Slowing Down & Silence. We are definitely living in a very unusual time riddled with plenty of suffering and inconveniences. I have tried to discern how God is still actively working among it all. One particular way that I have noticed this is the extra time and rest that has come with the virus. We have forgotten how to be people of the Sabbath in this fast-paced and distracting world so my advice would be to embrace the slower tempo and enjoy the extra silence with the Lord. – Joe Wagner

Place ourselves in God’s presence. It wasn’t until I couldn’t spend time in person with those I love for the past couple months that I started to realize just how more fulfilling being in someone’s physical presence is compared to communicating virtually. If we value “real life” interaction in our human relationships, do we not also seek to place ourselves in the presence of our incarnate Lord, the Word who became Flesh and dwelt among us, and who desires to be close to us? I pray that we may all allow God to use this experience to lead us to a deeper love and gratitude for His Incarnation. – Keegan McGarry

Read St. Francis de Sales. St. Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church known for his gentleness and humility, is a wonderful spiritual director for a time such as this. His counsels are simple, direct, and relevant. His writings, especially his Introduction to the Devout Life, have had a profound impact on my life and he taught me how to truly pray. His Introduction to the Devout Life is composed of short notes and letters and is considered a masterpiece and spiritual classic. Since we have so much time for reading and praying, consider buying a copy so that St. Francis can teach you to life with his same gentleness and peace. – Miguel Melendez

Pray in Jesus’ heart. I spent a lot of time reflecting and praying in Jesus’ own heart. This is the source of the love of the world, isn’t it? When I felt isolated, misunderstood, or downright claustrophobic during the stay in place orders my prayers lead me to Jesus’ real heart which lived and lives as I do. In a certain way I thought if Jesus could make it through all the disastrous events that came his way then I can too if I just take his hand. In fact, Jesus’ loving heart got him through two pandemic-like occupations: the Roman occupation of Israel and the occupation of original sin.

I am being offered Christ’s heart in these new circumstances just as Israel had been through Christ as their messiah and just as all people were through Christ’s redemption on the cross. If in prayer I can place my hand on his chest and feel it beat I should know that it is beating for me, for me to receive that holy blood which gives me spiritual (and thus real) life. Then I can see my life for what it really is. What it is, is a miracle that can get through anything so long as I love with Christ. As he pours out his love to me in prayer I can receive it like cool water slacking my desperately thirsty heart on a warm summer day. Ubi dolor, ibi Christus. Arturo Merriman

Joe Wagner has been at St. Stephen the Martyr for pastoral year and will continue his third year of theology at Mundelein Seminary (IL) this fall. Outside the parish, Joe has loved spending time with his family, playing golf and billiards with his pastor, and might be the basketball player in seminary. Read more about Joe Wagner.

Keegan McGarry recently finished his first year of pre-theology at Mundelein Seminary (IL). He is currently serving the people of Christ Our King and Savior parish in Greensboro for his summer assignment. Keegan enjoys mountain biking, reading, and playing piano. Read more about Keegan McGarry.

Miguel Melendez will begin his fourth year at St. Joseph College Seminary (LA). He is talented at chant and singing, has tons of saint relics, and is the upcoming SGA president. Read more about Miguel Melendez.

Arturo Merriman will study Theology II at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary (FL) this fall. He recommends “Heart of the World” by Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Song of Songs for spiritual reading. Read more about Arturo Merriman.