By CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN
We will be chatting about it for a long, long time. Our kids and grandkids will ask us about the dreaded COVID-19 plague.
It’s not over yet, I realize. But it’s not too premature to ponder just what we’ve learned from these trying months. Here are a few lessons taught me by these last three months:
– The Lord has been with us! So many report to me, “My prayer has been more frequent and fruitful! Just as I was questioning where God was in all this, I discovered He’s here!”
– We miss the Mass and the sacraments! A faith made more durable by trial has made us long for Holy Communion, Confession, Christenings, Confirmation, Matrimony, the Anointing of the Sick. Thank God they’re all on the way back!
– We need one another! Being quarantined, isolated, distanced has left us thirsty for the company of family and friends. Not to be able to comfort and embrace the sick and the fragile has wounded us. Community is essential for us!
– People are good! What a boost to see our health care workers, police, first responders, essential workers, sanitation laborers, yes, even our political leaders, so devoted and energetic.
– Routine is not all that bad! Most of the time we dread Monday and groan at going back to work or to school. Not anymore! We’ve learned the effectiveness of a routine, a scheduled, responsible life. All day in pajamas is good for an occasional snow day, but not for months on end.
– Nurturing the mind and soul is a boost! Reading, praying, reflecting, study—we classically call this the “interior life”—is a significant ingredient in the recipe to a healthy, wholesome, holy life.
– An ordered day, with set goals, is an antidote to boredom and bad habits. How many are reporting, “At first I sacked in every morning and channel surfed most of the day. Then it dawned on me that this was toxic.” Get up! Get dressed! Set some goals and a schedule for the day! Go to bed at night with a sense of accomplishment.
– Too much “news” is counterproductive. Yes, reliable newscasters were very helpful in providing crucial information and keeping us together. But all day listening and watching know-it-alls give opinions! No!
– “Fear is useless!” Jesus said that, by the way. Can’t we all look back and recall fretting over an occasional cough and a fatigue, apprehensive that we were the newest victim of the virus? It got us nowhere “…What is needed is trust!” goes the rest of that quote from the Gospel.
– The safety and wellbeing of others are as important as my own, and more important than my convenience, comfort, and selfish desires. That’s termed “the common good,” and, as far back as Aristotle and Plato, the protection of the common good was considered a necessity for a civilized, enlightened society. Pope St. John Paul II called it “solidarity.” We’re in this together, we look out and care for each other, especially the weak and fragile. I’m so proud of the human family that has put the common good first these past three months. The crisis will, please God, abate; our concern for the common good cannot.
– We’re rather good company to ourselves! The philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked, “All our problems boil down to our inability to be happy in our room by ourselves.” Silence, no distraction, no ability to buy, spend, talk, isn’t too bad if we learn to be at peace with ourselves, all alone. To be sure, too much of it can drive us nuts, but it’s a talent to be cultivated.
You’ve got your own list.
Each time I make my annual retreat, I recall the counsel of a director when I was a young priest. “Look back and sense where God was in all this.”
Not bad advice as “normalcy” slowly returns.