In this time of a pandemic, one sees a little more clearly where he is spiritually. When everything was fine and our lives enjoyed the balance and safety of routine, I was under the impression that, after many years since my conversion, I would be closer to holiness. When the Sacraments were available, when there was little conflict at home and at work, when the Christian life was simply enjoyable, it seemed like heaven on earth. Yes, there were struggles too. And of course, the Cross presented itself daily. But there was still a sense of control over what was happening in our world. It really is different when we do not get to choose our Cross.
But over two months since my last Holy Communion and confession, the spiritual bubble I lived in has burst. I am no different than the sinner I always knew I was but which I hated to admit.
Stripped of the Sacraments, I have found myself weak—spiritually, emotionally, physically. The old demon of scruples, always lurking but kept at bay by frequent confession, has now emerged with greater viciousness, attacking any peace or consolation I find. Old voices are heard again. They whisper. They chatter. They fill the mind with doubts and disappointments, repeating loudly how I haven’t really ‘converted’. They remind me of my past sins. They rub into my memory the fleeting pleasures of yesterday.
It doesn’t help that I haven’t put up a fight.
The lockdown took everyone by surprise. There were things to do—groceries, medicines, protective equipment, chores. What I thought would have been more time for prayer slipped into a structureless, almost seamless blending of day into night and then into day. What day is it, I ask often? And before I could even start praying, the fear of parents and grandparents contracting the disease hijacked the moments of peace I hoped to sustain; the reminders of time wasted fill me with horror and self-loathing.
The politics of our government’s response has also filled me with resentment. The division and disagreements among clergy and laity left me bewildered at how Christians have found themselves more eager to speak, than to pray. There were so many voices. There still are. And they only add to the mix of confusion.
As a response, I spent much time online: reading the news, looking for consolation in social media, busying myself with frivolous entertainment. It was my way of coping, or better yet, escaping reality. And as family friends died left and right, the inability to properly grieve the losses dug a hole into a soul that was already hollow from the frantic, impulsive, practical and fantastical responses. I was drifting from prayer. I was hiding from God. I wanted to confront the problem but also didn’t want to lift a finger.
What day is it today?
Another Wednesday. I am slowly trying to put myself back together. This pandemic has been a huge challenge to my trust issues. At the very core of my disorder was a desire for (masculine) approval, one which I also yearned from God. I often forget I am His child. I am constantly battling the idea that I need to be perfect, immaculate, to be loved. Without confession, was I forgiven? Does God make allowances for people in the time of pandemic? The answer should be clear but the heart of Man is always plagued by the scar of our sinful nature. Will God listen to my pleas for forgiveness, even after I had cursed at incompetent public officials, or put myself in occasions of sin; after I had entertained little daydreams of falling in love with another man? Will God understand how my outbursts and longings are a strained effort to release all this pent up anger, fear, and frustration?
Will God still love me?
I know he does. But there is a difference between knowing and believing. Stripped of my disillusions I was holy before the pandemic, I find myself a little lonelier than before. I see that I am weak. I see that I have been estranged from the norms of piety I practiced fervently but perhaps hollowly before this invisible, microscopic virus began tearing society apart, closing borders, testing souls, and changing lives.
Isn’t it true, that the things hidden are the things most powerful; that what is invisible to the naked eye often has the most visible effects? And I’m not talking about the virus.
My Lord and My God, do have mercy on our souls. Take pity on the men and women who struggle to trust your mercy in this pandemic. Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach us how to love, trust, and pray.