Each week a member of the Vincentian Family will share a part of his/her experience during recent months. From the depths of their heart these writers will present a message of hope because we are convinced that there are positive lessons to be learned from this pandemic.
I am the son and grandson of parents and grandparents who sold sardines in Santurce, Spain. As a child I had many friends and we all went to the school where the Daughters of Charity taught in the “Patronato.” Our life was the street, the boat and the sea. The houses of the poor were not built to be inhabited and lived in for many hours. I am 90 years old, with my head in place. What have failed me are my legs. Until two years ago, I went out into the street and exercised my priestly ministry in what I believe was a dignified manner. I have been unable to leave the house for two years and so now I lean out the window and distract myself by watching people and cars pass by on the street. It is a distraction … and a good distraction. That is, until the arrival of this pandemic came along to prove the greatness of friendship. Previously, friends went out into the street, went to celebrate the Eucharist, walked around the city and were informed about events that we later commented upon, discussed, approved or denied. With the pandemic, all that ended and for months the silence has taken over.
Before, I would stop writing after an hour and a half (articles for FamVin or other publications) and I would lean out the window to rest and I would distract myself by forming words with the letters on the license plates of the cars that passed by. Now not a soul passes, neither cars nor people. It seems that I live in a dead city, a scene from a science-fiction movie.
If before friends were like loudspeakers proclaiming events and updating me on the news, now there are no newspapers and unless for some emergency, friends are prohibited from walking the streets.
But this situation has given me the opportunity to enter into a new relationship with Jesus and the Virgin Mary. I invite them to go down to the squares and streets and to my window and we speak as friends. These friends do come to visit me continuously and I continually ask them: deliver us, Jesus, from being infected with the coronavirus; deliver us, Virgin Mary, our Mother, from being infected with the coronavirus. Yes, it is very sad to live without friends or without having friends coming to visit … But these two friends, Jesus and the Virgin Mary, never fail.
The coronavirus has not been sent by God nor is it divine punishment. It has emerged as a result of natural laws or human action. But God can enlighten scientists to find an effective cure. From my window I pray and ask the Almighty Father to help so many homeless poor people and to help people who are living in inadequate housing conditions … to help all these people find friends who welcome them and strengthen them so that, after having eaten something, they can receive friends and together look out the window and discover the divine presence in the face of people who pass by.
P. Benito Martínez, C.M.