April 2, 2020
It's surprising to realize what we miss when times change so dramatically, so drastically, as they have now.
In the face of what the pandemic has taken away from us – and worse, who it might take from us – we recognize what is precious in the routine, the ordinary, the normal. I miss Sunday dinners with my kids and grandkids. I miss the people at church, even if I don't know all their names, and I miss the first-name-only members of an Al-Anon group I attend. I miss my colleagues at work and around the ministry. I miss you.
We usually communicate through printed copies of Health Progress, but that will be on hold for now. CHA staff are working remotely and don't have the means to design and print right now, so we are moving all publications to the CHA website. You'll find the most recent issue there, and there will be regular new articles, many focused on aspects of COVID-19. Health Progress just celebrated its 100th anniversary. Now it will celebrate its flexibility and resilience.
Nothing in scripture speaks to what we're going through more than the Lenten readings that detail the travails of Israelites lost in the desert in search of the Promised Land. They alternated between calling on God to save them and calling out Moses for leading them into such dire circumstances.
The desert is an ongoing theme in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert, Elijah walked 40 days just to get to the wilderness, Jesus was 40 days in the desert preparing for his public ministry and, beginning in the 4th century CE, the Desert Fathers and Mothers moved to the desert to pursue lives of asceticism, prayer and contemplation.
Our graphic designer, Les Stock, who ordinarily would be designing your next issue of Health Progress right now, has been writing about his feelings of kinship with the Desert Fathers and Mothers as we move through our days of social distancing, better known as solitude:
"Yesterday, my dog, Mia, and I drove out to the country to a conservation area. The wind was strong and the treetops swayed. We walked a ridge until its end sloped down and led to a creek. The creek was wide and had a sandstone-ledged bed. Shallow water was running swiftly across it. Spring peepers were singing. Small service berry trees lifted their white blossoms to the sky. Early New England settlers often planned funerals when the service berry trees were in bloom because it was a sign the earth was sufficiently thawed to bury loved ones. Thus, the "service" berry. Even in the woods, away from the news, I am reminded of the people who are dying and suffering from this virus across the entire world. What a sorrowful spring; Passiontide has arrived early.
"I will find it hard to go back into the world. Peculiarly, at home alone I feel closer to others than I felt when I was with them. Their faces and manners are clear in my mind. Maybe it is just the time of my life; I am not worried about growing older. It is a new season of my life and I'm ready to enter it. I have my books, my musical instruments and my fly rods. All of those things enrich my inner life in their own fashion, but oftentimes just sitting quietly outside makes a day sacred."
Our thanks to Les, for one way of bearing witness to what loss and solitude can yield in the holiness of hope. And special thanks to those of you in the trenches. Your sacrifices and courageous work are exactly what we bear witness to.
Copyright © 2020 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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