So, you are getting by and through this worldwide pandemic and dealing with all of the hand washing, social distancing, sanitizing, and limited travel away from home but just not feeling yourself. You have not tested positive for the virus but there is a sense that the pep in your step is less than what it was or that the things that usually amuse you seem not to be as amusing.
There is a better than average chance that you may have a different strain of the Coronavirus – the Corona Crud. For complete disclosure purposes, I am not aware that there is an actual ailment officially called the Corona Crud, but you get the idea. The overall feeling that life is just a bit off balance and that some days things almost feel normal but still different. You’re not overtly depressed or having debilitating anxiety but the updates of information and the review of the COVID19 statistics usually end with a deep sigh. Even the occasional glass of wine or beer is interrupted by some conversation about the virus and it seems that it’s one of the last things that you think about at night and one of the first things that you greet the day with on more days than not.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, all of your badges of honor from past disasters like Katrina, Rita, the BP Oil Spill, Refinery explosions, and even Betsy for the most experienced of survivors, really carry little weight to combat this one.
Well, here is the good news- in addition to the Gospel. If you’re going through any of the above or things similar you are completely normal. Keep in mind that normal is a relative term. But for the most part, you can count on the above symptoms remaining with you for a while longer butyou will get better at it and it will help form the roots for a stronger and more resilient you. In the meantime, here are a few helpful hints to remember that make for good emotional health.
1. One of my personal favorites- why give yourself a hard time for having a hard time dealing with hard times. In other words, feeling a bit off center in the face of a historical pandemic and all of the impacts associated with it is right where most of us spend a decent amount of our days. It is really important that we can acknowledge that the things that we are experiencing like the symptoms above is OK to feel. It doesn’t mean that we are in some way less than we are supposed to be. It just means that this situation is a challenge for now. Vent a little more, wonder a little more, nap a little more, and question a little more; but just for a while.
2. But be OK with not staying there. Once you can give yourself a pass for not being completely happy with the pandemic situation, you also can free yourself from having to change it. Take solving the COVID19 crisis off your To Do list. You see, we are creatures who look for ways to minimize discomfort and maximize pleasant experiences. So, if you release yourself from having to solve the COVID19 pandemic, it becomes a bit more sensible to let yourself do and think about other things. Be free of the chains of the virus. This simple act can go a long way to open yourself to the rest of the world around you.The daylight, the clouds, the rain, the stars, the sunset, the birds that you hadn’t seen before. Be open to it all.
3. Here is a small but powerful tool. Laugh and Smile. Sure, it may seem inconsistent to laugh or walk around with a big grin on your face when there is so much stuff going on but trust me on this one. This is a biggie. You know that it takes more muscle energy to frown than to smile- so it is actually more efficient to smile. Find something: a television show, a movie, a joke, a photo album or old video, a funny memory, or watching orangutans. Whatever it is that amuses you, find it, experience it, and laugh at will. Repeat as often as possible. And feel free to make yourself contagious on this one. Obviously, be mindful of the other people around who may not have advanced to your level of personal adjustment and who may not understand your laughter just yet.
4. Another helpful hint is to allow yourself to engage the pandemic for what it is - a world crisis that will end in time - and move on with your history story. Not that we should be insensitive to the struggles that people may have but let it have its place and stay in its place. People often can get wrapped up in having to know all there is to know about the tragedies of the world. Sort of like having to look at the car accident on the highway- you don’t want to see but you just have to look. Here is a secret that is related to #2 above. Its likely not your job to solve the Coronavirus pandemic so engage the crisis; get the facts;know that it is real, that it will have some impact on life as we know it for the immediate future; and expect that it will pass. So, turn off the 24-hour coverage on the pandemic and get on with something else. There will be plenty of time to come back to any relevant issue or person that needs your attention.
5. Eat, Play, Pray, and Rest. You know the saying- take care of yourself and your self will take care of you. Be deliberate in trying new things to eat or places to order from. EAT - Our culture is such a delicacy and while some of our reliables may be on a temporary hiatus, use this as the time to expand your food experience. Do a food exchange with friends and neighbors. You know you can really tell a lot about a person from the food they feed you. Travel the seven continents one by one by different cultural dishes during the course of the pandemic. Or play your own version of your favorite reality cooking show- you make the rules and you always win. PLAY - Dust off those board games or tennis shoes or gardening tools. You know all those things you used to enjoy doing but got too grown up to do anymore or made it a chore to do. Now is a good time to try them out again. Make it fun instead of seeing as a “have to do” item. And even while you’resocial distancing, you may find someone to do them six feet away from. Take pics of your new playful self. PRAY - And while you’re doing things deliberately- work a couple of practical prayers into the mix. The old favorites like the rosary or novenas are good solid prayers but stretch your spiritual self and try adding in a little mixture of prayers that you hadn’t followed before. Be it a focus on nature or history or mankind, let your prayer journey be influenced by topics of prayer that you have not considered a source of prayer time or include in your prayers getting to know some of the saints and or other spiritual models whom you don’t know. REST - And get your rest. Be careful in the process of eating, playing, and praying that you leave time for a few good mid-day siestas and some early to bed nights and late to rise days. Sleep is such a distinct behavior of ours that on this one be cautious about changing what works but be open to adjusting what does not. Someone recently shared with me that last year laying on the couch when the neighbors were out was seen as lazy and antisocial and this year it is seen as responsible distancing. Go figure. Rest sustains us; good rest energizes us; and peaceful rest strengthens us.
So, there you have a quick review of the Corona Crud and some ideas to cope with it. I most encourage readers to rip it apart, write your own version of the crud symptoms and the helpful hints to cope with it. Afterall, you are the expert. And as we often need to be reminded-
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
This, too, shall pass. You know this because this is not where our story ends.
God Bless You.
We are now a little over a month into the “Stay at Home” orders stemming from the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, and this Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. As a parish family we just finished praying the Divine Mercy Novena together, with the special intention of against God, in His mercy, to heal the sick, protect those most at risk, and end this pandemic.
I want to invite you to pray another novena with me, starting Monday, April 20. This is one that I wrote to ask for God’s grace during times of spreading disease. I call it the Novena Against Disease and Pestilence. We’ll pray it starting Monday, April 20, and go through Tuesday, April 28. The full text of the novena will be available on our website: www.olol-church.com.
We’re starting tomorrow, not today, because I want to reiterate a point from last Sunday’s, Easter Sunday’s, homily. While we definitely need to fast and pray, to seek conversion and forgiveness, and to beg God’s mercy, the Church, in her wisdom, also recognizes that we need time to feast as well. Sunday is a special time for feasting because on every Sunday, and most of all during the Easter season, we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to new life, and the gift of new life that He offers us in the Sacrament of Baptism. Take the time this Sunday to do something that makes you happy: make some bread pudding, fire up the grill, go for a drive, or call a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in a while. We need to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. Even my pet turtle celebrates on Sundays. Every other day of the week he gets turtle food pellets, but on Sundays he gets something fresh, usually a bit of shrimp.
I like to focus on the Most Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday, because the Eucharist is the Resurrected and Glorified Jesus Christ made present for us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord specifically on Easter Sunday, but every Sunday, and every Mass, is a celebration of the Resurrection, just as every Mass is also a memorial of the Passion and death of the Lord. On this Easter Sunday, many of us won’t get to receive Holy Communion and almost none of us will get to go to Mass. We’ve been encouraging people to watch and listen to the Mass however they can and to make a Spiritual Communion, but that truly isn’t the same as actually attending Mass. In the Mass the Body of Christ, which is the Church, is gathered together to worship our Lord and God and be united to him through the Most Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood, and our physical presence there is important. After all, it’s important that the Son of God really became flesh and didn’t just appear to. However, just being physically present at Mass isn’t enough, either; we need to actually be paying attention. We need to actively participate in the Mass, and we can do that part even sitting in front of our computers or TVs, and God can use that to bring unimaginable graces into our lives.
Before Mass even starts, take 3-5 minutes to prepare yourself for Mass. Try to push any distractions out of your mind, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to focus. Take this time to tell God what you are offering the Mass for: a particular grace, a person, the intentions of the Pope, etc.
During the Penitential Rite, really ask God for mercy. You probably don’t have enough time to do a full examination of conscience, but in the brief pause remember any particular sins that are weighing on your soul and ask God to give you a holy hatred for every sin and a desire to never be separated from Him.
Try to really pay attention to the readings as they’re read. You don’t need to analyze them for every little detail, but at least listen for something that stands out to you: an idea, theme, phrase, or action. During the homily, listen for the main point. God can and will speak to you through the homily, whether the homilist is interesting or boring. You may learn something new, find something to bring to prayer, or be called to do something.
While the gifts are being prepared, prepare to offer yourself to God along with them. Place your intention on the altar with the gifts. Place yourself on the paten with the host and in the chalice with the wine. Ask the Lord to transform you through His grace just as the bread and wine or transubstantiated to become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then, during the Eucharistic Prayer focus on the words the priest is saying and unite your prayers to his.
After Mass is over, just get up and walk away immediately. Take a moment to thank the Lord for the great gift of the Mass, of your faith, and of the Church. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you put the graces you’ve receive to use so that, through this Mass, you might grow in love of God and neighbor in some tangible way.
During this time of exile from the sacraments I’ve been thinking of other times when Catholic have, by necessity, been away from the sacraments. I don’t mean when we can’t make it to Mass because of our work schedule or when we’re traveling; I’m talking about extended, involuntary periods of time away from the Sacraments and the Eucharist. Since we know that God’s hand can work in all things and that the Lord can bring blessings even out of evil, then we can think about the blessings that can come from this present absence from the sacraments caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The first group I thought of was the Catholic community in Japan. The first Catholic missionaries reached Japan in the 16th century and they began to make great progress in spreading the faith, converting 2-300,000 to Catholicism. The persecutions began in 1587 when Christianity was outlawed, the missionaries exiled, and some churches burned, but the missionaries continued their work in secret. The martyrdoms began 10 years later, in 1597, and continued on year after year, with brief intervals of peace. The last of the missionaries, 5 Jesuits and 3 secular religious, were martyred in 1643, and we don’t have much information from after that time. However, in 1848, when Commodore Perry forced the Japanese to reopen their borders to outsiders, it was discovered that there were still tens of thousands of Christians practicing the faith in secret without clergy or any sacraments other than Baptism. We can thank the Lord for our religious liberty, which wasn’t granted to the Japanese Christians until 1873, and ask God to strengthen our faith like the faith of the Japanese Catholics and martyrs.
Next, I thought of Christians imprisoned for their faith, like those in Communist Russian prisons. Now Cardinal Sigitas Tamkevicius was a priest in Lithuania in 1983 when he was arrested by the KGB and sentenced to 10 years in prison, some of which was spent in Siberia. Cardinal Tamkevicius explained, “My stronghold was my faith, which I kept alive by praying a lot. I could only celebrate Mass secretly.I celebrated the Eucharist with great care, and for me it was a great source of strength in prison.” He was able to request unleavened bread with his meals, and would use the grapes to make wine in secret. We can learn from Cardinal Tamkevicius and those like him to rely more on prayer, to stay close to the Eucharist however we can, and to do what we can with what we have.
Finally, I thought of those who are homebound or in hospitals and care facilities and who thus can’t get to Mass. Sometimes, they are able to watch Mass on TV or have the Eucharist brought to them, but that’s not the same as actually attending Mass. I have greater compassion for these people now, even though I get to celebrate mass every day, because I can’t go where I want or do what I want, and I also intend to have greater appreciation for the great gift of the Eucharist in the future. Let’s learn to never take our Lord, or Holy Communion, for granted, but to always reach out to Him in faith, wherever we may be, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.