Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 27, 2020

What used to be important for me isn’t so much anymore. Until the pandemic, I was always working against myself. Deadlines that needed to met, and creativity that needed more creative, planning and schedules and meetings, and office time and so forth; the list was endless and exhausting. Then, suddenly, it all stopped. COVID-19 was here and we were in a lock down in one form or another. The major question for me is not whether “normal life” will ever return, but do I want to be that normal again?

Over the weeks of the pandemic and isolation and quarantine, I have found myself slowing down, taking more time, just sitting and listening. I have found days where I would not leave the house, not once and others where I actually heard the stream behind our home. I sat quietly, holding my newborn Son and listened to the creaks of the house, the sound of the wind as it ran up against a window, or a branch suddenly letting go of its tree-holder. I have become more comfortable with myself; all of myself. I also have found that I am kinder, gentler, and more compassionate. No, not to others, I think I have always been that to the others in my life, but more to me. I haven’t been kind to me in a very long time.

This past week I received a note from someone who was angry that I would inform them of our parish being down on donations. It was not meant to be a slight against anyone. Rather, it was to be informative in a way that would allow people to consider, or reconsider, if Saint Miriam was important to them and if they could support us. It was meant to gain an understanding that while closed we literally miss out on Sunday income that normally comes. While we all have issues right now, it would be criminal of me, as a pastor not to inform those who call Saint Miriam home, right? What would they think of me if one day we just closed without an appeal, or a word about our current condition? At any rate, the note came and plunged me into a quick and solid depression. I felt the weight of the world and I was crushed. Now normally I would be in such a state for weeks, even furthering my manic state. But, instead, I prayed, sat quietly, I re-read what was at issue and then said to myself – to ME –  “James, this isn’t about you. You did nothing wrong. Let it go.” And for the first time in a long time, I did just that. I was kind to myself when someone else wasn’t. And healing began. Yes, what used to be important, isn’t anymore, and perhaps, just perhaps, that is a good thing.

Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Sherry Turkle, said she’s been struck by the warmth, creativity and thoughtfulness that some people have displayed online during this pandemic. By way of example, she pointed to the renowned cello player Yo Yo Ma, and the award-winning actor Patrick Stewart, who have both broadcast themselves practicing their art. “Every group I’m in is trying to reinvent itself in an online form,” she said. “You see people trying to find something of themselves that they can use as the medium to express themselves.” She wrote something that struck me, it was “Alone Together,” which detailed how technology can isolate and yet still connect people. Social media platforms meant to connect can sometimes cause us to self-isolate, it is true, or even become a virtual world, but perhaps this forced move online could end up changing what it means to beonline. As Dr. Turkle asked, “Will people say, ‘You know, I don’t want to use this screen for nonsense anymore’?”

So, perhaps some good will come from all of this in the end when we are presented with a chance to return to whatever we wish to return to; whatever normal is for us. Maybe instead of going to back to whatever was, we will instead reach for the best of us? Maybe that will be the legacy: we overcame, and we changed, for the better.

St. Francis once tried to get people to see themselves differently when he said, “I am as I am in the eyes of God. Nothing more, nothing less.” May it be so.

Now, you will have to excuse me, I need to pick up a telephone and call my mother.

2 Responses to “Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 27, 2020”

  1. Mary Ann Harrison says:

    I love reading all your blogs. This one made me more proud of you and thankful to know you more than I ever was before. I always pray and worry about you because of the scope of responsibility on your shoulders. You finally know the peace of loving YOURSELF unconditionally as YOU love everyone that crosses the threshold of knowing you. Hugs to you, Katelyn and Jameson

  2. Mary Anne Ciasullo says:

    It is always a conundrum to express the need for $$, but for all of us to continue in the loving land that we have found through those that have established for us a safe haven where we can love and appreciate each other. In these times I believe that stress and frustration is sadly revealed. Without a doubt our community must be supported in many ways as is any surviving parish. Unfortunately it falls upon you Padre to make the plea but as you move forward you accept the challenges and the KUDOS, turn the page and dump the garbage in the compost! Sorry! No hugs allowed, but you can hug yourself and rightly so!

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