I wrote a Reflection in Covid 19 time at the end of March. Four months further on what have I, (what might we,) have learned since?
Looking back on it we have all travelled a long way since March.
At the end of July there are fewer newly infected people and fewer deaths in the UK, but the infection and death rates have been horrifyingly hard.
In other countries rates continue to rise, in some areas where war, poverty and the attitude of some country leaders to the Virus mean infection and death rates in parts of the globe are soaring.
We hope that Covid 19 decreases globally. Many lives have been irrevocably changed. In the UK some people are returning to work. Others have lost their jobs. Many of us can now go out more and our churches, shops and other facilities are opening.
I thank God for the tireless work of scientists, NHS staff, those working in care homes and other essential workers who have toiled thus far. And although some government decisions can be criticised I am grateful that I live in a democratic society where we aim for transparency, we can question what is happening and our health, social and educational services have standards of reasonable governance.
What has happened locally?
Some of you may have been ill with the Virus, for many there have been life changes, people bereaved and grieving deeply for others who have died, without some of the usual parish community funerals, Requiem Masses, and supportive visits. Zoom and other internet facilities have helped but can only go so far. We hope that our parishes and communities will start to open up more. We also know that many of us are anxious, and worried about our and others’ future, finances, employment and young people’s education.
Many of our parishes and other organisations have been very busy supporting the bereaved, the sick, supporting foodbanks and giving grants for essentials. There have been networks of parishioners keeping in contact with older people, those living alone. families, the newly and chronically impoverished, the homeless, destitute asylum seekers.
Many people have prayed, phoned and supported each other as best we can. Kindness has been flourishing. Hugging does not suit everyone but how many of us have missed this….?
In our organisations and parishes, we are beginning to think how we can come together in our communities and parishes to memorialise and support each other when the restrictions for Mass attendance and meeting each other are further lifted.
When I last wrote the air was clearer and spring growth was fresh and unfolding new colours and flowers every day. Now, many have returned to work, shops and parks, the school holidays have started, traffic noise has returned, and the deeper, established greens of high summer are around us. If people are able to go on holiday it is more likely be within the UK than abroad. We are fortunate to have sea and beautiful countryside not too far from us.
We are hopeful of finding an effective Vaccine after the final tests are done to ensure its safety and efficacy. Other countries are also exploring different types of vaccination. It is being acknowledged that we will need different vaccines and approaches in different situations.
Health workers are discovering new effective medical procedures to help the very sick, and existing medications are being used in different, effective ways to help more people survive and recover more quickly from the symptoms of the Virus. The pandemic we believe will pass but we will likely be living with spikes of the virus until a vaccine is proved to be safe and works.
Uncertainty remains. Vigilance, hand washing, social distancing, face-coverings and some curtailment of our freedoms is having to be negotiated. Hopefully with measures like Track and Tracing any recurrence will more likely be spikes on a local basis that can be targeted and treated.
Being on the side-lines
One of the things I have had to learn as an older person is to be more on the side-lines. I am a retired Social Worker and accustomed to being in the midst of someone else’s crisis, bereavement or life changing situation. Now I have found other ways to try and support others. I still work part time in Pastoral Care and while I was furloughed I spent time phoning and emailing those I temporarily could not visit. I am also in touch with fellow parishioners and neighbours and have been very aware of the vulnerability and also the resilience, faith and courage of many I am contacting.
I have learned a lot about the daily courage of most people, particularly older people.
Many older people who are housebound have a wealth, wisdom and freedom of faith which is an anchor in the centre of the Church.
A lot of priests are now older and shielded and when our churches open again fully I hope that more, younger lay people will feel empowered to offer their gifts for parish communities and that their skills and fresh outlook will be considered and valued. And it is important to let younger people come forward, feel empowered and take their place at the forefront, as they are the future….
Roller Coaster of Emotions
I have been very aware of the ups and downs of coping with the challenges of the Virus in everyday life. Sometimes we can feel relieved to be well, safe, taking the struggles of family and friends in our stride. I am enjoying the extra time to read, walk, watch TV and reflect on the many spiritual resources on the internet.
At other times we might feel anxious, sad and despondent. But this is natural and it is important to be aware of our mood and take care of ourselves, as well as others.
For a helpful article on how we can cope with this roller coaster, click HERE
For those of us who attend Mass in we have needed to find ways of “attending” on the internet or phone. I know that many without a computer have read their missals, followed the Mass and the daily readings at home.
My own parish hasn’t been streaming Mass and our sister parish started a pre-recorded Mass after a few weeks. I started off watching “live” Masses at Leeds and Liverpool Cathedrals and eventually found a parish in Leicester where my mother lives. Although I was watching from 100 miles away I felt welcomed by a pastoral, inclusive parish priest who gave us interesting, supportive and inspiring homilies and prayers and the woman organist played her music and choir recordings that linked to the themes of the day. I haven’t missed receiving Communion as much as I thought I would, and I think my understanding of Eucharist has widened. At a time of feeling powerless to alter events I have mostly felt the presence of God in amidst the suffering and grief of so many people.
For details of where you can find Mass and prayers online click HERE
Pope Francis stood in an empty St Peter’s Square in Rome on the 27th March and said:
“This is a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to the Lord and others.”
Living in the moment
I concluded my first Reflection at the end of March with the thought that I hoped I,- we,- might be able to live more in the present: rather than yearning for the past – what might have been – or worry excessively about the future. I think more than ever that it is important to engage in and value the present.
Julian of Norwich, (here quoted by Joan Chittister, in ‘The Gift of Years -Growing Old Gracefully’ DLT London 2008) said that in the acorn she was holding is everything that ever was.
And Joan Chittister writes, “In that tiny burst of life were all the elements of all the life in the world. In this moment is the now of life, is everything we have ever been and will become. And it is calling us, now, to be that to its fullness, and even more.”
Covid 19 is ongoing – and so is our learning….