Of all the heroes that have emerged from this pandemic, one of the most surprising is a young man from Ireland by the name of Christopher Gault.
In 2013, after completing training to become a doctor, he decided God had something else planned.
He gave up medicine and joined the Dominicans. He professed his vows in 2018 and moved to Dublin to study philosophy and began formation to become a priest.
Then came the pandemic.
Ireland sent out urgent calls, asking for any available medics, people willing to come to the front line, to help care for the sick and dying. Brother Christopher Gault decided he had to go. He asked his superiors, and they gave their blessing.
And so, a man who used to spend his days in white robes with a rosary in his hands now finds himself in medical scrubs, wearing protective gear, gloves and a mask, helping install tubes so that people can breathe.
Last week, he was interviewed by the BBC, and he told them: “I would rather be living my religious life in my monastery, praying with my brothers and studying, but this was a response at a time of need. While it is needed, I am here to help.”
A few years ago, writing for a Catholic website about what it means to be Catholic, Chris Gault summed it up simply: “To be truly Catholic,” he wrote, “means to respond, freely and wholeheartedly, to Christ’s call.”
What he was saying then — and what is saying now with his life — lies at the heart of this Sunday’s scripture:
“The Lord is my shepherd.”
We hear that familiar passage so often, at wakes and funerals. It’s probably the most famous line in all of the psalms.
It proclaims fidelity, and trust, and love. It expresses humility and loyalty. It announces, to anyone who is listening:
“I don’t follow my own path. The Lord is my shepherd — not me.”
God is the one who leads us, protects us, comforts us — shepherds us.
We cannot do it on our own.
This is a recurring message in these weeks after Easter. Last week, we heard of Jesus accompanying the disciples on the road to Emmaus — opening their eyes when they seemed blind. Two weeks ago, on Divine Mercy Sunday, we remembered the message of mercy and the singular phrase, “Jesus, I trust in you.” This Sunday, we echo that. Whatever dark valley we encounter, whatever isolation we may feel, we place our trust in him.
And I think that’s especially important now, during this challenging moment we are living through.
We cannot do it on our own.
The Lord is the one who will get us through this.
He is our shield — and our shepherd.
Last week, Father Passenant reminded me of another priest who understood that, the first pastor of this parish, Msgr. Joseph McLaughlin.
Sixty years ago yesterday, Msgr. McLaughlin entered eternal life. He served the people of this parish for more than 40 years — something unheard of today. But his life and legacy have a message for us here and now.
It is a message, fundamentally, of perseverance. From the very beginning, Joseph McLaughlin had his share of challenges and setbacks.
When they finally built a church, the small white chapel was completed in 1916, in the middle of World War I. The people of Queens were watching their sons go off to war. Many didn’t come back. Two years later, the parish and the world faced a deadly pandemic, the Spanish flu, that infected an estimated 500 million people, about a third of the world’s population.
That was just the beginning. Across 40 years, Joseph McLaughlin guided this parish through two pandemics, a fire that destroyed that first church, a global Depression and two World Wars.
And yet, here we are: the Body of Christ. This community of believers, scattered to many places right now, but bound together in faith and hope and love.
And we are able to say that, in part, because Msgr. McLaughlin — and all the other pastors who came after him — knew that even in the most uncertain of times, this much was certain:
The Lord is our shepherd.
He is our guide. Our protection. Our strength.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, as we pray for all around the world who are separated from their spiritual homes, from the sacraments and from their churches and from their priests, we nonetheless pray with confidence and with trust.
We know, by the grace of God, we will be together again soon.
And we do it with great hope for the future. Today also marks the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, when we look toward those who will come after us and we pray for the world they will build. We remember all those who are discerning a call — whether to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life or marriage.
So we pray for people like Christopher Gault, the Dominican brother in scrubs and gloves, and so many others who are saying “Yes” — who are entrusting their lives to the Good Shepherd with courage and with joy.
May we all do that, whatever our vocation in life, in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves.
Sometimes, the valley is dark. The path can difficult.
But our shepherd, the resurrected Lord, is beside us — just as he was with the disciples traveling to Emmaus.
We walk with him. We look to him. We have courage with him.
There is nothing we shall want.
With him, we do not lose hope.