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‘I think it’s just a great opportunity for us to really get into ourselves, value these things like having dinner with family to get reconnected not only with ourselves but our family, our loved ones, those that we’re quarantined with, and to reflect,’ says Gerard Martinez, Life Teen Choir director at Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Community, of staying home this Easter.

Gerard Martinez feels a step away from heaven when he plays his guitar and sings praises to the Lord every Sunday at Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Community.

As director of the Life Teen Choir, Martinez said the group of singers and musicians sometimes experiences spiritual and religious moments that are undefinable.

“We were really looking forward to celebrating Easter,” said Martinez, who has been doing music ministry for more than four decades, including about 20 years at Santa Maria de la Paz. “It’s not going to happen.”

The new coronavirus, which has claimed more than 108,000 lives worldwide, crippled economies and altered the everyday behaviors of people not just in New Mexico but around the globe, also has upended the way Christians will celebrate one of the most important holidays of the year — a day marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But for Martinez and other devout Catholics in the City of Holy Faith, the epidemic has only strengthened their connection to God and opened their eyes to the beauty that still surrounds them in uncertain times.

“I think it’s just a great opportunity for us to really get into ourselves, value these things like having dinner with family to get reconnected not only with ourselves but our family, our loved ones, those that we’re quarantined with, and to reflect,” said Martinez, a 61-year-old father of four.

“I think we have to look at it as a blessing,” he added. “Is it a hard one? Oh, [expletive]. Pardon me. Yes it is. But we have to find the value in it.”

‘We have to respond prudently’

The pandemic, which prompted the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to close its churches a month ago as part of a statewide effort to try to contain the spread of the contagious disease, has been difficult for everyone, from priests to parishioners, Archbishop John C. Wester said.

“After 9/11, we were able to come together and console each other, support each other with our presence, and this is a crisis where we can’t do that, so we desperately miss it,” Wester said.

“But the reality is there’s nothing we can do about it,” the archbishop said. “We have to respond prudently to the vagaries of the virus. It’s out of our hands, so what do we do? Well, we fall back on our sacred teachings and our traditions as a Catholic church, and we see immediately that — the best way to put it is — Jesus said, ‘When two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.’ ”

Wester’s message to his flock this year is that “home is the holy place.”

“It’s not taking the place of church. The church is unique,” he said. “But it is helping people to see that during this time we can be present to Christ, and he to us, if we’re open to it.”

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