“With God, the more one seems to lose the more one gains. The more He strikes off of what is natural, the more He gives of what is supernatural. He is loved at first for His gifts, but when these are no longer perceptible He is at last loved for Himself. It is by the apparent withdrawal of these sensible gifts that He prepares the way for that great gift which is the most precious and the most extensive of all, since it embraces all others.” – Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Dear Christendom College Students, Parents, Faculty and Staff:

Pax Christi!  Know that you remain in my prayers at this extremely difficult time in our country and world. We pray intensely for those who have lost their lives, those in harm’s way, and all of the amazing everyday heroes who are providing medical care, ensuring that families have the food and supplies they require and helping neighbors in need. We continue to pray for the end of this pandemic as soon as possible as we struggle through this season of deep penance which has us crying out to God for the light of the Resurrection. I was deeply moved to see our Holy Father, alone and seeming somewhat frail, interceding for us in the Piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica last week, delivering his special Urbi et Orbi message. Pope Francis was surrounded by symbols of God’s power and fidelity, the ancient icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani from the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and the miraculous crucifix kept in the church of San Marcello which helped to eradicate the great plague in Rome in 1522. He reminded us of the Apostles’ frantic words to Jesus as He slept in the boat which was rocked and buffeted by an intense storm – “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” Jesus’ response is apt for us today, too – “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Our faith remains firm in Jesus Christ, and it leads us to a calm surrender and the peace of knowing that the Master is always with us, even now.

I write primarily to update you regarding the College’s response to the Covid-19 virus. President Trump just announced an extension of social distancing guidelines until April 30.  Today, Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, announced a “stay at home” order for Virginia, which, at this time, extends through June 10.  The order explicitly requires institutions of higher learning to cease any in-person classes and cancel all gatherings of more than 10 individuals.  Given these developments, and for the safety and well-being of our Christendom Community, Christendom College will extend “online-only” instruction and keep the residential aspects of its programs closed for the remainder of the semester.

This step is an extremely painful one, especially when thinking of our Senior Class.  Even now, our goal is to continue to provide as strong a sense of support and community for students, faculty, and staff as possible. We provide the following information related to our decision to offer only online instruction through the end of the semester:

  1. Commencement ExercisesCommencement Exercises are postponed, and will be held on campus for our Senior Class and their families at a date yet to be determined, hopefully in late Spring or early summer.  We will communicate more information as soon as possible regarding a new date, as circumstances permit.
  2. Refunds of Room and BoardThe College will communicate by April 6 (as originally planned) about its refund policy for room and board costs and any related steps that students and their families may need to take, if any.
  3. Student Life Concerns and Access to Belongings:  Miss Amanda Graf will communicate to students on April 6 about access to belongings and available storage options at the College.

In this moment it feels as if so much of what we rely upon is being stripped away. Certain longings of our heart – material, familial, sacramental – are being denied to us one by one in most parts of the country. Some of us have already lost loved ones to this virus or experienced the intense pain of not being able to attend the funeral of a family member due to restrictions.  Many of us probably began on Ash Wednesday making an earnest prayer that God would grant us a “good Lent.” Perhaps what we are experiencing now is not what we bargained for.  But now is the right time to reflect on Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s words from the opening of this letter.  The more we seem to be losing and the emptier we become of false reliance on the things to which we may have become too attached, the more space Jesus is making for Himself. He emptied Himself completely on the Cross and now asks us to do as He did. The opportunity to deepen our love of Christ, especially in this moment of crisis, is especially great. This is a powerful test of our trust and ability to rely exclusively on the One whose sacrifice for our sake shook the heavens and the earth as He conquered death itself.  But if we do trust in Him, He will not disappoint us.

Please continue to pray with me the prayer below as we journey toward Easter, entrusting all of our intentions to Jesus Christ through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother.

Sincerely in the Heart of Christ,

Dr. Timothy O’Donnell


Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer.

As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son.

Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially for protection and healing for all peoples, entrusting to you our College community, parishes, priests, religious, Bishops, families, healthcare workers, and each one of us.

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer.

We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting.

Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.


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