CHANTILLY, Va. — Everyone thought that Jairus’ daughter was dead.
Jesus, however, assured them she was only asleep and asked Jairus to have faith. He then approached the sick child, took her by the hand and told her, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately, she stood up and walked.
Inspired by that Gospel message and the lifting of pandemic restrictions around the area, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and the Arlington Diocese hosted “Arise: A Diocesan Family Celebration” at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly June 26.
“Arise” occurred the weekend bishops in the region, including Bishop Burbidge, lifted the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass, which had been in place since after the pandemic was declared in March 2020.
Bishop Burbidge explained the idea for the event, which included adoration, confession, Mass, dinner and a carnival, during a recent “Walk Humbly Podcast.”
“It’s really beautiful to see, traveling around the diocese, how excited people are to be back in their parishes and telling me about their family events and seeing grandchildren after a year,” he said. “We’re a diocesan family, so I said, ‘Why don’t we gather?’ Let’s come together as God’s holy family.”
In the late afternoon, attendees gathered for adoration followed by a vigil Mass celebrated on the school football field. In his homily, Bishop Burbidge spoke about the difficulties many have experienced during the pandemic.
“We celebrate that God was always there with us to deliver and to protect us and to grant us the patience and perseverance for which we prayed. It is evident from this Gospel that when we are down because of our crosses and burdens and sufferings, God doesn’t want us to stay there. In fact, he lifts us up,” he said.
“We thank God for his infinite goodness and we remember and pray for those who have died this past year and those still suffering from the impact of COVID-19,” he said.
After Mass, attendees grabbed a chicken sandwich and walked to a field with moon bounces, rides, vendor tents and a stage where multiple musical groups from the diocese performed throughout the evening. Hope Hargadon and her daughter, Grace, 8, rode on the “Flyer” together.
“We are just happy that life is moving on,” said Hargadon, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Herndon. “It’s just wonderful to be out with the whole community, and all the diocese.”
She also enjoyed the novel experience of attending outdoor Mass on a hot, sunny day. “I’ve never been served Communion by a priest in sunglasses before so that was really cool,” she told the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper.
Mark Schaad, a parishioner of St. Timothy Church in Chantilly, watched with amusement as four of his children played on one of the inflatables. He said he was grateful for the free event as it’s not always easy for him, his wife and his six children to enjoy a fun, affordable evening together.
“It makes us feel appreciated,” he said. While they liked the games, his children said the best part was being able to pray together. “The holy trifecta: adoration, confession and Mass,” said his son Dominic. “Chick-fil-A is just the bonus tacked on the end.”
It has been difficult for the family to attend Mass since the pandemic started, said Mark.
“We have a special-needs son who’s medically fragile so we’ve all been protecting him by staying home,” he said. “A lot of good things happened recently. We’ve all been vaccinated. He’s been able to get vaccinated and we took him to Mass for the first time last week and then again today.”
“This has been a very special time for us,” he added. “It feels like coming home.”
The author, Zoey Maraist, is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.