5 Spiritual Lessons We Can Learn From This Crisis
5 Spiritual Lessons to Learn From This Crisis
by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB, Dean of Spiritual Formation at Conception Seminary College
It is obvious that the news and outbreak of the COVID-19 virus is a very difficult time for all of us, and in every challenge, there are deeper spiritual lessons that we can learn. I hope that we take full advantage of the opportunity to learn these 5 Spiritual Lessons from this Crisis.
- The Value of Authentic Relationships
The common phrase that is circulating is “social distancing,” which describes the measures taken to restrict when and where people can gather to stop or slow the spread of the infectious disease. Ironically, with the onset of social media and the smartphone, most people have been “socially distancing” themselves for the past several years. It was commonplace to see people together in close proximity completely disengaged from one another and absorbed by their smartphone. Our world was increasingly a place of distraction and superficial relationships, longing for a deep sense of belonging and communion with one another. In our time of quarantine, we have the opportunity to reflect on how much we miss encountering others face-to-face without fear or danger. For now, our “social distancing” is a means of protecting them and ourselves—an act of love, not of rejection. May we learn to value our authentic interactions and come to see how life, especially our spiritual life, is a journey we undertake with others. We have to be willing to invest the time and energy to engage personally with other people and show interest in their lives that it may lead us to deeper communion.
- Hunger for the Eucharist
Many dioceses throughout the country have announced the suspension of all public Masses. No Mass means no access to the Eucharist. This news is troubling and disheartening to the lay faithful who are now unable to worship God as a community of faith and to receive the Eucharist. It is also troubling for the clergy who draw life from offering the Eucharist in the midst of their worshiping assembly. Take these feelings of sorrow to God in prayer and share with the Lord your desire to receive the Eucharist again soon. Allow your hunger for the Eucharist to deepen, and express sorrow for times past when you may have taken the Eucharist for granted or made poor excuses for not attending Mass. Let your prayer not lead you to discouragement, but permit your love to increase for such a great gift as you beg the Lord to give you a heart that hungers for God alone. Make a spiritual communion by praying: My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Each day, Conception Abbey will livestream Daily Mass, Lauds, and Vespers at https://www.conceptionabbey.org/live.
- Surrender to God and the Circumstances
A few weeks ago your greatest dilemma may have been where you were going to travel for spring or summer vacation. Many of our short-term plans are no longer feasible and each passing day raises more questions than answers. Many people have become accustomed to operating in an independent fashion, having strong control over nearly all of the circumstances in their life. Life has changed for now, and it is understandable that our lack of control may be disorienting and difficult to accept. Take your doubt, fear, frustration, anxiety, confusion, anger, and surrender it to God. Surrendering means that we resign the situation and our feelings to the Lord, trusting in faith that God can bring good about from our current crisis. The Lord can use even your suffering to bring about God’s Divine Plan. We do not have to like the inconveniences, we do not have to want the suffering, but we should move to accept the reality and give it to God in prayer. Recall how Jesus prayed to the Father, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own” (Jn 10:18). We can unite ourselves to Jesus in freely laying down the thoughts that arise in our hearts. In our struggle to accept difficult events, one spiritual author provided us with an important principle: “We cannot change our lives effectively unless we begin by accepting them, welcoming them totally, and so consenting to all the external events that confront us.” Surrendering to God is a path that leads us to freedom and peace.
Time in quarantine and more time at home might encourage us to spend our time indulging in news and social media (which only heightens our anxiety) or pleasure-seeking entertainment (which only temporarily numbs our pain). We have far more devices to pacify us and distract us during this time than any other period in history. Yet, there is great value in detaching from such means, or at least learning moderation, in order to spend time deepening one’s relationship with God. When we are freed from distractions, we can begin to experience interior silence. Silence is the environment that allows you to properly listen to God’s voice and to those around you. Many people are uncomfortable with silence or they find it awkward, which is why they fill their time with needless noise. We want to live as people who are interiorly free—no longer being enslaved or led by every impulse or attraction toward the many things suggested by our restless mind. This kind of freedom entails an absence of compulsion toward one thing or another. The Lord alone must be our ultimate end. Only a greater passion for the love of God can overcome these other attachments. The purpose is not merely to detach from things, but also to attach to God—relying on and trusting completely in God.
- Greater Respect and Regard for All Human Life
By taking numerous precautions and challenging measures, people in the world seem to be working together to preserve and safeguard life. Life itself is a good—whether we are talking about the child in the womb, the poor and destitute, or the elderly. Thankfully we have stopped talking about euthanasia and started discussing how we can protect the elderly who appear to be more vulnerable to this virus. This global experience has the opportunity to help us put aside differences and unite us in a greater goal of preserving human life. Life is very frail and is an incredibly precious gift. As we seek to regard and acknowledge life as a gift, let us remember St. Paul’s exhortation: “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7). God is the giver of every life, and we invite the Lord to help us to learn these spiritual lessons during this difficult time.
 Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom, p. 44.