In his letter for the feast of Saint Clare (11th August) our Minister General, Michael Perry OFM, writes of the Lord’s presence in our struggles and lonliness during this time of pandemic.
Because of Covid-19, a certain community of Poor Clares was forced to adopt maximum isolation measures. Each sister had to stay in her cell to assist recovery and to avoid infection, making it impossible to gather in the choir and refectory. So painful and so distressing! These sisters told me how consoling it was for them to follow the liturgies presided over by Pope Francis on little radios, listening to his homilies which became the basis of a form of life reduced to its essentials. “A time is coming […] when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me”.
Yes, the Lord does not save us from history but within history, he does not save us from Covid-19, but within Covid-19, he does not save us from loneliness, but within loneliness, he does not save us from fear, but within our fears.
And hasn’t fear become our daily lot and our companion since the beginning of this pandemic? Fear of the other from whom we must protect ourselves, fear of the wolf that has entered the sheepfold, fear of the evil at work inside us, fear of transmitting death to the other, fear that becomes panic when the virus does its deadly work on our loved ones, and when our own symptoms suddenly give alarming signals. How we tremble before the death of the Poor Crucified One who, asphyxiated, placed his spirit in the hands of the Father!
If the coronavirus shakes us so much, it is because it touches the vital breath within us and destroys it… Fear also of the separation and abandonment that some of you experienced when you had to entrust your sister to hospital care, when you saw her leave without being able to be with her at the moment of the great passing….
With our Mother St. Clare, keep your gaze fixed on the Poor Crucified One, listen to him cry out: “All you who pass by the way, look and see if there is any suffering like my suffering”. Let us respond with one voice, with one spirit to the one who cries and weeps: “Remembering this over and over leaves my soul sinking within me”. May the compassion that you can show from a mother’s heart become a fragrant perfume that can console so many afflicted and sick people, supporting health personnel who are so generous and devoted, encouraging families, and inflaming the hearts of the young people whom the Lord is calling to follow him.
Compassion means to suffer with. This little virus has taught us that we are all in the same boat; it indiscriminately attacks rich and poor, powerful and small, just and sinful. In solidarity with suffering humanity, help us to persevere in prayer to hope against all hope: “Our help is in the Name of the Lord!”. This solidarity transforms the limits of human boundaries to include every human person, every living being, enabling us to embrace our true identity as interconnected beings living in a common home. This awareness helps us to assume the role God has given us as promoters of dignity and protectors of the human community and the environment, Laudato Si’.