I live in Italy, where the Coronavirus hit three weeks ago. Like you are experiencing now, schools closed, as did churches and many businesses. The Italian government has enforced a home quarantine, and we leave home only under the threat of a heavy fine or jail time. It is like nothing I could have imagined.
I started off in a daze. The next day, however, the words began to come. “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). This verse settled on my mind and in my heart. I had an overwhelming peace that God was not absent, but very present. God would bring good out of this situation for me, my family, the Church, and the world. As a mother, I know I have a critical part to play in my household. I adopted as my corona-motto: “Wherever you are, be love in that place” (St. Therese of Lisieux). I ask God daily for a divine ability, enabled by his grace, to be his loving presence to my family.
I will lay out the practical steps we took in another post, but first I want to share with you how this massive crisis has led my heart and mind to focus on one question: “What is really important?” One of the benefits of being home-bound is that the hustle and bustle of the school and work schedule relaxed, and so I have more time in the mornings to pray and read the Scripture. Even though I oversee my children’s online schooling, and prepare daily meals from our stockpile, and manage our daily life under quarantine, it has actually been like a retreat for me. I emerge from my bedroom no earlier than 8 am; sometimes much later; on weekends, not for large parts of the day. I ask older children to serve breakfast to the youngest ones and to get started on schoolwork. In three weeks, I have almost filled an entire journal in spiritual reflection, contrition, praise, and worship.
As I seek to refocus and recalibrate, my prayer life centers around the early Church: What was it like to detach from this world and expect Jesus’s second coming at any moment? How can I live and love that way? I have read the martyrdom accounts of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, St. Polycarp; I’ve read the Didache (a must read!), the Gospels, and many of the letters in the New Testament. I feel myself loosening my fetters to the concerns of this world and delighting in the world to come. I have also had intense longings to serve the sick and the dying, which have translated into a renewed zeal to take care of sick and hungry children under my own roof. I am discovering organizations who are helping those most in need during this outbreak. And, if the Lord wants to send me out physically to serve in hospitals, here I am, Lord!
“Corona” means “crown” in Latin. When I have an emotional crash, I try to carve out some time alone. I ask the Lord for grace, mercy, hope, and perseverance. Then I ask him to remind me of my status as a child of God. In my baptism, I was given new divine life, becoming a participant in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4). I belong to God as his child and heir (Gal 4:7). I am a new creation, a creature now destined to conform to the image of his Son, who is the firstborn in a large family (Rom 8:29). I am a beloved daughter in the divine, royal family. As such, I think to the crown that I am called to be. Not only does a crown await me (Is 51:11; 2 Tm 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pt 5:4; Rv 2:10), but I am to be a crown: “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Is 62:3); “My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Phil 4:1).
Almost a month into this upheaval and overturning of our former life, I praise God for the daily opportunity to live as those in the early Church: “They broke bread together at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all people” (Acts 2:44, 46). I long to be like the early Christians who eagerly awaited the second coming of Christ, who grew daily in faith, humility, patience, and charity, and who sought above all to participate as fully as possible each and every moment in the mystery of Christ.