Finding the Good in Difficult Days: Sisters and Associates Reflect on a Pandemic
By S. Annette Muckerheide
Years-long yearning for more silence and solitude, “me-space,” an empty calendar. But You gave me ministries: teaching, talking, advising, meetings and more meetings, committees and tasks, music-making, and tutoring. I longed even more for silence and solitude. And, then, You sent a plague, a pandemic, bringing isolation, cancelled trips, social distancing, closed restaurants and stores, off-limit friends, even parks and churches.
“Here, now, is some silence and solitude … what will you do with it?” I fill it with virtual online conversations, Zoom meetings, cooking, sewing, yard work, gardening, even virtual prayer and liturgy, emails, phone calls, etc. I long for people, community, friends and real dialogue. I long to go places – vacation, retreat, family visits, even grocery shopping. And You give me masked faces, disorientation, time that somehow vanishes into thin air, feelings of helplessness, anxiety and concern for family and friends.
And I ask Why?
Listen, I AM always present – here, now, in silence and in chaos, in solitude and even loneliness. Be still, listen, know… Wear a mask, but “remove” your own inner masks too – see through others’ eyes to the soul, to My presence in each person, in every thing. Smile, and know that this, too, is prayer. Smile to masked strangers with your eyes and theirs, to those you meet on a neighborhood walk, to the kid who puts groceries in your car, to the mail person. Don’t run from the sick and dying, the pain in people you cannot personally help, let your tears mingle with theirs and be healing… Cultivate your desire to serve and accept your inability to DO so in these circumstances. Accept your nothingness, your helplessness. Let go of ego-based plans, embrace humility. Know that you are not in charge, you are not in control. Just BE.
Is it possible that this plague, this pandemic, is a GIFT? I look around, see so much good that even now is happening: the environment, without so much human-made pollution, is healing. Birds sing, air is cleaner, long smog-hidden mountains are now visible. We are inventing new ways of communicating, of forming community, of service to each other and to God. We are realizing more and more that we are all connected to each other and to God and to understand that shared humanity also means shared Divinity. Realizing that we must take care of one another, not fight one another, not compete with one another. We are learning to accept and embrace a broader perspective, centered on the presence of God in all, around all, actively creating all anew each moment. Perhaps, perhaps, we are learning to let go and love.