Fr. General, Mathew Vattamattam CMF, the global leader of us Claretian Missionaries, sent a letter as regarding a Claretian response to the pandemic COVID-19. He lives in Rome and has seen the Italian response firsthand. One of his many roles for us Claretians is to give us an international perspective in seeing our call to serve.
This crisis is a test of faith for all of us. The Spirit’s gifts will help and guide us in this cross. I continue to pray for the needed graces for us all.
here are some of Fr. Mathew’s reflections to help us as Claretians (as well as you) respond to the Pandemic:
“Attitude: We respond to the pandemic with Christian and Claretian attitudes and virtues. I would underscore calmness (no panicking), faith (not given to helplessness), hope (not desperation and gloom) and love (never indifferent and not spiritual sloth).”
“Draw from the fountain: we need spiritual strength… like Moses who lifted his arms to the Lord to strengthen Israel in the battle (Ex 17:11), we shall lift our hearts in prayer during the “stay home” asking for wisdom and strength for the health professionals and civil authorities who are in the forefront to address the perilous situation”
“Let the Word of God illumine you. As servants of the word, this is a time to nurture ourselves and others with the word of God. The word of God gives us deeper insight and understanding into the events that happen in and around us. All events in history are signs of God’s saving action. The current situation is opening the eyes of many humans to many realities: the ecological disaster that we have been mindlessly heading to satisfy human greed;the fundamental equality of all humans before impending death; the benefit of animals and plants when humans reduced pollution; the value and need for posing the rollercoasting life and being at home with dear ones; the need to fight the invisible common enemy together forgetting differences.”
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” is a famous quote from orwell’s book animal farm
all over the world, this coronavirus crisis is showing the truth in this statement. triage by definition has us prioritizing the limited resources that we have. these classical questions that are generally addressed in morality classes have now come to our doorstep. real people now have to make decisions about other our mothers, sisters, children.
i can only respond to these difficult questions with more questions: how is the common good of society weighed out with the individual needs of real people? how do times of crisis challenge our values?
i pray for wisdom and courage for those who have to answer such questions
seward park in south seattle is one of my favorite places for some quiet time. looking over the waters of lake washington gives me a sense that i am part of something much bigger than myself. moments of solitude at the small shore offers me a glimpse into grace. seeing the calm waves meander in reminds me of Christ’s peace
ocean and lake waters are always a gift. to me, the waves that crash the white sands of santa monica; lake michigan and its miles of bike paths; the retreat house at santa cruz are all gifts from God. they have offered me consolation and peace– a place of solitude
what places offer you peace? what places give you a sense of God’s presence?
in chuck klosterman’s book “but what if we are wrong”, he argues that future generations will look at the present age very differently than what we see now. the copernican revolution and quantum physics are two examples. he argues that this human condition blinds us and that we need humility, skepticism, and wonder to live the present well.
this blindness exists in our faith and our understanding of God too.
today’s readings ( http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032220.cfm ) speak to blindness as part of the human condition. david’s father and brothers were blind to see a potential king among them; psalm 23 reminds us that the Lord is our shepherd and we have all we need; paul’s letter contextualizes our life in darkness and the gift of light among us and to stay awake
the gospel shows the conversion of (hu)man(ity) born blind. one who is born blind cannot see what is in front of them. jesus opens the eyes of a blind (hu)man(ity) and now we can see the world differently– everything is new with open eyes and hearts
today, the Holy Spirit leads and guides us now out of darkness into light. the Spirit helps us see the present more clearly– not as the past. the Spirit helps us see Christ among us in the here and now. the Spirit helps us respond and serve those in need among us: to love. amidst suffering, the Spirit gives us grace in our weakness.
as our world today lives with the uncertainty of coronavirus/covid 19 among us, fear will invade our being. today’s message of the light to see can help us respond with prudence, service, care, peace and courage. fear does not have the last word
seeing our world through this prism of light will be our hope– even as we carry our crosses. this pandemic is something that our world has never seen before. but the Spirit helps us open our eyes are open and will guide us out of this darkness into light with the gift of courage.
