He’s only 39, a young man with a serious job — a mission really — but it wasn’t that long ago that Eric Cadin was a kid from South Weymouth, a skier, a rock climber, a sky diver — a guy who once dreamed of becoming an astronaut.
He loved the beauty of the ocean, drawn to its relentless energy, awed by its power.
He surfed the aquamarine waters of Hawaii. He played rugby as an undergraduate at Harvard University.
But then another power took hold. It came, quite literally, from the heavens.
So, now — as ever — he finds himself praying. Aren’t we all?
“I was talking to a friend of mine who is a leader of a big company, and he said, ‘Oh, you must have all this free time now,' " said the Rev. Cadin, who works full time for the Archdiocese of Boston, promoting vocations to the diocesan priesthood.
“The presumption is that because of the limitation on our movements we’re closed,’’ he told me this week. “But I, and all the priests I know, are as busy as ever. Being a leader. Helping to console. Helping to inspire. Trying to equip people with faith. And hope. And practical support.’’
I don’t know about you, but as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, threatening our way of life like no other force in memory, I have found myself more often in prayer than since the days when the nuns taught me in parochial school and I served the 7 a.m. Mass for Monsignor Gannon.
I pray for our health. I pray for our children. I pray for our jobs. I pray simply for normalcy.
Cadin is praying, too. In fact, he’s working overtime.
He’s praying for Boston’s college kids who are part of his ministry. He’s worried about his father. He’s trying to stay healthy and working to put no other person at risk. He’s switched his daily running regimen from mornings to afternoons, when it’s a tad warmer.
“I knew it would be more prudent to run at 50 degrees instead of 35 degrees,’’ he said. “I know, as a priest, that I want to be as healthy as I can to be a real point of strength for people.’’
Eric Cadin — like our clergy everywhere — is in the hope business.
He’s the friendly face at your elderly neighbor’s door. He’s the sympathetic voice on the other end of the phone line. He’s the man at the altar as you kneel before him, bowed in prayer.
He is a son of the South Shore. The second of four kids born to a father who ran a string of clam shacks from Rockland to Brockton. His mom was an oncology nurse at what is now Tufts Medical Center. As a boy growing up, he worshiped at St. Francis Xavier Parish, where the pastor knew his name and he developed a devotion to the blessed mother.
He loves his priestly life. When we talked this week, he quoted easily from the Scriptures, recalling a reading from Daniel:
“For your name’s sake, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us.’’
There is hope there, he said, for all of us.
“The parish is a natural and local community for so many people,’’ he told me. “Many priests I’ve talked to have remarked about the extraordinary reaching out that people have done in their parish as a community. It plays out in many ways.’’
Ministers who used to bring Communion, now check in, instead, remotely.
“It’s an easy thing that people can do and it provides a real human consolation and contact that prevents isolation,’’ he said. “Even though we are separated, we’re not isolated.’’
It’s playing out everywhere. Neighbors are bringing groceries to those unable to leave their homes. Telephone check-ins are increasingly common. Video technology has become a social bridge.
“We’re social creatures and we need interaction,’’ Cadin said.
But it’ll be awhile before that interaction once more looks like a friendly chat in the backyard from across the fence or the hedge.
“Part of being a priest is being called to support and bring the needs and the prayers and the petitions of the people of God,’’ he said. “And we have extraordinary people in our parishes who are being innovative. And they are helping us.’’
He quoted Pope Francis on the meaning of parish life: “The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.’’
That’s a reminder for all of us, he said.
Those nuns taught us that we are the church. We pray. We give. We watch out for each other. All of that is now happening with unusual — if careful — fervor.
“Right now I’m really living in anticipation and hope,’’ Cadin told me, “of seeing what good God is doing in the people I work with and encounter. That really gives me consolation. It gives me a mission. God is infinitely creative. It’s humbling and really a privilege to be able to see all that.’’
Yes, the Bible is a remarkable repository of wisdom and of insight and of consolation. If there ever was a time to lean on that, Cadin told me, now is that time.
“The fear and anxiety, the chaos that we’re experiencing now is not unprecedented in the human story,’’ he said. “Others have found themselves in similar situations and they, too, have found solace and consolation.
“I have an incredible confidence in the goodness of people. Neighbors do look out for one another. As things start to settle and this new challenging moment becomes the norm for a while, the goodness of people will rise up.
“I believe that. We will get through this.’’
Look around. Amid all the anxiety and fear, there is hope, and there is goodness everywhere in the human family.
And, as Cadin points out, that’s our family.
And that’s a real reason for hope — a spark of light — in the middle of all this darkness.
Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.