Some say the four most hopeful words in the English language are “pitchers and catchers report.” This year, spring training for pitchers and catchers started the third week of February, when much of the country was hunkered down, in the grip of late winter storms and cold. But by the end of the month, skies had cleared, snow was melting and temperatures were rising. Spring was coming again, coming with Lent and the approach of Easter. But it is a spring unlike any other in recent memory. Last year at this time, churches, schools and businesses of all kinds were closing their doors as we grappled with what the novel coronavirus was and what it would mean for us. Now, the United States has lost more than half a million people, a number that would have been unfathomable 12 months ago. While churches and Catholic schools have opened their doors, it is with limited attendance and COVID-19 protocols firmly in place. There are signs of hope amidst the loss, though. Vaccines were developed and rolled out at a pace unimagined in the past. Despite limited supply and distribution snarls over the winter, the pace of vaccinations has been increasing and it appears that most adults will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine this spring or summer. I’m waiting eagerly to hear that it is my turn, and I’m grateful that my parents and my husband’s mother have all been fully vaccinated. In the meantime, we have adapted. We have learned different ways of doing our jobs, of going to school, of communicating with friends and family. As a family, we have spent more time together than ever before. We’ve watched Mass in the living room, eaten homemade and take-out dinners in the dining room, played games around the kitchen table. Yes, we’ve also watched a lot of TV and movies, and talked more and about more topics. We’ve walked the dog, and seen the day-by-changes in the neighborhood: changes in the time the sun rises and sets, in holiday decorations, in the number of people who are outside and the proportion of them wearing masks. Now, as playground gates in Chicago and lakefront parking lots have opened, more and more people are coming out, and more of them seem to be keeping faces covered, displaying both hope and vigilance. I don’t know when the world will get back to normal, or even what that “normal” will look like. But with the spring comes hope, hope that we can come back from a year of loss, if not stronger, then changed in some ways. Maybe we will be more aware of the people around us, of their needs and their safety and security. Maybe we will be grateful for the blessings we have, of a home to live in and family to love. Maybe we should be most grateful for a life lived not in despair, but in hope.