The long-anticipated pandemic is a reality, and its effects are already impacting our daily lives. I think we’re all starting to get our heads around just how consequential and long-lasting this crisis might be. Our hearts may feel heavy and fearful. In moments like these, it can serve us well to stop and reflect in order to guide our decisions and actions, and also to lift up our hearts. I’d like to invite you to join me in a little reflection exercise.
Name that Feeling
First, let’s take stock of the feelings that might be gripping our hearts. Identifying and owning our feelings can help free us up to reason through practical decisions and reach out to others, instead of wandering through our days under a vague, dark cloud.
Do we feel:
- Fear and uncertainty about the future?
- Sadness and concern – for ourselves, loved ones, and all those suffering?
- Despair or depression – the world is closing in and falling apart?
- Anxiety about practical problems: health, employment, finances, childcare, household supplies?
- Discomfort with the complete clearing of calendars, schedules, and routines – even boredom?
- Uneasiness with the tough questions of life that surface in the seclusion and real danger?
- Loneliness, isolation, or feelings of being neglected by loved ones?
- What else do you feel?
Try to name it.
Next, let’s focus on some of the causes or objects of our feelings. Do we need to gather more information about something? What must change? Do we need to put practical solutions in place? What do we need? What do we need to do?
God made our intelligence to guide our hearts and decisions/actions. But he didn’t stop there. He offers faith to enlighten our minds and hope and love to lift up our hearts and direct our actions.
It’s easy to say we trust God when our lives are stable. But when troubles and challenges are real, do we trust the Lord enough to actually step out and walk on the water? Now is the time to live and model faith in action.
We all probably have a little extra free time these days. Let’s go back to some principles of our faith and ask the Lord to shore up our foundations. Take these to prayer, one-by-one, over the next few days. When negative feelings surge, tell yourself these truths.
Do we believe:
- God is with us and he’s bigger than this. He’s more powerful than fear and even death.
- God is good and brings good out of even the worst situations.
- God loves us and will provide for us.
- God heals and unifies.
- The Paschal Mystery of suffering, death, and resurrection is something we are continually invited to live in our own lives. Christ’s own cross and rising are not merely models, but realities we can participate in and join ourselves to. Can we glorify and thank God as we suffer? Can we lift the cross as our symbol of victory while still on it? Can we proclaim Easter even when not experiencing it yet?
- Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts and lives.
- We are called to love one another. . . as God loves us: in the big things and in the smallest.
- We are one Body in Christ – called to live in solidarity with the suffering, to intercede on their behalf, and to lend our aid where possible. Acts of love or sacrifice can be “offered up” for others in the Mystical Body.
One’s mindset is the lens through which a person perceives, organizes, and interprets information. Given this reasoned reflection enlightened by faith, what is your mindset going to be in regard to this social crisis? (Maybe even take a few minutes to put it into words and write it out.) Is it possible that this calamity could be an opportunity for faith to grow, for kindness to increase, for Christians to witness to those living in fear and in material need? How else can this be an opportunity?
I can’t help but see the connection between the season of Lent and what our world is going through now. Our faith teaches us that to get through the “desert” of Lent we should do penance, pray, and give alms or practice charity/love. How might these same guidelines help us open ourselves to grace as we journey through the desert of this pandemic?
Giving up things or doing what is hard for us during Lent is meant to remove attachments and distractions that keep us from praying, listening, and loving. It also helps strengthen our spirits to run the race of discipleship. This pandemic is certainly removing many distractions and is promising challenges ahead. What would happen if we embrace it now as a purifying, grace-filled opportunity and a chance to offer up the hardships for those suffering. . . especially those suffering without faith?
If we are going to keep the faith, hold on to hope, and live love, we need to pray. Why not allow this forced slow-down to give God greater access to our interiors – a sort of extended spiritual retreat? Here are just a few ideas for how you might make prayer part of your new daily reality:
- In the absence of Sunday and daily Mass, consider watching Mass streamed or televised. Light a candle. Sing a song. Reflect on the readings. Offer your own prayers of the faithful. Sit in silence. Make a spiritual Communion.
- Start a journal. Tackle those tough, inner questions. Lean-in to the silence and slow pace and even boredom. Trace what God’s doing in your soul.
- Find Scriptures that support the principles of faith listed above and meditate on them, making them your own and even a mantra for your daily activities.
- Pray the rosary – maybe meditating on Christ’s Paschal Mystery, letting it shed light on how you might be experiencing this Mystery in your own life now.
- Create a personal or family list of “What I’m Grateful For” or “What’s Really Important.”
- Pray the Surrender Novena – a powerful prayer putting everything in God’s hands.
- Let’s not forget to offer intercessory prayer for all those suffering from this pandemic.
How else is your soul thirsting for encountering God? Who might be open to praying with you?
There will be great need for love in the coming weeks – in our own homes and in our communities. Let’s try to see beyond the moment and see beyond ourselves to let the Holy Spirit, who is Love, overflow in us. . . to those around us. A beautiful side-effect of love: it helps us forget our own troubles, walk in someone else’s shoes, and engage in self-giving. . . that turns out to be life-giving for ourselves! Here are some ideas to get you seeing opportunities to love:
- Be attentive to the details of cleanliness, social distancing, and health – for your sake and that of others. Nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, fresh air.
- Find ways to make this time special for yourself and your family. Pancakes on a weekday morning. Light a fire in the fireplace. Read. Cook and bake. Make a list of fun activities to do. Be present to each other. Talk. Get out in nature. Listen to music. Fun and humor are healthy.
- Some sense of structure, routine, and accomplishment can help mental health and happiness for the long-haul. Write up an adapted schedule. List projects you might want to tackle. (Hello, spring cleaning! Organizing all those family photos into photo books.)
- Seek out ways to help others. Does a friend need child-care? Does your elderly neighbor need someone to pick up groceries? Face-time with Grandma and Grandpa. Ask the local nursing home how you can cheer isolated residents. Call a friend.
- Seek ways to evangelize. People, including those closest to us, might be open to deeper conversations. Try to read them and risk “going deeper,” taking the conversation to another level that invites to grace and conversion. Keep supporting your parish’s efforts with online giving.
How else might Christ be calling you to love during this crisis?
Wait with Mary
In key moments of Christ’s life, and the Church’s, Mary was there waiting for God’s action. Advent, Holy Saturday, and before Pentecost to name a few. She is here accompanying us. Don’t try it alone. Wait with her. God will act – if not in stopping this virus, then in changing hearts (maybe even our own)! Love will triumph.
Copyright 2020 Kristi Quinlan