WRITTEN BY SR. HANNAH PATRICIA O’ DONOGHUE, CCVI

During this time of pandemic, many of us are limited in our direct ministry to using technology, which has given me reason to pause. What do people really need when economic, health, and social unrest create the feeling that our survival is at stake? A good starting place may be to reflect on our experience of what stresses us.

The dynamic of life is difficult to navigate under normal circumstances. But now, as we live with the underlying anxiety of COVID- 19, we can have a mind-spasm of dread when someone does not wear a mask or keep social distance. We desire to respond with calmness, but fear takes over, jeopardizing our relationships even though relationships are necessary for our inner health. The range of risk adverse people varies, so setting limits can be stressful and lead to misunderstandings. Taking time to communicate that “I am not well unless you are well” can build trust. Just as being with others can be stressful, isolation can be detrimental to our overall well-being. It has been reported that more elderly are dying from ‘failure to thrive’ due to loneliness. Our brains need the stimulus of social interaction. This is where calling family and friends can be a spiritual practice. We need community.

As time and reflection go on, we realize there is no definitive end in sight, so no plans can be made. Making the decision to choose to be present to this moment, here and now, is a courageous commitment. Letting go of the sense of urgency makes being alive its own reward. Urgency constricts our minds and hearts, while surrendering expands our life flow. The reality is we live with that dynamic of constriction and expansion, aided by times of stillness where we gain strength and clarity. This is an endless journey that demands focus and a reliance on the Spirit. In ministry, whether in person or through technology, our calmness can be a source of support and strength.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells the story of a novice who remained in her cell because that is where she found stillness and that is where God could find her. Her spiritual director advised her to remember the image of the turtle that makes her way through the world in a shell. She advised, “Whether in shell or cell, the key is to bring stillness with you.” No matter the ministry, let us be conscious of what we carry.

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