Peter Rosengren: Look for COVID’s silver linings

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    The Boutros family of St Joseph’s Maronite Church, Croydon Park, praying a daily novena at home to St Mary of the Cross MacKillop to bring an end to the current COVID crisis. They are George and Rafka Boutros with their children Ava, Christopher, Veronica, John-Luke, Sophia and Amelia. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

    Grasp the opportunities amid the boredom

    We are being sifted. The long and seemingly endless grey days of enforced monotonous routine we are all forced to live under during this latest COVID lockdown can, for many of us, be hard. Living under The Virus we can begin to understand something – mentally, at least – of the lot of those who are imprisoned. Aside from the virus itself, the enemies for most of us are boredom and a frustrating sense of restriction.

    At the same time, we are still luckier than many. What is so difficult for us in having our accustomed daily freedoms suspended and removed in large measure is really insignificant compared to the situations under which millions and millions of people live as normality throughout the world for their whole lives.

    It is always difficult to maintain a sense of perspective about ourselves. We always have a backstage view of our lives, which is precisely why perspective can be difficult. And while we may find the current situation frustrating, it is even more important to do our best to try and keep a sense of balanced perspective about our own personal situations. Truth really does matter.

    when we are suddenly deprived of something, it shocks us into realising how precious what we had actually was, and is.

    We do not, after all, live in North Korea under a state of perpetual terror. We are not one of the hundreds of millions of Indian people locked by millennia of irrationality into a caste system which relentlessly perpetuates the lives of our families over generations into dire poverty and effective labour slavery because we are judged to be untouchable.

    We are not one of the millions in central Africa who live in daily fear of radicalised Islamist terrorists, nor do we live in countries such as Pakistan where we have to worry about being falsely accused of blasphemy (a crime which carries the death sentence) or our daughters being kidnapped for the purpose of enforced marriage – just to name a few.

    Still, one of the difficulties for we comfortable Catholics is what might be termed the Eucharistic starvation under which we have been forced to live for long periods over the last two years. It may well be for many of us that we have discovered a deep sense that something is not spiritually right, even if we have found it difficult to precisely identify what that is. If that is so, Eucharistic starvation may well be what we are thinking of.

    A difficult moment such as the current one is really an invitation – an opportunity – to be decisive, to start walking the walk, to begin to be real Christians.

    It is so easy for us to fall into taking what is present or available daily for granted. This can happen in a marriage, in employment, in a family, a friendship – and in our faith. Perhaps the silver lining of the current lockdown’s dark clouds – and those that may yet come – is that when we are suddenly deprived of something, it shocks us into realising how precious what we had actually was, and is.

    If so, the worst mistake we can make is to be disheartened. To allow ourselves to become discouraged or disheartened is really a form of giving up on hope and we can do this partially or completely.

    In the current circumstances now is the best possible time to put into practice the truth of the old saying that when the going gets tough the tough get going. Too few Catholics – and Christians in general – know very much, if anything, about the history of our Church. Do we realise that Japanese Catholics kept their faith alive without priests after it was banned and persecuted from the latter half of the 16th Century until the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration in the middle of the 19th Century? What sort of Catholics can achieve such a feat?

    Vincentians have excelled in pandemic

    We should take heart in the present difficulties. Our intuition that something is not right spiritually may well be the Spirit calling us to live our faith more heroically. We should realise that this is possible. After all, as someone once said, what one man can do, another can also.

    Perhaps we might try gathering together as families around the Word in Scripture, breaking it open for our lives, scrutinising it, absorbing what it’s ever-fresh voice wishes to speak to us. It’s simple to do and doesn’t need to be complicated. Perhaps we can make a special effort on regularity and consistency in prayer, conquering our tendency to make the first cup of coffee in the morning our first effective prayer of the day. We can deny ourselves.

    The adventurous might want to learn The Art of Navigating the Divine Office – there’s plenty of online guides to learn the prayer of the Church and so much to discover especially in the writings of the greatest saints in that part which is the Office of Readings. Perhaps we can focus on the vast invisible cloud of witnesses who constantly surround us and who are urging us on. Pray for their intentions and seek their aid.

    To accept the apathy of boredom would be a fundamental mistake. A difficult moment such as the current one is really an invitation – an opportunity – to be decisive, to start walking the walk, to begin to be real Christians.

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