“absence makes the heart grow fonder” vs “familiarity breeds contempt”
in the usa, we are not used to being around family members for hours upon hours. but that is what is happening with these various quarantines. the two above axioms are polar opposites in some ways.
i suppose that one’s personality plays a big part of how we react to others– including our family. some people do not mind at all being around others 24/7; for others, being by themselves is preferable.
with this coronavirus lockdown, which one of these describes your experience more?
the good news (gospel) of our faith comes primarily from four books in the bible: matthew, mark, luke and john. for me, the best, concise summary of the message of good news comes from the biblical scholar luke johnson. this two point framework has been helpful for me when the grayness and messiness of our world muddies up how we ought to respond in faith. it also helps us to see love, not primarily as a feeling, but in the gospel way. here is his summary:
radical obedience to God
utter self-giving to others
when we look at some of the well known parts of the gospel (such as the lord’s prayer, the beatitudes, the good samaritan, the beatitudes, the passion, the washing of feet at the last supper), we can easily see how they can relate to these two summary points.
how would you summarize the message of our faith? what are the non-negotiables of love?
i just finished “the old man and the sea” by ernest hemingway. it’s a seemingly simple story about a fisherman, santiago, and his long struggle to catch anything. ultimately, it centers around his battle to land a huge marlin.
here’s my take: the story gives insight into humanity’s relationship with creation– we are at our best when we are at one with creation.
santiago describes an organic relationship between him as a fisherman and the marlin who puts up a fight to escape death. it is a respectful relationship with an intimate dialogue and certain closeness to the fish that he is destined to kill. there is even a certain sense of awe for the marlin. this is the wisdom that santiago brings to us: a certain oneness between him and this huge fish, all fish.
But there also are our misunderstandings regarding the vicious nature of creatures in our world.
once santiago catches the marlin, he runs into sharks that smell the blood of the marlin. they want to eat and are not concerned about harmonic unity. this results in the expected violence as santiago aims to protect his record catch.
throughout the story too is the relationship with santiago’s apprentice named manolin. the old man passes on wisdom to the boy through accompaniment; the boy responds with kindness on his part
a key image too is the lion. the lion appears throughout the book in santiago’s dreams/thoughts– the book ends with him dreaming of a lion. perhaps santiago hopes for land creatures to have the unifying harmony that he has experienced on the sea. maybe the hyena could take the place of sharks in this scenario!
just some scattered thoughts here. a second reading of “the old man and the sea” could be part two of this post with a whole different interpretation!
how has harmony-chaos played out in your relationships with creation/creatures/humans?
when i was around three or four, i used to follow the older kids into the woods next to our house. i thought it was fun– like an adventure. i have always liked getting out and exploring new places/situations; i have never been a homebody
when i lived in chicago, it was so cold in the winters that i stayed indoors the vast majority of the winter. i would get stir crazy being in closed quarters for such long periods of time. when it warmed up, it was serious freedom: spring never felt so good
with the coronavirus restrictions, i wonder how these changes will affect us as a society. many of us are so used to being mobile and getting out of the house. how will these types of “quarantines” change us? we have witnessed people’s fears as there has been hoarding at various stores. what other ways will our fears be shown?
i love my daily calendar from “the onion”. the above pic will make me laugh/smile all day
after 50, life changes. we could no longer do what we did in our mid 20s. but i LIKE getting older! we view the world differently because we have experienced many things: loss, heartbreak, peace through solitude, healing, the powerful mystery of God…
graces at this age are different too. in our better moments, we can see the utter passing nature of things; of life. this helps us be thankful for the present moment and what we do have and the person that i am: with all my weaknesses and imperfections. it helps us calm the inevitable fears that come with life. the Spirit blesses us differently.
i pray that the crosses of getting older are not too heavy and that we all have the blessing to age gracefully
thirteen mariner hats are on a shelf in my room. different logos, colors. when i look at and wear them, it gives me joy
as a claretian, one aspect of the vow of poverty is embracing a simple lifestyle. in our materialistic culture, this means minimizing the “stuff” in our lives.
how many mariner hats are too many? can a simpler joy be had with fewer hats?
how has living this vow changed for me over the past thirty years? how has this vow changed since i moved back into my childhood home in seattle and live outside of claretian community?