The Mystery Surpasses Our Measure
Frustrated with Covid restrictions, Stephanie risks in conversation with her friends--and encounters an unexpected openness.
I recently moved to a different state and began a new School of Community after being in the Boston/New Bedford CL community for nine years. In my new school of community, we were discussing the idea of “the mystery of Mercy” that is “not human.” It made me think of my time with my old CL friends and especially my experience with them this past year during the Covid crisis.
It is certain that God cannot reduce to nothing even one good work - even one - done by man. For if the nature of being is love, then even a single good action can defend whole lives. This is the strange dimension that the word mercy brought into the realm of the word forgiveness, as an answer that to us seems "irrational" or "unjust," because it doesn't seem to have sufficient reasons. But the Mystery surpasses our measure.
I would like to share with you my experience and struggles with CL over the past year because I think it illustrates how people can be so different and so conflicted with challenges but yet if one is open, God meets our desire. It is really Christ that keeps us together.
When the pandemic first became known in our area, I was naturally concerned, as everyone else was. There had been a CL youth group meeting scheduled for a weekend (just as reports of Covid was starting to make headlines) that I was relieved was cancelled. The local government assured us of a short time of hibernation and we all complied. This was in March. As April rolled by and Easter was celebrated at home and in front of a television screen, something inside me began to say “this is all wrong.”
This doesn’t mean I denied the existence of Covid or it’s aggressive effects on many unfortunate people, but I felt the global reaction to it responded to a cold science (and sometimes even pseudo science !) and totalitarian social experiment more than anything else. In the name of fear, we’ve seen this happen for an entire year. I won’t pretend to say I wasn’t disappointed by the reaction of my School of Community. Where our Movement of Communion and Liberation defines community and the risk of relationship, no one was taking a chance!
Though they tried their best with Zoom meetings and smiling eyes over their masks, I was very unsatisfied and restless for more. The attempts to “see the beauty” in responding to government mandates was simply never going to be enough for me. A priest friend sent me a message early in the pandemic that I still remember: “I’ve been thinking how the apostles were all gathered together scared in the upper room,” he wrote, “and then suddenly St. Peter decided to get up and said ‘I’m going fishing’.”
Despite the fear and the extra cautiousness that do not live by, I could see my School of Community friends were trying to stay connected in the best ways they knew how. And I still appreciate them (and love them) for putting up with me despite my clear stubbornness and tendency to object.
Fast forward to the vaccines. The current public pressure to take the mRNA Covid vaccines are some of the strongest I have ever witnessed. I find the way families are being torn apart over someone’s personal decision NOT to take the vaccine really heartbreaking. Stories of a grandparent being invited to a first communion with the vaccine as a stipulation, my aunt’s son and daughter-in-law refusing to visit her until she got the jab, these are just a few examples of the uproar going on right now in many places. Other family members and close friends have also experienced this pressure and isolation from even immediate family like parents and siblings. One sometimes hears about division between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated within churches. This was probably my biggest concern amongst the CL community, so full of brilliant doctors, some of whom had been anticipating the vaccines all year. Could we still remain together after this year, if some of us didn’t take the Covid vaccine?
When I posted an article in a group chat bringing up the moral problems associated with the vaccine testing and creation, I expected a backlash. What happened instead ended up being a grace-filled opportunity. My friend Monica called me and suggested we have a discussion about it. She invited some doctors she knew, including two doctors who are in our community, while I invited a priest friend who had recently been sharing the problems of the vaccine. The discussion was not perfect, but it still went ok.
The doctors shared their knowledge and expertise, and the priest offered some thoughts on how to discern taking vaccines which are not ethically produced. People got angry, there were interruptions; I was not happy with the closing remarks. However, the following day I got phone calls from all the friends who had been a part of the discussion. “How do you think it went?” They asked me. I was honest when I told Monica certain people handled it wrong or were rude. She agreed. But later when I thought about it, I wondered how many other groups had even attempted to take in such a sensitive issue and still remained friends. “That’s one thing about CL,” my husband said, in response to the phone calls, “they are good about picking up the phone.”
The phone calls that day struck me most. Why? Because though it would be easier to just avoid the topic altogether, on a subject that some felt strongly was between life or death, my friends were still calling me and wanted to know how I was and what I thought. They took the time to call me, to speak with me personally. I was really touched by that. It was not just the call, but the effort of a conversation--it was the risk of conversation! And I saw the wonderful risk for a relationship taking shape again in a new way as we tackled this problem together.
Several weeks ago, my family and I moved away due to a job. The week before we moved out of our house, our CL friends got together in a park before our yearly pilgrimage to St. Anne’s Shrine and had a goodbye party for us. As we sang together “Oh Freedom,” a favorite song from a happy past vacation, I felt absolutely awed by our singing together once again just like we used to do. Any social media site, news station, or politician will deny this is possible anymore. Only God can bring us together like this! Through the discussions, problems and challenges this year, God met us in our humanness in a totally unexpected way. It was our openness to each other that brought us together again. This is where I saw God’s mercy.
Stephanie, Pensacola, Florida