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A reflection by Br Pat McCarthy

Posted by Br Patrick McCarthy FSC on 7 September 2021

The last time we had anything like a pandemic was 30 years ago with the AIDS/HIV crisis. At that time I was at the heart of the outbreak working in San Francisco General Hospital. It was a searing experience watching young men die of this awful disease. They had watched their friends die and no cure was on the horizon. What could I offer these patients?

This experience taught me how to come to grips with powerlessness. Part of our human nature is that we like to control as much as possible. When that control is taken away we react in all sorts of irrational ways. What I learnt from these men is that you have to accept what you cannot change, fight where appropriate, but hand over to a higher power your destiny. My own role was not to run away when the going got tough. To stay present to people in agony is not easy, but it is consoling. When I am weak, then I am strong as St. Paul would say.

So what does this experience teach us in the current crisis? Keep as much control as you can by following the rational rules destined to stop you from getting COVID. Make friends with being at home all the time and the loneliness this can sometimes create. Hand over to God or a higher power those aspects of this crisis that you have no control over. Be kind and present to as many people as possible. This will pass but it must leave us stronger and wiser.


Author:Br Patrick McCarthy FSC
About: Oakhill College Chaplain
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