Catholic Vancouver December 03, 2020
God never abandons: priest-author shares his take on pandemic
By Emi Namoro
If you told Father Harrison Ayre a few years ago that he would co-write a book for Catholics for a global pandemic, he probably wouldn’t believe you.
Father Ayre, the pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Nanaimo, B.C., met Simply Catholic editor Michael Heinlein on Twitter. Their initial online interactions led Heinlein to ask the priest if he was interested in writing for their resource site. Father Ayre became a regular contributor for Simply Catholic (a ministry of Our Sunday Visitor), and a friend.
“Though we haven’t had a chance to meet in person, I think there’s actually a friendship now,” Father Ayre told The B.C. Catholic.
It wasn’t first time that Father Ayre formed a connection with someone that he met online. He met his podcast co-host, Father Anthony Sciarappa, on Twitter as well. The two became friends and formed Clerically Speaking, a podcast hosted by an American and Canadian priest discussing topics of culture and Catholicism.
When the pandemic hit, leading to parish closures and event cancellations, Father Ayre and Father Sciarappa started discussing on their podcast how they can “help people see where God is right now.”
Then, in talks with Heinlein, Father Ayre noticed “there wasn’t a lot of spiritual or theological nourishment for people at the time.”
Initially, Father Ayre and Heinlein discussed writing a series of articles for Catholics during the pandemic, but decided they had bigger dreams for this project. So, they teamed up to write a book that was “easy, digestible, and not reactionary.”
Finding Christ in the Crisis: What the Pandemic Can Teach Us was born, published by Our Sunday Visitor in November.
“There’s no one really answering the question of where God is [during the pandemic],” said Father Ayre. “We felt that it was neglected on a variety of levels and we wanted to address that. Not in competition with anyone, but in service of the Universal Church.”
Drawing on the perspectives of a priest and a lay person, the book discusses theological and spiritual lessons, uses St. Damien of Molokai as an example of Christian charity, and offers resources for this challenging time.
“We really want Catholics to be able to build up both their charity and their hope, and to develop a more listening heart. We introduce the exile of Israel as a way to interpret our moment in the Church so as to see God, while he purifies, never abandons. And that’s Christian hope: the recognition of God’s presence in the midst of suffering.”
Father Ayre hopes parishes consider getting this book for priests and parishioners as a tool and an aid.
“It has been tough on everyone, and it can be tough even for priests at times to know how to address the pandemic,” he said. “I think we really need this. I think a lot of people are a bit on edge right now. We need to realize that God is at work. He’s still at work through your baptism. Your baptism never leaves you. God is at work. His grace is at work. He hasn’t abandoned. He’s just purifying right now.”
Finding Christ in the Crisis is available for $2.75 from Broughton’s. It also comes in an e-version through Amazon Kindle.
Father Ayre said publishing this book was not about making money. “We just want people to read it because we think that it would be a helpful tool.”