What We Can Do In Troubles Times – Talk by Fr. Michael Casagram 03/18/20

(Audio version)

This is a talk that Fr. Michael Casagram gave to the LCG members and friends on 3/18/20 in light of the coronavirus.

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Text of Fr. Michael’s Talk:

+Some Reflections on:  Things we can do in troubled times?  How to pray in troubled times? How not to be afraid in troubled times?

There have been various ideas and worries about what is going on because of the coronavirus pandemic. Let me share with you what I find meaningful but hopefully this will also give some of you a chance to share out of your own experience.

A few days ago I asked Dr Emily Cash, a psychologist who works with St Luke’s Institute in Louisvile: “What is a healthy psychological response to what’s going on in our world today in regard to the virus?” Her immediate response was that “it is good to remember it is temporary.” It is something passing and I would add that it is good to remember too, that God is right in the midst of all that is going on.

It is so important I think not to get caught up in the fear or pre-occupation this is creating for a lot of people. One wants to know what’s going on and what to do in the face of interacting with someone with the virus but here too, you don’t want to be overcome with anxiety at what might happen.

The monastic community must be ready to face the possibility of one of the monks getting the virus and what we might do. As someone said to me, it could even be one of the nurses who cares for our infirm who would introduce us to the illness. One can worry endlessly but this really doesn’t help and will only makes things worse.

I have often thought that sooner or later most of us probably, are going to get the virus and hopefully, even if over 60, our immune systems are going to be healthy enough to resist serious illness or death as the result of it.

Jokingly I recently said something to Dr Jane Thibault who occasionally comes to the abbey to speak to any of the elderly who would like to meet with her for advice. She has written a number of books on how to make the best of one’s later years in life. She obviously has a wonderful appreciation of how God is at work at all stages of our human development. Kidding about the danger of the virus, she said to me, though not her exact words, this may just be a good way to pass from this limited world into one much more rewarding. We laughed but she is right on. There is a way of seeing all this in a larger context, as part of each our journeys to our lasting place with those we love, as part of a divine design.

I suspect there is more here than just God’s permissive will and that it is an awaking call for all of the human family to work together for our common good. We are capable to something far more creative and life-giving if we just move to a more loving care of one another. All our lives are deeply interdependent on one another. This is so true of the Church as well, there are wonderful resources available for the building up of the Body of Christ if we will only make room for them, allow them to prosper. Part of what I am hoping from this session is that others here will be able to voice what they find as meaningful with all that is going on and enrich the whole community gathered here in this zoom sharing.

One of the thoughts I had was: is there a gospel episode that is equivalent to what is happening with the virus. It would be interesting to hear from you all where you see parallels in our gospels with what is happening to us today? The episode that came to my mind was that of Jesus out in the boat with his disciples and all at once there is a storm at sea and the ship is in danger of sinking because of the waves. Jesus is asleep in the boat and the disciples awaken him, telling them they are perishing and he tells them not to be afraid as the storm calms down. Right away I am aware of just how crucial in our own lives is this practice of faith at this point, that we remain confident that God is watching over us, is right in the middle of all that is happening.

I just read in the National Catholic Reporter of a woman who has been busy working with her children now that schools are closed. Her 11 and 12 year olds have lots of questions about all that is happening. “Could coronavirus be a punishment from God?” she asked her children. In no way, they said. In fact, my son argued that even a virus was God’s creature. Let me tell you, conversation with kids is rarely boring!”, the mother said.  How often the young have insight we elders fail to see and thereby enrich our lives.

They have a way of being connected, of seeing what is right in front of our eyes! And this would be my main offering to all of you, that what is happening all around us, has an element of mystery that we will only begin to comprehend if we are persons of faith and prayer, allow ourselves to see all that is happening in the light of a Divine Presence. God has not abandoned us, is not punishing us for our sins, but is seeking to open the eyes of our hearts to a presence and a reality the is larger than we can get our heads around. If we let ourselves become aware of the divine presence right in the middle of all that is going one, we will begin to see it in a new light, one that will enable us to respond in a wholesome and creative way.

Recently I came across this quote from St Teresa of Avila which I think to be very appropriate for this time of stress and I will end with this:

Let Nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing:

God alone suffices.

(18 March 2020)