The first morning after schools and churches were closed, I woke up slightly depressed. And I presume that I wasn’t the only one to feel so. After all, it was our lives that seemed to be stopping – not just interrupted – injected with a feeling of uselessness and of having woken up for nothing (although, I must admit I did need that extra hour in bed).
However, while still waking up slowly after a restless night, three thoughts – or rather memories – came to mind.
The first thought was that I dedicated my life for moments like these. And this does not apply to me only as a priest. It applies to all of us who dedicate our lives to the service of others. This can be the moment when calm and serene heroism might be needed (and for some, it is already the case). And we cannot shrink in front of what can and is being asked of us.
We who find ourselves stranded have to find new ways of living up to our mission in a meaningful way. Maybe for us priests, the time has come to realise that prayer is the truly essential task and mission of our vocation.
Educators have to struggle to find ways of continuing to form those entrusted to their care because learning is not for exams but for life. And so forth.
The second memory that crossed my mind was a quote from the film Karol: A Man Who Became Pope. When Karol Wojtyła is seen escaping from the Nazis, he is given shelter by Jan Tyranowski, a mystic tailor. In the flickering light of a candle, the following words are said: “We will win with love, not with guns. The Nazis will disappear because evil will devour itself. But if love doesn’t win out, the Nazis will just come back under a different name”.
If we get paralysed by fear and suspicion, and retreat into our most primitive instinct – egoism – then we are heading for disaster
Fortunately enough, the situation is not as tragic, but we don’t know yet how bad all this will be, both health wise and economically.
However, if we get paralysed by fear and suspicion, and retreat into our most primitive instinct – egoism – then we are heading for disaster. The virus will be controlled and its effects mitigated, but other evils – much worse than sickness – can take over and kill us from within. So, what can save us?
The answer lies in my third memory: the refrain of the song Castles by Freya Ridings released almost two years ago, which runs as follows: “I’m gonna build castles/from the rubble of your love”.
If there is love, then something new – or possibly even better – can be built. For people of faith, this reminds us that God is the “Repairer of Broken Walls” (Isa 58:12). And this faith pushes us to hope that God will be able to bring out some good from all this.
However, this hope of building something better out of the rubble is not reserved only for those who enjoy faith’s consolation. A word from Fyodor Dostoevsky may be helpful for everyone, whatever our creed may be, whether religious or humanist.
In his celebrated work The Idiot, Prince Myshkin professes, “The world will be saved by beauty”. For Dostoevsky, this beauty is Jesus Christ himself and not just aesthetic beauty. Yet, there is also a beauty that we have to shape out of ugliness, and this will continue the work of redemption, transforming the dryness of the desert into a blossoming garden.
It is up to us to sow love instead of despair, closeness (not necessarily physical, of course!) instead of fear of the other, generosity instead of greed, acting responsibly instead of disrespectfully and immaturely.
It is this beauty that will help us transcend ourselves and build something out of this apparent nothingness.
Fr Gilbert Scicluna is vice parish priest of Christ the King Church, Paola
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