My Australian city had its second wave lockdown from mid-July 2020. As we now slowly emerge, to say that the successive lockdowns were difficult, isolating, lonely, and depressing was an understatement. While it has been encouraging to see my city and suburb now tentatively coming to life, people are still keeping inside, and I wonder what this whole pandemic has done to our mental health and spiritual wellbeing.
Part of the reason for writing this post is so that I will not forget what it was like, as uncomfortable as that still feels. I do not want to forget for fear of losing the lessons I learnt and am still learning on this journey. Many things did and did not happen the way I thought they would. Herein lies the first lesson – have no expectations.
Those who are reading this in the northern hemisphere may have just returned to tighter lockdowns and restrictions than before. You might be feeling robbed of your freedoms in new ways. You may be feeling hopeless or unsure of what do to. What follows is my perspective from the southern hemisphere, in the hope that it may be helpful for you.
Continue reading “Second Wave Lockdown… How Do I Cope?”
In the last few days there has been much conversation in the media about the reopening and loosening of restrictions in Victoria, Australia. Ours has been the most constrained of all the Australian states (and amongst the tightest in the world) over the last seven months of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is fantastic to finally see a glimmer of hope – pet groomers and hairdressers have been allowed to reopen, and other steps increasing our freedom of movement from 5km to 25km. More steps to open are on the horizon.
Given the high number of cases we once experienced – into the seven hundreds only two months or so ago, not thousands like other countries, but still alarming with deaths rising – it is now of course very prudent to cautiously reopen. No one wants a third wave. No one wants more people to die in our state. Our lockdown was stressful, isolating, mentally draining, and a true spiritual trial. No one wants to go back to that. I do not want to go back to some very dark places I found myself in.
But one would think that reopening would include at least a plan, a discussion, a reason to hope and look forward for all sectors of society especially communities of faith who have been very patient and completely docile to the government’s requests. However, Victorians of various faiths who expected some form of announcement or roadmap last Sunday 18 October were heavily let down by the Victorian government. The build-up was promising – citizens of Victoria were told that there would be fewer but very significant steps to emerge from our long, cold, hard winter of confinement. If those steps were not immediately implemented then at least transparency and disclosure of what would come would be welcomed.
Continue reading “Why Churches Are Essential and What We Are Missing”
In July this year I completed an eight-day online Ignatian Retreat during one of my city’s Covid-19 lockdowns (we’ve had four challenging stages – still in stage four…). It was a beautiful retreat and a blessing for me during a time of personal struggle since the pandemic began in March 2020. I was (and still am) missing Mass, friends, activities, and freedom. Most of all, I was angry, frustrated, and felt abandoned and wounded. What I thought would be the start of a better year was turning out to be a huge disappointment. Allow me to backtrack for a bit…
I have longed for practical answers to big Catholic existential and theological questions, but did not want to enrol in a long, intellectual theology degree to find solutions. Before the pandemic hit my country in mid to late March, I had started a course at a Catholic university but ended up dissatisfied with it and the institution. In a way the lockdown to come was a blessing that allowed me to escape. Still, I was unfulfilled. During my retreat it was as if I became even more aware of my starvation and desire for more, and while I could see the banquet of heaven, I did not know how to reach it. Nothing satisfied me and I sank into depression.
For those of us who are fortunate to have access to such things online, my Ignatian retreat fueled a growing hunger to dive deeper into my faith. I also had a long-held desire for a more personal relationship with Christ but, like many of us, I didn’t really know how. Sure, I was going to church and trying to be a good person, but I was mostly filling my time with study, work, and general busyness. Truth be told, I was living on the surface most of the time, and in quite a negative space.
Although I knew about St Ignatius of Loyola my entire life and grew up in a Jesuit-run parish, I found Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises too daunting and complicated to get into after a few attempts. The heavy stuff is not something you do alone. My internal nudges were the beginnings of something I knew I had been avoiding or unable to dedicate myself to for a very long time. The retreat also drove me to ask more profound questions about myself at a time of global crisis: “what does God want of me?”, “what is my true vocation?”, “how can I know Christ personally?”, “how can I best use my time?”, “what will I do after this crisis?”, “will I be single forever?”, and so on.
Continue reading “‘True North’ Course Review”
Did you know that 2020 marks the seven hundredth anniversary of the completion of Dante’s Divine Comedy? How apt.
This post was not going to be about that, but I stumbled across this fact as I was searching for a metaphor about being ‘wounded’. Lost in a dark wood? Bingo. Little did I know in 2019 when took the above picture that it would come to mean so much this year. Only three and a half months before the end of what has been a most remarkable, painful, clarifying, isolating, silent, and tumultuous year, I with many others have experienced a range of emotions.
After spending time investing in myself and my faith via spiritual activities, this latter and warmer part of 2020 is only now starting to slowly improve after six months. The isolation was cold, not only because of our long winter, but in many other ways. Citizens of my city have endured some of the strictest lockdowns for what feels like forever, so the general mood is one of weariness and anxiety mixed with hope, sunshine, and building expectation. Will new virus case numbers keep reducing in the city? Things are looking brighter. Zero deaths for the first time in more than two months. When can I see my friends in the flesh? What happened to my friends who have disappeared and are no longer keeping in touch? Will we ever communicate again? How can I show that I love and care for them when they do not respond? All of this is painful, and a feeling of helplessness prevails in the silent answers. So to return to my intended topic…
Continue reading “Wounded in a Dark Wood”
It seems that I am constantly hunting…
For books in my bookshelf,
Ways to play the piano better,
Improving my singing technique,
Tips about contemplation…
Or something else. Sometimes I am picking up where I left off, starting something new then putting it down again, or seeking ways which will satisfy my longing for connection, love, and peace. Longing, but always restless. Aren’t we all?
Talking and writing about COVID-19 has been exhausting, but as my city moved to stage four restrictions in recent times, one is compelled to look inwards to try and process what has been happening. As we start to reflect on the year and talk of Christmas begins, I am always hoping that we will find this time to be one of transformation for everyone on earth, and not just about survival or ‘returning to normal’. It is a story of death and damage for so many – so how can we find any grace and goodness? And why? Because we must.
Continue reading “Grace in the Wilderness”
I was speaking with someone about the Catholic Church’s various responses to the Coronavirus pandemic in my country and city, insofar as some parishes are doing much better than others. The person said that it was as if some in the Church are holding their breaths. A few are actively reaching out, going to great lengths to safely communicate with their local parishioners and being wonderfully pastoral, while others have fallen completely and disappointingly silent. It seems as though many of us have seized up and do not know what do to (or do know but feel helpless due to fear and/or the restrictions).
When do we get to exhale? How long will it take before we realise that we can reach out in some way? This is especially important for people of faith and those in charge of our churches.
What can we do? What could we be focussing on?
We can also decide that we need to work on ourselves.
Continue reading “Don’t Hold Back”
Continue reading “Magdalene”
For something more.
For those who are fortunate,
To soak up the sun,
Walk the streets,
Lay on green grasses,
See a friend,
And visit family,
As we emerge from our stupor,
With red-rimmed eyes,
From so much crying,
Or fragmented hearts,
And reaching out for You.
Continue reading “Prayer for Humility and 2020 Vision”
To hold onto any humility,
You may have gifted us,
In this time of woe,