Women listen on Ash Wednesday at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco on February 26, 2020.

Quarantine life is starting to feel like a real Lent

Updated 3:01 AM ET, Sun April 5, 2020

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(CNN)Monsignor Sam Sirianni tried to pray, but he couldn't help thinking about the day ahead, when he would preside over a funeral for four members of the same family.

The Fusco family has been devastated by Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Besides the four who died, two other relatives are hospitalized.
The large Italian Catholic family are devout members of their parish in Freehold, New Jersey, said Sirianni. He remembers the 11 Fusco children flocking around Grace, the matriarch, who died on March 18, at age 73.
Grace Fusco with her 11 children. Four members of the Fusco family died within days of each other last month.
Sirianni's parish, the Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine, has been shuttered for three weeks and counting.
As Holy Week begins, Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate Easter on April 12.
But with a pandemic sweeping across the world and many Easter services cancelled or curtailed, it feels like the church calendar has been stuck on Ash Wednesday, when Christians are reminded of their dusty mortality.
    "The real struggle is that Lent is supposed to end with Easter," Sirianni said after presiding over the Fuscos' funeral via Zoom on Thursday. "But in a certain sense we are not going to have that. We're going to continue to be in this Lent."

    We're trying to find meaning in sacrifice

    Observed by Catholics and some Protestants, Lent is a season of penitence and self-denial, the goal of which is to prepare one's soul for Easter, the holiest day on the Christian calendar. It may be best known, these days, for the small sacrifices people make, like giving up chocolate or Twitter.
    But this Lent, Christians and non-Christians alike have been forced to surrender a lot more than sweets.
    "I didn't expect to give up everything for Lent this year," goes one grim joke.
    Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday and ends this Thursday, commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, alone and tempted by the devil. Some early Christians called the site of his desert struggle Mount Quarantine.
    Quarantine means something different to us now. Many of us are living through Lent-like experiences, cloistered like monks in our homes, forced to sacrifice our daily routines, thrown back on our own resources.
    Eerily empty public squares are a stark mirror of the bare spaces in our lives, once filled by community and communion.
    "Future generations will look back on this as the long Lent of 2020, a time when disease and death suddenly darkened the whole earth," said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the US Conferen