NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Christians around the world are observing Good Friday today.
It’s a solemn day of prayer and fasting commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
This year, it will have to be shared virtually.
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CBS2’s Dick Brennan spoke with His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on Good Friday. In a wide-ranging interview, they discussed the role of faith, being tested, the work of the clergy and even the return of baseball.
Their full interview is below:
WEB EXTRA: Full Interview With Timothy Cardinal Dolan
DICK BRENNAN: Yes, and Happy Easter, your Eminence. So many people right now are feeling this tremendous anxiety, and they’re saying, “What do I turn to? What do I do now?” What is your advice for them?
TIMOTHY CARDINAL DOLAN: Well, my advice is this. Throughout history, in periods of adversity and periods of anxiety, as you just described, Dick, people traditionally turn to the Lord. They’re kind of, they’re bereft of the things they usually count on. I’ve – my Easter Sunday homily – I’m going to use the word “emptiness.” Emptiness. You remember on Easter Sunday, when the apostles went to the tomb to pay respects to the broken, dead body of Jesus, the tomb was empty. Empty. The angel said “What are you doing, looking for the living among the dead? He’s risen and he’s alive.” That tomb was empty and that emptiness is the beginning of hope. Because God always wants to fill our emptiness with his life, his light, his love, his mercy, his goodness. You know, my Jewish friends, Dick, because we remember these are the days of Passover, they tell me “That’s why God led the people of Israel, during the Exodus, through the desert.” Through the desert. Okay, there were other routes a lot easier. He led him through the desert. Why? The desert is barren. The desert is empty, meaning they had nothing. So they had to turn to the Lord and he unfailingly filled them. So any time of emptiness, and Lord knows we’re going through it now, we’ve got empty churches, our tables for Easter are empty. We can’t gather with the ones we love. The people aren’t going to jobs, they’re not going to gyms, they’re not getting paychecks. We’re empty of the things we usually count on, OK? Something’s got to fill that emptiness. We can go to unhealthy things. A lot of people do. Or we can say, “Lord, I don’t know where else to turn. I’m having trouble making some sense out of all this but I believe you’re there, and I don’t have much inside and I’d sure appreciate it if you if you fill me with some focus, some direction, some meaning. I need your grace I need your help, because all the things I usually count on aren’t there.” I don’t know if that makes sense or not, Dick.
BRENNAN: It makes an incredible amount of sense. And one other point that so many people are talking about. There are people, first of all, let’s talk about – we’ve talked about heroes, we’ve talked about health care workers, we’ve talked about people, firefighters, police officers, health care officers. But there are also some priests, and I know this from firsthand experience, going in, giving last rites in an ICU unit, and sisters doing the same thing. They deserve so much respect.
DOLAN: Boy, Dick, am I ever glad you brought that up. I want to, but it might sound a little self-serving, that I’m bragging about my own. But I don’t mind bragging about them, and I’m glad you brought it up. I had, I had on Holy Thursday a half hour conference with my priests, and I complimented them for just that, Dick. They’re out there, they’re walking the streets there. People are calling, they, they have somebody dying, they go. They have somebody said “I’m so messed up, I need to come up and talk.” They can come. They keep the social distance and are very circumspect and careful, but the priests are coming through. The priests are spiritually what the physicians are to the body. That’s what the priests are. They’re agents of the divine physician Jesus. I’m glad you brought in our sisters. I’m glad you brought in our pastoral workers. We’ve got this, this massive phalanx of heroes who are doing good and bravo, Dick Brennan for bringing up the priests as part of that.
BRENNAN: I also want to ask you because it’s a very troubling time for you. For older people who may, or people have asked me to ask you, people have great faith, they may be in their 80s and they say, “God will provide.” But sometimes you want to say, OK, God will provide, but you’ve got to really be careful. What do you say to them right now?
