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As we slowly straggle out of the pandemic, with its various waves and our one-step-forward-two-steps-backward responses, it is only natural that we are all praying for a return to normal.

But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the “new normal” may look a lot different than the old. In our parishes and schools, in our homes and workplaces, we are all hesitantly groping toward this new but stranger place.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been hearing from people in Catholic parishes from across Canada. They all tell me similar stories: how they are re-opening and people are eagerly coming back to Mass, and how they are handling the persistent threat of COVID-19. We all want similar things: to worship together face-to-face, to have our children attend class in-person with their friends, to be able to embrace our loved ones and friends, to share a meal or glass of our favourite beverage across a table (and not in a Zoom call). But we are all at different stages of ease with the uncertainty of the times.

So we are preparing for that day when normal returns, each in our own way. In British Columbia and Alberta, people are setting aside many of the restrictions regarding masks and distancing, at times without official sanction. In Ontario, we are cautiously reopening, but with some health measures still in place. Meanwhile, the vaccination campaigns carry on, driven by the continuing encouragement of our governments, in hopes of finding this elusive herd immunity.

As a Catholic publishing house, we turn our thought to how we can provide the Church resources to help in these times. So we find authors who can write inspiring reflections on hope and resilience, on compassion and caring for our neighbours, on enduring faith in the face of suffering and hardship.

Last spring we published A Post-Pandemic Church: Prophetic Possibilities, in which author Sr. Nuala Kenny, SC, offered a hard-nosed but hopeful way forward for us as Church. This fall, we consider the personal dimension of faith with Holy Labours: A Spiritual Calendar of Everyday Work. In this book, author Simone Brosig re-purposes the medieval practice of creating a calendar of spiritual endeavours to help us recognize the connections between our daily practices and their spiritual basis, with a special tie to our liturgical life. Thus we can discover that a truly whole life is never divided into separate spheres, but is an integral unity.

We also continue to recognize the toll of the pandemic, with its various confinements, on our emotional lives. For children, this has been especially tough. To help, we are publishing I Hope, by Anne Louise Mahoney and illustrated by Joan Subirana. This is a book for children, but meant to create a shared experience with their parents. It looks at our surroundings to highlight the many reasons for hope, in spite of the current challenges. It is the fifth volume in our best-selling Seeds of Faith series.

At no point do we pretend that the recent past has not changed us. For a long time to come, we will have to re-acquaint ourselves with how to live again in community, to be witnesses of hope and faith in uncertainty. The very fact that we are returning to Sunday Mass, maybe masked and disinfected but still there, is itself a type of witness. Beneath our masks we are smiling.

Joseph Sinasac is Publishing Director at Novalis. He has been involved with religious communications for more than 40 years as an author, journalist, editor and TV and radio commentator on all things Catholic. He continues to be excited by the commitment and passion of the Catholics he meets in his daily work.

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