Prioress Sister Mary Forman gave this reflection to the sisters at last Wednesday’s house meeting.

In the midst of the coronavirus, there has been much for us to pray for these days, not only the folks suffering from the virus and families, who have lost loved ones, but also all the folks losing their jobs with bills to pay and children to care for, who can’t go to school for meals. In these days of increasing messages of panic all around us, it is good to remember that the Lord is with us in the midst of this pandemic, no less that when he walked among the sick, the disadvantaged and outcasts of his historical days on earth. I am reminded of Cardinal Cupich’s words that we are people of faith and we need to ward off any spirit that is not of God, that means thoughts and words that lead us to anxiety, deepening fear, and potential hostility.  Let us see this time as an opportunity to practice sending out messages of love, care, and peace into homes, businesses, government agencies, to the streets where the poor are and into world and medical leaders’ gatherings that the common good among us will be shown.

“Another name for God is surprise” said Brother David Streindl-Rast. The following reflection is taken from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, entitled “The Gift of Surprise.”

“While rushing to complete your dearest plans that you tell no one, you can bump into another and groceries will fly, and while picking up ketchup, you might fall in love. Or in your second year of college, while studying what Mommy and Daddy want you to be, you can accidentally open a book on Albert Schweitzer and discover that you feel compelled to go to Africa. Or, understanding geometry, you might decide to become a gardener, finding endless joy in creating landscapes. Or the death of your grandmother might open a side of you that is starving for history. In my case, losing a rib to cancer made me discover the Adam in me.

It seems that any moment of interest or pain or adversity can surprise us into the larger totality of life, breaking our current limits and allowing us the chance to redefine ourselves in regard to the larger sense that is upon us. That we are opened—so suddenly, so often—is the way the soul unfolds on earth.

We can never be prepared for everything. No one person can anticipate all of life. In fact, overpreparation is yet another way to wall ourselves in from life. Rather, we can only prepare for how we might respond to the gift of surprise that often moves in on us faster than our reflex to resist.

Life is surprising, thank God, and God, the chance to know Oneness, lives in surprise. For God is seldom in our plans, but always in the unexpected.” [pp. 132-133]

O God, this coronavirus is certainly a gigantic surprise to the peoples of this earth.  BE the God in the midst of the illness that forces us to realize how connected we are globally and how attentive we need to be to each other, especially the most vulnerable and frightened.  Be with the doctors, scientists and lab technicians, who are earnestly dealing with the enormity of this pandemic. Be with the nurses, emergency room personnel and other caregivers, who are daily ministering to those most ill. Be with chaplains, pastors and praying peoples all over the world, sending out loving care into our world at this time. Bless us all with unexpected signs of love and care in the midst of this world-wide struggle for health. We ask all this in the name of Christ, God’s greatest surprise of love. Amen.

Blessings, Sr. Mary

A Poem by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,