– hearts united in the Dunkeld Corner of the Lord’s Vineyard
by Mary O’Duffin
As I sit here writing this message, through the window, my garden is lit by dappled sunlight and the birdsong is louder than I ever remember it. Such is the sound of Monday morning at the end of Week 4 in lockdown with all four adults in the house busy in their office corners. It is hard to believe from this setting of isolation that our hospitals and health workers are under such pressure. It is only the gradual filtering of the tragic news of illness and death through the news that we realise how deep is the need of the world for our prayers of intercession.
My family, like many of yours, has journeyed through an array of practical challenges and emotional upheaval in this Covic19 health emergency. The separation from family and friends, and even the loss of routine encounters with casual acquaintances has had a greater impact than any of us could have imagined. Trips to the Supermarkets involve lengthy queues with social distancing. The highlight of most days is the hour of daily exercise. There is so much that is missing from our lives…
News of illness and sadly, deaths are worsened by the limitations of personal contact and restrictions on attendance at funerals. We bear all these situations in our hearts and prayers.
The strangest and most palpable and distressing change for us as Catholics is the lack of public masses, devotions, confessions and gathering as a community.
The sense of longing and loss is eased a little by the opportunity to pray the mass through online connections. Eucharistic adoration and morning and evening prayer give us a sense of routine and connection. Spiritual communion has become a regular solace but as Pope Francis reminds us this situation is only for the time of emergency and we will truly rejoice when we can once more participate fully in the Sacraments and experience the unity and belonging in Real Presence with the Eucharist and each other.
Many of you will be juggling finances, job insecurity, home education of children and concern for family members and friends who you cannot be with. Our faith teaches us that God is present to us especially in times of hardship and trial, if we open ourselves to receive his grace. In the midst of darkness there is light, in suffering, comfort, in the face of despair, hope. God is very near.
There are real sacrifices, great and small in our day-to-day lived experience. And it is likely that these will continue for some weeks to come. What graces should we pray for in order to rise to the current and future challenges?
My family has gradually adapted to the pattern of setting for meals and conversation three times a day. Our daily exercise has become a treat that is never missed – and a regular pattern of going out blows away the cobwebs and anxiety of being home all day. My two grown-up sons, (one here accidentally from London when Lockdown was announced and now working remotely) support their girlfriends, in lockdown very far away, and we all have to be patient with one another in the resulting tides of emotion. Never have prayers been so heartfelt or so direct.
We are also grateful for simple pleasures… the smell of coffee or the weekly ringing of bells and applause for our essential workers. Neighbours are collecting duvet covers to run up as scrubs, and elderly neighbours have their shopping delivered through the local Whatsapp group. Packets of biscuits are left out for refuse collectors and postmen. Never has life felt so precarious and yet so precious.
My middle son has got engaged in the midst of all the turmoil and that has meant for some hilarious attempts at Zoom conferencing. We long for the Summer of 2021 when family and friends can gather and celebrate, please God. I also had the privilege of accompanying a young friend to hospital for the birth of her fifth child. Life continues in the midst of the illness and death. The providence of God continues in the world and the Holy Spirit calls forth generosity, compassion and kindness in the hearts of all.
I heard someone say that the Churches are not closed, but rather deployed. It is a comforting thought…
Perhaps, as you live through the pain, strangeness, loneliness or monotony of self-isolation, this Examen will help you to use the time wisely:
- What are you grateful for today?
- Who are you checking on and connecting with today?
- What expectations of “normal” are you letting go of today?
- How are you getting outside today?
- How are you moving your body today?
- What beauty, truth and goodness are you creating, cultivating or inviting today?
- Can you bring this in prayer to The Risen Lord, and talk to him as one friend speaks to another?
- May God bless you in your staying home and your going out.
- May you discover the consoling love of the Risen Christ in your relationships and trials.
- May we all be delivered from this time of pandemic, more generous, more grateful and more willing to serve our brothers and sisters.
Rejoice! The Lord has risen as he said! Alleluia! Alleluia!