Once after a day of hiking in the Rocky Mountains, on return to the town of Jasper Alberta, with places to dine, hotels to stay in, I was sitting, just before sunset, on a bench outside the railroad station where a freight was stopped. I watched a crew change and then the train, with its three lead engines, started to pull away from the station.
An elderly couple, tourists from France, were standing nearby and asked about the train. When I explained that here in Canada such trains are between 12,000 feet to 14,000 feet long [ that is between 3 kilometers and over 4 kilometres long] the man said: Allons-y c’est trop long! [Let’s go, that’s too long!]
One Sunday Mark Twain was leaving church after the service. It was pouring rain and had been for days. Twain’s friend asked: “Will it ever stop?” Twain replied: “It always has.”
No matter the length of a train there is always a last car. Even after days and nights the rains stop.
A large part of the stress of this new normal is because we have created an impatient culture that expects instant gratification, instant light if we flick a switch, high speed internet, etc., etc., and people rush about daily lives, often filling their brains with speedy music/noise through ear buds, or just blasting car radios. People, long before this pandemic have become cranky, moody, always seeking some stimulus and eating way too fast, wearing out thumbs blathering away on cell phones, and frequently get neither long enough, nor deep enough sleep.
We should see in this charitable distancing, this staying at home with family, for example, a time of great grace to slow down, eat together as a family without rushing, turning off the internet, the tv news, the noise and having quiet game time and prayer as a family and actually conversing with and listening to one another and taking time alone, as Jesus says: But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. [Mt.6:6], listen to and enter the silence of God and we will encounter that Divine Silence of His love for us, which is as silent and penetrating as sunlight.
As Kipling notes in his poem IF: If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…..
Doing that requires inner silence and calm.
Know as the Serenity Prayer composed by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the midst of the Great Depression:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next. Amen.
While attributed to St. Francis, erroneously, the original was published anonymously in France around 1912 and became popular and attributed to St. Francis during WWI and WWII:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph