Resilience and resurrection in a pandemic

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on March 31, 2020

Carving out more time for online Mass, rosary podcasts and spiritual reading, I embrace the peace it brings.

I have never felt such a strong hunger for the sacraments in the days leading up to Easter. It is a strange time that we are living in right now. A global pandemic is striking fear and panic in me and maybe you too. Worries can be overwhelming. What will happen to my family, job, finances, and way of life? It is uncertain what our lives will look like in the coming months. With all this change unfolding rapidly, we can count on the resurrection of the Lord. He gives us everything we need.

In this “darkness of uncertainty, loneliness and isolation,” we need a “change of mindset and renewal of heart,” as Archbishop Miller said in his homily livestreamed from Holy Rosary Cathedral on March 22.

Even more now, I am turning to the Lord in prayer throughout the day. I share with him all of my fears and questions about what is going on. I wonder when he will come in and calm this storm. He gives me the strength to face the difficult days.

I am discovering that the meaning of life is more than having enough toilet paper in my cabinet. Yes, I stocked up on food and planned healthy meals in the event I were to get sick. And yes, I am grateful to my landlords for leaving a few rolls of bathroom tissue at my door. Each day of self-isolation, my emotions are rising and falling, and I let myself feel the feelings. I don’t shut off all the anxiety because a little anxiety is good to protect myself from danger.

As I live through this unexpected spread of coronavirus, I am exercising the virtues of faith and resilience. Carving out more time for prayer with online Mass, Rosary podcasts, and spiritual reading, I embrace the peace it brings. I also listen to the needs of my mind and body. When I am hungry and need a snack, I find a few baby carrots or a bowl of mango yogurt to eat. When I need to move, I go for a walk or dance to my favourite upbeat songs. I am trying to accept that there is an outbreak and find peace in the moment by taking action.

On my first day working from home, I woke up to my sister making oatmeal. Adding fresh bananas, I ate it with my coffee as the morning light filtered into the living room. After breakfast, we lit candles scented with frankincense and myrrh for daily Mass. We participated in the Mass in Bishop Barron’s chapel on YouTube. We blessed each other with holy water and prayed in silence. What a wonderful rest for my soul.

Sitting at my desk to work remotely on the projects from my office, I felt grateful. It’s so good to have meaningful work, to have purpose. “Without purpose,” says Eric Greitens in his book Resilience, “we can survive – but we cannot flourish.” 

What is taking the edge off my anxiety is talking to family and friends on the phone and connecting virtually with friends and communities. Gifts are hidden in this darkness. I have joined a live stream Rosary, sung along with Josh Groban in his live performance on Facebook, watched operas streaming free on MetOpera.org, and laughed as I watched a video of penguins roam the aquarium after hours on YouTube. We live in an amazing age for technology. As my friend said, “It’s the world wide web of God’s beauty.”

The joy of Jesus’ resurrection is contagious. Because of his generous love, I am looking for ways to show up and give to others. Eric Greitens explains, “We become what we do if we do it often enough. We act with courage, and we become courageous. We act with compassion, and we become compassionate. If we make resilient choices, we become resilient.” When we believe in God, we receive a new hope-filled perspective.

While reading Scripture by my soft bedroom light before bed, I find Jesus’ words comforting, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:25, 33).

This day is a gift. Looking back at it, I breathe deeply and ask, “Who will make these days brighter?” Closing my eyes, I feel deep gratefulness for Jesus’ love for me. The light of the world brightens my heart in this uncertainty.


Stand by me, Lord

This article was first published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on March 18th, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/content/stand-by-me-lord

It is a daily struggle to not fill the space in my heart meant only for God with other things.

Walking in the cold Saturday morning air on my way to Mass, I felt sadness.

Hearts shatter, minds weaken, and dreams falter. Love is the answer, yet I know the weakness of human love and the battle to hope.

“Who will heal me?”

I heard the birds singing and took my headphones out of my ears. This is nature’s music, I thought to myself, and better than anything I have on my playlist.

I walked by purple and yellow crocuses growing by a cafe and snapped a photo. My heart is yearning and aching for spring – a springtime in my environment but also in my interior life.

That is why I treasure the season of Lent leading up to Easter. A time for spiritual growth, self-sacrifice, and communion with Jesus.

It is a daily struggle to not fill the space in my heart meant only for God with other things. Retail therapy and indulging in delicious food are among the very enticing distractions.

I have been reading a lot of books lately to lift my spirits, the Bible being one of them. I want to know the Lord more, so that I may know his love for me. The book of Sirach is a new discovery for me, full of rich wisdom. The Mass readings from Sirach are a balm to my heart. “Cling to God and do not depart. Trust in God and he will help you. You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.”

And then come the questions that stir my soul. “Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord and been forsaken? Or has anyone trusted the Lord and been disappointed?”

Each Lent I meditate on the Way of the Cross. Jesus felt real pain and knows what it’s like to lament. Illness, rejection, and despair can be united to him. He knows our pain. His death is not the end. Our hope is in the resurrection. His love is redeeming.

I arrived a few minutes before Mass and settled into a pew, gazing at the tabernacle and the crucifix. Wanting hope, healing, forgiveness, and mercy. It comes with the cross, Good Friday, the cold, empty tomb and the unfailing warmth of the Resurrection.

After Mass, I had a comforting latte with a friend as we tucked into a sunny corner of a cozy Main Street cafe. Inspired by our conversation I played her newest ukulele as she drove me home. When I got home, I listened to one of my favourite songs – Stand by Me, which I often play on my own ukulele.

The lyrics are few, but the message is clear. No matter what happens, “If the mountains should crumble to the sea, I won’t cry … no I won’t shed a tear. Just as long as you stand by me.”

We all want love. We are love. Lent is a reminder that Jesus is the greatest lover and friend. Jesus also wants us to stand by him. He wanted the presence of his disciples as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Dying and rising, he gave us everything, to the last drop.

So this Lent I will stand by the Lord, relying on his strength when I am sad. I will take delight in his passion for me. I will sing and play Stand by Me on my little ukulele.

I am not the only one who aches for ultimate happiness. Jesus heals. And, as Sirach tells us, “faithful friends are life-saving medicine and those who fear the Lord will find them.”