Sister Rekha Chennattu, RA – Superior General, Religious of the Assumption, France
The Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the entire world in fear and uncertainty. It has been a totally new experience for all of us as none of us has lived through a time when much of our world has been brought to a standstill. I personally cannot believe how the entire world, that is more than seven billion people, changed within a few days and started to observe social distancing, to use face masks, and to get used to working from home, participating in online lectures, zoom conferences, and virtual liturgies.
The pandemic has changed some key dynamics in the Church. It has never happened during our life-time that we have been asked to remain at home during the liturgies of Holy Week. We have been in a liturgical lockdown for several weeks.
The lockdowns with fewer restrictions may continue for months as no one can predict the end of this crisis: when this disease will disappear or when the vaccine will be ready and available on a global scale. As countries open up again and people resume normal life, experts have warned of a second wave of corona virus infections in the winter. Mike Ryan, one of the WHO emergency experts, said during an online briefing: “this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities.” This would imply that we will have to learn to live with Covid-19 in the coming months. What is this current situation telling to each one of us? How are we preparing ourselves for a post-pandemic period? What are some of the important lessons of this pandemic?
We have overcome every crisis and have learned lessons from each experience. This time won’t be different. It is a time for introspection and for some serious soul-searching. I think many things will change in the post-COVID period, including our way of life: our sense of belonging, our leadership styles, our liturgical celebrations, educational systems and policies, our social and pastoral ministries, the nature of international travels and conferences, food habits, cultures, and traditions.
I hope we will see the universe and the human family from a new perspective. Here I present seven promises of new life or seven invitations for a better world.
1. Inclusion and Justice: An invitation to say NO to our discriminatory attitudes and behaviours.
The corona virus respects no boundaries of class or creed. The virus is unconcerned about nationality, race, colour, ethnicity, status, wealth, nobility, and religion. In general, it relentlessly attacks members of the human family. The virus treats all human beings alike and challenges some of our discriminatory attitudes and behaviours.
2. Kindness and Positive Energy: An invitation to be a witness to the best of humanity
The crisis has stimulated people to be gracious and generous. The flood of stories of kindness and the way people are showing up for each other is a powerful witness to the best of humanity. As someone commented, “the world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one, BE ONE.” The light of human goodness shines through the darkness of the dread of the pandemic and its devastating effects.
3. Interconnectedness and Interdependence: An invitation to become more aware of our collective fragility and inter-connectedness
We had no choice and have been led, being more community-bound or family-bound, to explore new ways of living together. We have a renewed sense of belonging – we cannot be healthy without having everybody on board. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us to go beyond our individualistic mentality. We had to give up our personal privileges and freedom and to surrender ourselves to the decisions of the Governments for our own safety and that of others. It gave us an opportunity to become more aware of our collective fragility and inter-connectedness. It invited us to make a shift from self-centredness to our social identity and belonging.
4. Contemplation and Life-giving spirituality: An invitation to reclaim our spiritual space
We often express the desire to slow down and humanize our rhythm of life, but we have never managed to do so, until this invisible virus forced us to slow down a bit and find time for ourselves. We were all happy to get some personal time to process changes. As some Sisters shared with me, we have learned to focus more on the essentials of life. The “God-alone” experience of Saint Marie Eugenie became more real. Yes, living in lockdown provided us an opportunity to try and take a more careful look at what is happening inside of us. It was a moment to reclaim our spiritual space. It has instilled in us a longing for spiritual connectedness to God and social solidarity with the human family. It inspired us to appreciate the art of reading, to initiate creative ways of reinventing ourselves in our respective communities and families.
5. Deeper Communion and Relationship: An invitation to recover the new consciousness of being together in distance.
The lockdown periods characterized by social distancing and isolation led us to a virtual or online social closeness. We tried to stay connected more by social media and digital socializing. There seems to have a new consciousness of being together in distance. We can share space in the same Zoom conference room, but we are separated and are miles apart. It is important to make a healthy distinction between loneliness and solitude in this context. While loneliness refers to an experience of being disconnected, solitude is a choice that we make to be in touch with our true selves at a deeper level which generates growth, inner freedom, and maturity. Yes, during the pandemic, we were in solitude to a certain extent.
6. Commitment to Social and Ecological Well-being: An invitation to mend our ways that disturbs our ecosystem
Environmentalists say that the lockdown truly lessened air pollution and improved air quality. Nature seems to have smiled at us and asked us to mend our ways that disturbs its ecosystem. It challenges us to make a shift towards a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. In other words, there is an invitation to choose a life-style that makes greater investment in social and ecological well-being.
7. Discernment and Daring Spirit: An invitation to explore new ways
We need to ask ourselves: What sort of impact the pandemic has and will have on our human way of life? our Christian way of life? Our consecrated life? Community life? Our family life? It is a kairos moment for change. The pandemic experience taught us that rapid changes are possible and we can do things differently. It impels us to explore new ways and to make a difference in our lives and those of others – the people with whom we live and whom we serve in our respective apostolic ministries.
See also the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWw8iCFKlFY&feature=youtu.be