (see more information from Iowa’s bishops in this week’s issue). Daniel and Ellen Rosmann, who farm near Harlan, Iowa, make a poignant appeal for vaccination for the love of the “whole human family.” Rosmann’s uncle, a Catholic priest, died from COVID-19. Watch their story and that of Ryan Burchett, co-owner of Mississippi River Distilling Co. in LeClaire, and a deacon candidate from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport
• Participate in Synod conversations. Pope Francis is asking Catholics worldwide to reflect on what God expects of the Church of the third millennium. Over the coming months, parishes, schools and other communities will begin to host listening sessions. Offer to initiate conversations with people outside your Church circles as well. Visit the Diocese of Davenport website for more details (davenportdiocese.org/synod-2023).
• Pray. Consider these forms of prayer — the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Contemplative Prayer, eucharistic adoration, the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
• Consume print and social media that strengthens the heart. Avoid media that disparages people.
• Reach out to someone with whom you have a strained relationship.
Deacon Hardie’s love for others, deepened through prayer and action, strengthen his heart and allow him to be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That is our calling this Advent.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor