Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

Emerging into the sunshine from “cocoon-style” lives forced by the coronavirus-related restrictions, people are resuming favorite activities – dining in their favorite restaurant, going to the ballpark – leaping for joy like calves let out to pasture.

The virus has made us wiser in a physical sense – don’t forget to wash those hands and cover that cough – but what have we learned spiritually during the pandemic? How do we apply those nuggets of wisdom we’ve gained?

“Our lives have changed. The foundation lessons learned as a result of the quarantine can be positive building blocks for a fresh outlook on our calling as disciples,” said Dina Dow, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. “It would be easy to slip into old habits, or ways of living life, but is this what God is asking?”

Dow said this transitionary period is a unique time to set post-quarantine priorities, pray more consistently and have an “attitude of gratitude.”

“I see this as time to leave the upper room of our homes to continue the mission of evangelizing with fervent faith, while being aware of the physical and spiritual well-being of others,” Dow said. “Even with social distancing we can still share the love and mercy of God in all we do. It is a time to support the corporal works of mercy, supporting those who have suffered terrible economic hardships. It is also a good time to wear the badge of patience as we ease back into our churches, work spaces and other public venues.”

Now is also a good time to do an examination of conscience and reflect on thoughts, words and deeds during the crisis, said Becky Eldredge, spiritual director and author of “The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God.”

Eldredge urged people to be honest with God when they pray. She said be specific about struggles being faced, such as “I’m frustrated,” “I’m angry” or “I’m afraid.”

She said the pandemic is a good time to look at “where you are,” where “you’ve come from” and “where you’re going.”

The reopening of the community further invites people to be a “contemplative in action,” say spiritual directors with the Marian Servants of the Eucharist.

“Since mid-March much of my life has been contemplative – in prayer, in pondering God’s word, in the garden, in perusing old photos, in reading old letters. There have been action times in yard visits with children and grandchildren, walks with neighbors, long phone calls with old friends, but these are definitely outnumbered by the times of solitude and silence,” said Lisette Borné.

“As the time of quarantine ends, I think I will be called to resume my life as a contemplative in action,” she said. “Is God, however, calling me to live this chosen life in a new way, maybe with more contemplative times and less activity? I think that may be the case, but what that will look like is still unknown, and I’m at peace in the not knowing. I am certain that where the unknown will take me is yet another part of the adventure, the great gift of God that is my life.”

The quarantine also teaches people to set priorities, said Andrea Blanchard.

“We as individuals and as a community must move forward in faith and persevere, live in gratitude for the blessings of the moment, and trust God to the bigger picture,” said Blanchard. “This requires an awareness of our inner feelings, where we are being pulled, what is bringing us peace, what is bringing stress or anxiety to our lives.

“We need to understand how these feelings are affecting our decisions and actions. What do I need to do to get back to the peaceful quiet rhythm of life and still do my work, family activities and community activities? I believe an inner quiet place in the mist of life is needed to allow ourselves time to ask the questions … do I really need this, do I really need to go there, do the kids need to be entertained 24/7, what is most important to me and my family?”

Susan Gros agreed.

“This has been a time for the most part of peacefulness and a realization that too many things I was doing were ‘of the world’ and only one thing is necessary,” Gros said. “I have been praying much more during the course of a day.”

Meeting God and meeting people where they are in their own journeys helps Cindy Ristroph make the spiritual transition.

”As I ventured into my parish church for the first time after weeks of being away, there are simply no words to describe the feeling of ‘presence’ that I’d missed,” she said. “Alone with God in his house, I sat in the pew and cried – tears of joy at being in this holy place again. On Easter Sunday when I stopped at church, it was silent and dark – again, no one else in the building. Realizing that Easter should fill a church with ‘Hallelujahs’ I sang them (from music on her phone) – exuberantly – for almost 45 minutes. What a gift to praise God in his holy place, with incredible joy as I realized my fears about the world situation had been transformed into courage by God’s abundant grace.”

“Through this journey, God helped me realize the fine line between prudent caution and fear, and that re-entering the world of physically interacting with others is a deeply personal decision,” she added. “Even within the same family, experiences may be different. Following Jesus’ lead, respecting others’ feelings is my call.”

Mary Tauzin said realization that life is fragile should move people to make the most of their time.

“For those things that were ‘taken from us,’ I realized we have become aware of how precious those opportunities were, we mourn their loss and so look forward to them being restored – Eucharist and, being with other people, particularly family,” said Tauzin. “Or, we cherish a new realization of how precious is focused, intentional time with those with whom we are or were quarantined.”