Zapped Back to Life
"It is infinitely mysterious that God uses coronavirus to communicate to me personally."
I want to start by acknowledging that writing has been really difficult for me lately. Since news of the outbreak of Covid-19 in the U.S., I seem incapable of focusing my attention for any meaningful length of time or with any depth. As a student, copywriter, and reporter, all of my work depends on my ability to write clearly—and my ability to do this easily has evaporated. Even as I sit in front of my computer now, I am asking God to help. I need to be able to share it. This is the first problem coronavirus has presented to me: I can’t write and I need to—I am poor.
I currently live in York, England, where I am undertaking postgrad studies. A few weeks ago I was agonizing over whether I should move my Easter break flights to Kansas forward and get home before the situation in the U.K. worsened. I either needed to get home immediately or risk staying indefinitely. I decided to stay. I wanted to be where my life is—my university, my boyfriend, my friends, my housemates, and my parish—and right now it’s in York. A couple days later the university library closed and everything moved online. Then all my friends went home. And Mass was suspended, and the church closed. All of my contexts disappeared—and I feel displaced. Particularly without the Mass, without the Eucharist, I feel displaced. It has seemed that I’ve made the wrong decision to stay. This is the second problem coronavirus has brought me: It has made me uncertain and a foreigner again.
I’ve been trying to ask if my being a Christian makes me face what’s happening with coronavirus in a different way. I understand the suspension of Masses and I don’t. I understand my housemates’ strict observation of the shelter-in-place order and I don’t. I understand the government restrictions and guidelines and I don’t. I understand the panic-induced need to mass-purchase toilet paper and I don’t. I have so many questions and I don’t know how to ask or talk about. The third problem coronavirus has brought me is the fact that I am not sufficient in myself to answer my questions. The fourth is it has reminded me how much I miss having a School of Community, a place which for me has been, as Giussani says, the place where the encounter of Christ happens, the place that enables me to face reality, to which my “I” belongs. I need School of Community to help me face life.
The communications we’ve received from Father Carrón, Father José, and those in the CL newsletter who have shared their experience in the face of this pandemic have been an immense mercy to me. (I’ve finally started reading them!) I cling to their words, often re-reading them two or three times and sharing them with friends. The daily reflections and rosary meditations from the Lenten guidance have given my Lent a form and not allowed it to fall into chaos; they have allowed me to interrogate the meaning of Lent as a time of preparation, and they teach me to beg to see His face. And if I beg, my awareness for Him sharpens. Additionally, the questions “What needs have arisen in me because of this new reality?” and “How am I responding to what happens?” have been particularly helpful because they don’t allow me to be lazy and glaze over these days as if in a coma. They force me to pay attention and think.
This Wednesday morning I texted an Italian friend in Scotland to see how she was and if her family was healthy. They are well, and she said technology is such a grace right now—and she invited me out of nowhere to join her online School of Community. It hadn’t even occurred to me that coronavirus would enable me to be part of a School of Community again, something I’ve been praying for since September! And then just yesterday my boyfriend of one month, who knows little of CL, asked me out of the blue how he could learn more about the Movement. I told him the best way to know about it is to live it and asked if he’d want to start doing School of Community with me—and he said yes! These graces have zapped me back to life.
I’ve begun to see Him in the rare and beautiful sunny weather we’re having, the music of the birds singing that’s normally drowned out by cars, the ability to still talk to my loved ones and go outside. I’ve been able to “go” to Mass in Eastleigh where Fraternity priests and my friend Phil live. I’m able to be with my dear friends in Kansas again, because of Him.
Without discounting the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is still so much beauty in the world. It’s infinitely mysterious that God even uses coronavirus to communicate Himself to me, personally. I am grateful for the moments in which I can recognize that. This pandemic has reawakened my desire to see Christ—and it is growing. I want our moments together to reveal to us and others that Christians and Christ are one. I want to enter deeply into the experience of solitude. I want something marvelous to be revealed to me every day.
Liv, York, UK