DOLAN: You got – you’re right. And what we always say is that God will always provide, but he provides through your common sense, through the advice of your physician, through our government leaders who are putting out responsible restrictions. God will provide but he usually does it through our own noggins, our own consciences, and the good people around us. So we don’t want this split. Can I tell you a little story? I hope it’s not too long. When my little niece Shannon had cancer at nine, everybody in her little town was praying for her. And when her mom, my sister Lisa, went to the dry cleaners, or went to the laundry to do some laundry. A lady said “Hey, aren’t you Shannon’s mom?” And she said “Yes I am.” And she said “Well I’m praying for Shannon.” And my sister Lisa said “So am I.” “How is she?” the lady asked. “Well, Dr. Bob says she’s fine.” And the lady says, “You go to a doctor? Why? You just told me you pray? Shouldn’t you just trust God and let God do it?” And my sister Lisa says, “Yeah, one of the ways God has answered my prayers is through Dr. Bob.” Now, that’s what we all have to remember. Heaven and earth are united. Faith and reason are united. God gave us a brain, and if we’re lucky common sense, and he expects to use it.
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BRENNAN: It’s, it’s such a weird time, and you know this. Today’s Good Friday, and God bless you for doing this now because I know how busy you are, but, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and then of course Easter Sunday. People are not able to go to churches. What do you say to people who can’t pray together and feel alone?
DOLAN: I would say to them, we’re never alone when we pray. Right? We’re never alone. That’s part of the emptiness that we spoke about earlier, is central to the meaning of Easter. The tomb was empty, so is our heart and soul. But we are never alone. I’ve got people telling me, yeah, they say “I feel alone, but boy I’ve discovered and interior strength I never thought I had, a sense of resilience and virtues and talents. I’ve discovered a lot of strength in friends and family, even if I can’t hug them or sit down with them. I’ve rediscovered a sense of my faith, and that God is with me. I am confident in his presence.” So he keeps it. Jesus said I will not leave you orphans, I will be with you all days even to the end of the world. My father and I want to come and make our home with you. These are all consolations that we really think about during this beautiful Easter season that can give us an antibiotic to that understandable sense of isolation that we’re tempted to feel.
BRENNAN: Your Eminence, so many friends of mine, Catholic friends, Jewish friends say the same thing. I’ve got faith but, wow, this is really testing my faith. What do I do?
DOLAN: Yeah, well, testing faith is not a bad thing. The Bible tells us that the testing the faith leads to endurance and perseverance, which is a good thing. We test a lot of things, don’t we? Teachers test their students. We test our strength when we exercise – well you might, I don’t. We, we do a lot of testing don’t we? A good cook tests the sauce. So testing isn’t always bad, all right? Testing could be like the desert, through which God led the Jewish people, so that when they got to, to Israel, the promised land, they were filled with gratitude and humility. It didn’t last long, my Jewish neighbors will remind us, but. So testing can be a good thing. Something left untested usually shrivels up and dies. Married people tell me that. When my love for my husband, my love for my wife, if we just take it for granted, we float along, sooner or later, it gets kind of insipid. When that love is tested – you know, Dick, some of the people that I, some of the married couples I find most in love, are when the mom. the wife and the kids are at home, and the husband’s in Afghanistan. That love is tested. But they tell me their love was never stronger. See? So this testing, where we’re usually tempted to think, hey, would God test us? He’s abandoning us, or he left us alone. No, the opposite is true.
BRENNAN: You’re eminence, final question. I know you’re a Yankee fan. Can you get the baseball season going?
DOLAN: Oh, would I, oh my Lord. I always use the analogy, Dick, of Lent is like spring training, getting ready for opening day which is Easter. Bring it on. When I’m sitting in my room reading or writing letters or telephoning or emailing people, I’m thinking, I wish I had the Yankee game on in the background. Even better if I had the St. Louis Cardinals game on the background, I’m still a Cardinal fan, but that day will come, and we’ll enjoy it all the more.
BRENNAN: Your Eminence, thank you so much.
DOLAN: A blessed Easter Dick, to you and Gracie, and your family and all the viewers.
BRENNAN: And to you because we need you now more than ever, and to Joe, and all the great people of the archdiocese who keep everything together. Thank you so much.
DOLAN: You’re gracious in saying that. Happy Easter.