Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 20, 2020

Fear, anxiety, trepidation, dread, the unknown, and for some, worse, the known. Even though we are meant to be a people of faith, being constantly bombarded with the awful news about the spread of COVID-19 can strike at the heart of our emotions and make the bravest among us cower now and then in a heap of defeat and fear.  As a new dad, I lay awake at night and wonder if I will catch the virus? I am jolted from a deep sleep by a nightmarish reality of death and loss. I see my wife grieving and my son without a dad. After all, I have an underlying condition with Asthma that makes my  risk greater, and lessens my survival ability. I think, silently where I let few in, will I die alone like so many have in hospitals across the world, or with only a phone pressed against my ear as I gasp my last few breaths? Will I see Jameson grow up, or will he learn of me only from his mom in story form? How will my beautiful wife live without me? Who will care for her with the passion of one like me? I know it isn’t just me, right? We all wonder if someone we love will be the next victim. Will they survive or will grief come our way, too? Will it be me?

I find comfort in knowing I am not alone in my fear. I also take comfort in St. Francis. You see, Francis knew that everything in existence is intended for relationship, and as Franciscans, we are especially should be attuned to our relational nature. This nature is for good as well as bad times. We need one another. We always will need each other. Even in the midst of “social distancing” and self-quarantine for the foreseeable future, we need to come together – if only virtually – to find ways to engage with another to ‘feel’ less alone and less fearful. Yes, during times of crisis, our faith brings us together and we reach out to one another in solidarity and in love.

It is through our relational  love that we have compiled internal resources to help us survive this troubling time. And that is why I love Poet Lynn Unger and her Pandemic poem she posted recently in Chicago. I spoke of it in a sermon and it comes back to me today here, devotionally. Ms. Unger asks us to look at what’s happening in today’s world with a different perspective. She suggests that rather than fear, we might consider this time the same way our Jewish brothers and sisters view the Sabbath with its many restrictions. She invites us to re-think of this time as sacred.  If we do so, willingly and even fearfully, then we find a calling to sing, and to pray, and to extend our hearts in love and relationship to one another. We will find a renewed sense of urgency to reach out to others with compassion, even with our own fear intact. Her poem reminds us that we are all connected, like St. Francis taught, and most importantly, that “our lives are in each other’s hands.” This time, literally.

So, let those who will flock to beaches and shores and protest closures and restrictions. We shall not! Why? Because we know the deeper truth: We are each other’s keeper, protector, friend, companion, and lover. If I fail, we all die.

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