In the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, as in all diseases, we wait. We sit or stand or lie down and wait. We wait when there’s nothing more that we can do. We wait impatiently or with panic or anger. We wait and fidget and walk or run.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity once said, “I have within me a solitude where He dwells, and nothing can take that away from me.” Comforting words, especially in the times we’re in now, but many still battle loneliness. Father Clifford Hennings, OFM, has words of wisdom as many of us are forced to embrace solitude.
Because my father was the parent who slept lightly, he was the one we awakened if we felt sick or troubled in the middle of the night. There was always a soft night light glowing by the radio in the kitchen, and I’d find my way to the kitchen table while my father set about making two cups of tea. As we waited for the water to boil he would open the back door and look out at the night sky.
It is said that when Rene Descartes, one of the philosophical fathers of modern science, vivisected a dog (dissected it alive), he paid no attention to its cries. He didn’t bother with any anesthesia for the animal; it was, to his mind, merely a machine. It had no soul, no real spirit—the whimpers and howls the dog let out as it was cut open were to Descartes like the creaking of an ungreased wheel.
Our lives are so easily fragmented between responsibilities to friends, family, employers, neighbors, and the larger human family that we may think we don’t have the time or energy for prayer. That was the experience of Saint Francis of Assisi up until his mid-twenties. Then he discovered that prayer was more real than many of the things he had been considering more important.
Believe it or not, a crisis can be positive. It can strengthen us, bond us more tightly with loved ones, reveal talents we did not realize we had, teach us about skillful and healthful coping, and give us a greater appreciation for this world and this life.
Suffering does not make sense to this modern world. Not even the most scientifically astute minds or advanced mathematical theorems can explain the purpose of suffering. Science cannot give us an answer, so technology attempts to give us hundreds of ways to avoid it.
As I write this, it is just before 7:00. I have already read our daily readings and practiced a centering prayer with my wife, Amy. When I came downstairs to take my place in front of my computer to start the workday, I found a pink envelope standing up on my desk addressed to “My Husband, Ray.”
Stefania Proietti is the mayor of Assisi, Italy. The following Easter letter is to the residents of Assisi, and she wanted to share it with us. In turn, we wanted to share her beautiful message of hope with you.