I remember during Hurricane Katrina the story of several Vietnamese families who were trapped along with 16,000 others who had sought refuge in the Louisiana Superdome in 2015. People recall seeing them continuously praying the rosary. Peaceful. Kind. And when everyone was being evacuated they quietly held back, still praying, offering to be the last to be rescued from the refuge that had come to be described as a “hellhole.” In the midst of chaos, violence, and everyone fighting to get what they could for themselves, they have always been a testament to me of who I’d like to be if I were ever in an emergency situation.
The crisis over the worldwide spread of the coronavirus pandemic is such a crisis. As I write this I’m sitting in our Los Angeles convent. After leading one more retreat Saturday, I’ll be boarding a plane to return to Boston Sunday night. Uppermost in my mind is getting on that plane and returning home before I’m stranded here. In other words, uppermost in my mind is “me.”
As the regular pattern of my life is disturbed, I discover that I really don’t have the control over everything that could adversely affect me that I once thought I had. I also am not as selfless and giving as I once thought I was. Fear does funny things to us.
This virus peels back the self-protective layers we’ve put on to hide our inability to protect ourselves at all. To protect ourselves from each other. From the weather. From accidents. From financial fall-out. From a virus that started its devastating march through the world from within a little-known city of China.
Wild fears stoked by continuous headline news make it even more difficult to find the ground of faith and the fire of love that burns within our souls as followers of Christ baptized into his death and risen with him.
This past couple of days I’ve been seeking a place of silence in the storm. An inner heart-space that is deeper than the thoughts and feelings that are swirling in my mind these days. A place where I could immerse myself in Christ, in his way of living the pandemic, in his absolute promise to be with us. A place where I could surrender everything into the hands of the Father. I’d like to share with you a meditation I’ve been using that you may find helpful.
Below is a prayer of Pope Francis that we can say in union with the Church:
you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Salvation of the Roman People,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to feasting
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.
Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
Translation done by Catholic News Service of the prayer Pope Francis recited by video March 11 for a special Mass and act of prayer asking Mary to protect Italy and the world during of the coronavirus pandemic.