Most of our brothers are in “lockdown” situation in most of the countries, collaborating with civil authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The extension of the infection has crossed 200 countries and territories. The number of the recovered is increasing, and the practice of physical distancing, hand washing, and other proposed means are slowly bearing positive results. Even though we are still baffled by this historically unprecedented global event, we shall face it with Christian fortitude and join with all people of goodwill, sharing the best of us to fight the pandemic virus. The Lord is with us in the midst of the storm. Hope animated by love for one another and sustained by faith in the Lord of life is driving us forward, even though trolls, fake news, and prophecies of doom and conspiracy theories abound in the troubled waters of communication media. We shall keep ourselves anchored in the Gospel of love.
Let us remember what our Constitutions teach us, “Sharing the hopes and joys, the sorrows and trials of the people, especially those of the poor, we readily offer to join efforts with all who are striving to transform the world according to God’s plan” (CC 46).
I am happy to know that Claretians in most places have taken this virus threat seriously and are responding to it creatively and responsibly. After the infected persons, the most affected people are those who have been living in a “hand to mouth” situation and are hit very badly in the present lockdown. It is the poor who always pay the price when things get out of control. It would be terrible irresponsibility on the part of humans if hunger kills more people than the virus in many countries under lockdown. We shall be sensitive to the situation of our brothers and sisters around us who are affected in various ways and participate in whatever way possible to alleviate their plight.
The COVID-19 lockdown is not a “holiday in” time for us missionaries. It is a time to fulfill our prophetic mission by discerning “timely, opportune, and urgent” responses in each situation. This year, the stations of the cross are in the hospitals, in the sick rooms, in the quarantine places, and in the shelters of the poor. Here are a few ways we can be a Simeon carrying the beam of the cross by the side of Jesus.
- When needed, our institutions should be open to respond to the emergency situation of the pandemic. In some places, we have given our building facilities to respond to emergency needs in proper understanding with civil authorities.
- In many places, our brothers have started organizing food distribution or other help for the people affected by the lockdown by joining hands with others in a shared mission.
- Wherever it is appropriate, we should join hands with others in offering the needed support for humanitarian services or other needed support as volunteers or collaborators, of course, taking due safety measures responsibly.
- Dedicate a community rosary or 30 minutes of daily adoration in communities as a congregational commitment of taking the suffering humanity to the Lord in prayer. Through this gesture, we shall unite ourselves with the whole Church, walking towards the light of the Risen Lord to welcome the deliverance from the pandemic.
It is wonderful that many initiatives are being taken in all our Major Organisms making up for “physical distancing” with a deeper “spiritual connecting” by making use of the internet and social media. I feel proud of our brothers who take innovative steps to continue education ministry online, liturgical services through streaming, and catechetical and biblical programs through zoom, go-to-meet, google hangout, or professional online courses. Finding some personal time to reach out to people far or near who may be alone or in need of a consoling word beyond the circle of friends and family is a tangible way to weave our human fraternity in our globe. Certainly, only when we learn the art of reaching deep within into the source of God’s abiding love in the silence of our hearts, we can truly reach out to others with the gift of love in its various manifestations. Lockdown is a time to deepen this mystical dimension of our missionary life.
Our brother Mons. Javier Travieso is getting better day by day. I received the news that one of our Claretians in Valladolid, Spain, and family members of a few Claretians are affected by COVID-19. We keep them in our prayers. I thank the Lord for keeping our brothers healthy to serve others. In Rome, we live the fourth week of lockdown with serenity.
The forthcoming Holy Week invites us to contemplate the mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord as the mystery of our Salvation, which enables us to live the present global pandemic reality in the light of the resurrection. In the silence of the lockdown, please see that you do not miss the whisper of the Lord in your heart, “Fear not, I am with you” (Is 42.10).
With a warm fraternal embrace
Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, CMF