By Father Joseph Sia
When I woke up this morning, the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. It fact, it was eerily quiet. There was not the usual sound of cars rushing down Central Park Avenue. The construction equipment working on the stadium behind Assumption High School wasn’t moving, and there were very few vehicles in the staff parking lot of the Chancery. It has been a few days now since the implementation of strict public policy measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus infection.
This phenomenon is not unique to Iowa. Almost all other cities in the world have virtually shut down in the face of this health concern. People are posting pictures on social media of empty streets, malls, churches and other public places. Airplanes are flying empty and cruise ships are docked on shore. Never before have we witnessed such scenes of desolation, and we don’t know how long it will last.
We need to be aware of the potentially damaging psychological, emotional and spiritual effects. It can be difficult for many of us to adjust to such drastic changes, and the lingering uncertainty can contribute to anxiety and irrationality. Already, we have seen that manifested in the panic buying of basic goods and hygiene supplies at supermarkets. The possibility of losing one’s job or receiving less income can have negative effects especially for those who are economically disadvantaged. Some folks may experience sadness and if they are predisposed to it, may fall into depression. Many of us are concerned for the well-being of our family members and friends. It is not easy to deal with the stress of not knowing if they will be healthy. Those who have relatives who are sick, or who themselves have been infected with the virus, face unprecedented challenges.
Not being able to come to Mass and receive the body of Christ can also be a staggering reality to face. Even the fact that the church is not open to receiving large numbers of people at one time is hard to deal with. Mass being “live-streamed” seems like a great idea, but we will soon realize that it is not the same as being present with God and with one another physically. Of course, we cannot offer confessions via phone, text or Facebook Messenger. Nor can we baptize a child through a camera or anoint a sick person virtually. We do the best that we can with what we have, but there are limitations to technology as well.
In the midst of all this, perhaps it would be good to realize that in the silence and in the emptiness that we are experiencing, God is present. Of course, God has always been present, even when we were so plugged into the distractions that we have become used to. Now that these distractions have been taken away, it might be an opportune time to recognize that God is there. Hopefully this is a time for us to hear God’s whisper in our heart. May we hear the comforting voice of God telling us of his love for us and his desire for us to be with him forever in heaven. This alone may be enough to assuage our fears and concerns. May it strengthen our already frail minds and emotions so that we can continue on our pilgrimage of faith, confident in overcoming the trials we deal with today.
May our hunger for God grow even more during this time of privation so that we will have a renewed desire for the sacraments, above all, the “source and summit of our faith,” the Eucharist. Once all of this is over, may we have a better appreciation for what truly matters. This is a time to listen to God, in the silence, where he speaks.
(Father Sia is vocations director for the Davenport Diocese. Contact him at (563) 888-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.