Sunday, March 22, 2020

A "New York Times" Opinion Article on the 1918 Pandemic and Nuns

Friday evening, in the midst of the daily corona-virus updates on confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries, I felt a reluctance to watch the national news and PBS Newshour. Yet a sense of urgency accompanied that reluctance—a real need to find out how I can help others (beyond staying here in my home). 

Daily, I find myself thinking of all the refugees in the world, especially those in the camps in Syria and those traveling north from Central America, hoping to find a new life in the United States.

In every city, the homeless are especially vulnerable. I fear that when the virus settles in among the refugees and the homeless the numbers for those dying from this pandemic will dramatically increase.

Daily I read the digital New York Times to keep abreast of what is happening, and Saturday I found an inspiring story that took me back to my convent days. In the memoir I wrote about those eight-and-a-half years, I fortunately didn’t need to write about a pandemic, but I hope I showed in some way the generosity of so many of the nuns.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, long after I left, a number of those in the Benedictine convent where I made my vows traveled to El Salvador and Nicaragua to help the farmers who were being threatened on all sides. 

The nuns from that Benedictine convent and from many nunneries here and in other countries have always reached out to help others through their teaching, nursing, social work, response to the AIDS epidemic, food pantries, counseling, visiting prisons, setting up food kitchens.

They live the recognition that “everywhere there is one, and never two” as the German poet Gertrude von Le Fort wrote during World War II. 

In the midst of that war, she knew that we are one. We may fight against that truth. Resist it. Deny it. Ridicule it. Go to war over it.

All in vain, because always and ever, we are One. 

This Oneness is never more apparent than today as together, around the globe, we all face a crisis that unites us no matter who we are or where we live or what spiritual tradition we follow or what the color of our skin is or our sexual or gender preference or our social status or our economic comfort or discomfort or . . . our political philosophy and party. 

No matter what we’ve thought divided us, we can today embrace the realization that we are one family, sprung from the hope for survival and the need to clasp the person we thought of as the “other” or “them.” We are, as so many are saying, "in this together."

Within the labyrinth of our mind and the chambers of our heart, we can embrace those who have seemed "other" and proclaim —for all the globe to hear—“I am One with this person. We are One, never Two.”

I encourage you to read the article published in the opinion section of Saturday’s (3/21/20) "New York Times" about how the nuns of Philadelphia responded to the 1918 influenza. As this opinion piece, written by Kiley Bense, shows so clearly, Philadelphia was hard hit, but its citizens, including those nuns, stepped forward to heal the sick, visit those who lived in fear in their homes, and comfort the grieving. 

Called by their mayor to help, they responded. Each of us needs to find our way to respond. For many of us that way is to stay at home; to practice social distancing. But for some, the clarion call is to put their own lives at risk. They are the heroes of today. Or, as the Roman Catholic Church might say—the saints. 

Here is the URL for the article. I hope you have the time and the inclination to read it. It brings with it a deep belief in the basic goodness of humanity and the compassion that this crisis calls forth from the deep center of our being. Peace.

All the photographs are from Wikipedia. 
I'm grateful for their free service to us.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Poem on Coronavirus by Brother Richard Hendrick

I’d planned that this Sunday I’d begin the final postings for my experiences with psychics. I’ve shared my first and second experience, and I want to share with you’re the experience I had last March that caused me to, in a way, lose myself for several months. 

However, this morning, I received an e-mail from a friend who’s still in the convent. Both of us will be 84 soon. She lives at the convent with many elderly nuns; I live here in my home with three cats. 

But both of us are deeply aware of the crisis our world is facing today. So instead of writing about my life, I want to post this heartening and inspiring poem that Barbara sent me. It illustrates so well what Mom used to say to me—that out of all things comes good. 

Richard Hendrick wrote the poem. When I looked him up on Google, I discovered that he is a Capuchin Franciscan brother living in Ireland and he posted his poem on Facebook on Friday. His wisdom touched my life today and filled me with hope. I hope his message reaches millions of people. We all need to embrace what he is saying. Peace. 

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
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 clear.

They say that in Italy 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 families around them.

They say that in the West of Ireland a young woman is spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood so that the elders may have someone to call on.

All over the world people are SLOWING DOWN and reflecting and looking at their neighbours in a NEW WAY.
All over the world people are waking up to the reality of how big we really are, to our interconnectedness and to how little control we really have.
Waking up to what really matters, to the power of prayer, meditation, kindness, caring and Love.

So we pray and remember that while there is fear, there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation but there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is sickness but there does not have to be disease of the soul.
And yes there is pain, suffering and death but there can always be a rebirth of community, peace, harmony and love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live today and now.
Pay attention.
The birds are singing,
the sky is clearing and Love
always encompasses us.
Open the windows of your soul and though you may not be able to touch across the empty square...... SING and give thanks for your life and all you have.
by Richard Hendrick

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Correction for the 2/23/20 Posting

Today, I’m deviating from my recent decision to post every other week. The reason? Last week, my posting gave an inaccurate impression of how A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Storycame to be. I realized this when I read the comment left by Jean and when I reread the ending of my 2/23/20 posting. 

Toward its end, I introduced a psychic who knew nothing about me and still said, “You’ve experienced great sorrow recently. The death of someone. Not a human. A cat. She’s your soulmate. It’s like your heart is broken.” Then, she told me that the cat and I were going to write a book about our relationship and it would touch the lives of many people. 

Ending the posting, I wrote: A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story happened.

All that is factual. What I failed to add in order to help readers appreciate what actually happened is the following: Dulcy died on Thursday, July 6, 1989. Two days later, I woke from a deep sleep and felt compelled to go downstairs to my computer. 

Once there, I placed my hands on the keyboard, unsure of what was happening. Then my hands began to move. These words, like tickertape, appeared: “At the end, all the matters is love . . . my love for my human and hers for me. I have planted the memories of our life together in her heart. She will find them there when I am gone and they will comfort her.”  

I hadn’t composed those words. They came unbidden. For the following week, I sat down at the computer each morning, unsure if Dulcy would continue. Astoundingly—to me—her words came each day. I said then and I believe now that the words came from Dulcy. That is, they came from the deep center of myself where Dulcy and I are One.

A week after Dulcy began to share our story with me, I got up from the computer and stood in the doorway to my office. Once again, unbidden, came words I hadn’t known I thought. Out loud, I said, “This book is going to be published. It’s going to be published by Crown. And it’s going to touch the lives of a lot of people.”

At the time, I didn’t even know if there was a publisher named “Crown.” I just knew with a fierce certainty that Dulcy was giving me the story of our relationship. This was her final gift to me. My final gift to her would be to see that it got published.

I called a neighbor to announce the wonder of the words that were coming. She, a published author, scoffed at what I described. “You’ll have to throw it all away,” she said. “The first draft’s just trash. That’s all you have. Trash.”

Her words wounded me, but I continued my vigil at the computer. Dulcy’s words continued to come. Still, the ridicule niggled my confidence. I’d never felt competent as a writer; I thought myself a hack—a hack who was unworthy of the gift Dulcy was giving me.

That’s the background for my early September visit to the psychic. When we met, she knew nothing about Dulcy’s daily gift to me. So when she said that Dulcy and I were going to write a book about our relationship and it would touch the lives of many people, I felt freed from my neighbor’s dismissal. 

The psychic’s words matched mine; they shored up my own intuitions. They gave me confidence that the book would happen. That I was being true to Dulcy.

PS: Next Sunday, I hope to write about the 2019 psychic whose words I let cast a blight on a year of my life.