Posted by Br Lewis Harwood FSC
on 29 April 2020
In 1940 during World War II, C.S Lewis wrote about the "problem of pain", the problem of suffering and the meaning of life. He was a great thinker and philosopher on the human spirit. One of his central tenets was that we do not know why suffering or evil exist but that the bigger picture is a deeper wisdom steeped in mystery and hope. As we enter a "new normal" with the onset of the COVID19 virus, each one of us looks for answers, for solutions and for meaning to this growing fear and global crisis. The world as we know it is different and as things evolve and intensify, we are asked to constantly adapt to closures and disruption to our regular patterns of work, routine and social lives. In other words, uncertainty, doubt, anxiety and the sense of "what is next" and "how can we get through this" dominate our collective minds. Indeed, where is God in all of this and what is happening around us?
From a health and physical perspective, we can understand the realities of the virus and the real fears of its spread and the way in which it has affected people across the world. However, what are the spiritual dimensions of this virus and its spread? In this time of change and adjustment to the virus threat, we are being asked to lockdown and practise self-isolation and social distancing. Some people are being quarantined for good reason and we are being asked to work from home as much as possible. This all seems so surreal and restrictive. The thought of being isolated from our regular friends, work colleagues and the people we associate with every day is not only inconvenient but is distressing. Perhaps this time, then, can be viewed not as a restriction but rather as an opportunity to engage our spiritual lives in all its expressions. We come from many backgrounds and cultural foundations and are enriched by each other and our shared stories and experiences.
Perhaps we can, then, see this time as a spiritual retreat time where we could rediscover our interior lives; where we can rediscover that spiritual compass and contemplate the natural wonders of our being. Apart from our work commitments, we have this time we have this opportunity and we have the reason to now undertake this. It is an invitation to discover and be surprised.
As Lasallians, our spiritual and interior lives do matter. We all have a sort of "a spiritual DNA" imprinted in us that cries out during these times of distress and desolation. What is this all about and this does not make any sense? The spiritual life is a pilgrimage and does shift and move with the emotions and the circumstances we find our lives in. It is worth asking, then, at this point: how can we remain positive in the light of the health fears that surround us? We do not know when our time is over and we do not know the moment of the last breath we may take. However, being consciously aware of "our dying" is a healthy thing and can renew our foundation for life and others. We do not have a "crystal ball" or a prediction meter to project into the future, but we do have the assurance that each of us is made in the image and likeness of a loving creator. It is a common belief that transcends religion and doctrine where each person is inherently spiritual - created out of goodness and sacredness.
Let us continue to be agents of hope during this time and may everyone keep safe looking out for one another.
Below are 7 suggested ways to continue to build on your spiritual lives during the next few months.
7 practical ways to support your spiritual lives:
Keep a spiritual journal: write small quotes, memories or inspirations you may receive throughout a day or the week. Remember to always date your entries which do not need to be long!
Create poems: poems do not need to be long. Some of the most classic poems have been the shortest.
Say prayers: this can take on any form that expresses your intentions for yourself and others in the world.
Go for a spiritual or contemplative walk: a spiritual walk can be long or short and generally is an opportunity to take things in; contemplate nature and listen to the sounds of things around us.
Read a book or novel: Often reading novels and autobiographies are wonderful ways to connect with the spiritual. Literature and real-life stories of people often give and leave a spiritual message for the reader to discern and reflect on.
Digital Fasting/having Silence: take time out and find that stillness and silence that is so important. Take off the watch or switch off the phone and other devices each day for a time suitable to you where you are not distracted.
Writing an affirmation email or letter: writing a kind email or letter to someone to encourage them and support them is a wonderful way to affirm the deep spiritual connections that we have as one human family. Each person has gifts and talents to be shared and admired. Practise this exercise as it is in the kindness of words that affirm the soul of another. There is nothing more tangible and beautiful to hold a letter from another; post offices still exist and sending them are another way you can offer support to people during this time.