I would like to share with you some information which I am sure you are all familiar with.
Today we have been in isolation or quarantine for more than 40 days. In one way or another we have witnessed a tragedy that we could not have imagined and that we will never forget. Beginning with Italy, more than 175,925 persons have been infected with the coronavirus and some 23,227 people have died (the good news, 44,927 people have recovered).
We could add the numbers from all the various countries throughout the world but then this would become a statistical presentation of an historical tragic event. Furthermore, for us these statistics are not merely numbers because the numbers represent people who have a story, a family, a concrete reality … these are people who have either died or who are struggling to survive this virus.
During this time, we at the general curia (like most people throughout the world) continue in quarantine in order to protect our health. We do know, however, that sooner or later we will once again move about on the street and we will recover some sense of “normal.” Nevertheless, we will not return to things the way they were before, the way they were when we entered this process of self-confinement more than one month ago.
I do not want to be a “messenger of bad news” but, we must assume that we will not find the same reality: friends, family members, and even confreres and sisters or members of the Vincentian Family will be missing; we will encounter people who are mourning the departure of their loved ones (family members whom they were unable to accompany during their final hours); we will find that the poor have become poorer and that communities and provinces which were already suffering from poverty are now in even greater need … But there is more.
We will find that people have strengthened the bonds of solidarity and are not indifferent, that people have learned the meaning of loneliness … men and women have shared the anguish and pain of others. We will discover that families have learned that the Church is not constituted by some building or by priests and bishops and religious women but that every baptized person is an integral part of the church and they are able to celebrate the Word in their own home … indeed, people have learned that each and every home is a church, a domestic church. Hopefully this will bring an end to the clericalism that Pope Francis has denounced on numerous occasions.
We will find a reality with both positive and negative elements: a society that has become more technologically savvy as the result of many families using means of communication that they had not been previously utilized. After more than 40 days of quarantine we will find a world that has completely changed. This has been an appropriate time for reflection, and I have pondered many questions: how will we act in this “new tomorrow”; how will we carry out our mission especially as members of the general curia?
I must admit I do not have answers … at times the future is somewhat uncertain. What I do know is that we will not return to the world as we once knew it. Perhaps the manner in which we have lived these days of self-confinement reveals how we are going to live the days that are coming. We have celebrated Holy Week and Easter together. Usually we would have been involved in various commitments but this year we had time to reflect and to think. During these days we have listened to the invitation of the Risen Lord: peace be with you! Even though it might have been difficult to accept those words, nevertheless it is as though the Lord were speaking to each one of us: peace be with you! I believe that in light of so much suffering and pain that we have experienced, we are being sent forth to bring peace to all people.
Pope Francis has written a Plan to Rise, a reflection that was published in the Spanish journal, Vida Nueva. He reflected on the text from the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus encouraged the women to be joyful. He stated that he realized that asking people to be joyful during this time of pandemic could be seen as “a bad joke”, as unreal. Nevertheless, the Risen Lord has risen to new life and shares that new life not only with the women in gospel but with all humankind. Furthermore, the Pope affirms that this Risen Lord can renew our life and the life of our community.
The Pope offers various suggestions with regard to the future … here I mention just a few of them:
- It is the movement of the Spirit that opens new horizons, awakens creativity and renews the bonds of friendship that enable us to say “here we are!” “present!” as we confront the great task that awaits us.
- This is the time to look anew at that which is possible and to do so with the realism of the gospel.
- We cannot write present history or future history if we turn our backs on those men and women who are suffering.
- The globalization of indifference will continue to be a threat and a temptation … hopefully we will find a cure in the practice of justice, charity and solidarity.
- Let us not be afraid to live that which is known as the civilization of hope which is willing to combat anguish and fear, sadness and discouragement, passiveness and weariness.
I want to conclude this reflection with the words of the Spanish journalist, Carlos Candel, who affirms: We can continue to look the other way as we have done up to the present time. We can continue to want to return to a state of “normalcy” and think that the coronavirus was a small anomaly that we had to confront. We have not understood that none of that is possible … Therefore, I would not like us to return to some “normal situation”; I would also not like us to take on a fatalistic attitude, one in which we believe that we can do nothing and that everything has been decided. We must resist such temptations. We must believe that life will be and can be distinct, a life that truly guarantees our survival, that gives priority to the well-being of people, that takes care of our environment and does not destroy it. Let us move out into the future believing that now more than ever before the love that motivates us ought to be creative unto infinity.
Jorge Luis Rodríguez, B., CM
Office of Communication of the Congregation of the Mission