Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Acting well our part in present difficulties is the only way to insure the peace of futurity.
As Sisters of Charity we should fear nothing.
It would be ungrateful in me after all our God has done for me and mine to be discouraged now, distrusting his future goodness.
Saint Vincent de Paul
The poor who do not know where to go or what to do, who are suffering already and who increase daily, are my burden and my sorrow.
…Believe that the Lord will not leave a heavy burden on your back without sustaining you. The Lord will be your strength as well as your reward for the extraordinary services you give Him.
Saint Louise de Marillac
Go then courageously, advancing moment by moment on the path on which God has placed you in order to reach Him.
You see a great deal of distress that you are unable to relieve. God sees it also.
Bear the pains of the poor together with them, doing all you can to give them whatever help you can and remain in peace.
Suddenly, the world has become very small. In ways we could not have imagined, we are truly citizens of the world, as Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton said of herself.
She knew something about quarantine. In 1803 she arrived in Italy with her eight-year-old daughter Anna Maria and her husband William who was in the last stages of tuberculosis. He was hoping the Italian sun would cure him. Instead, the authorities mistook his illness for a potentially contagious fever and quarantined the three in a damp, cold prison. A month later they were released; William died eight days later, and Elizabeth’s world was turned upside down.
We struggle to comprehend the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Obediently we wash our hands, stock up on essentials, practice social distancing and curtail trips and visits. But at a deeper level we are trying to wrap our minds around the implications of this fierce virus for ourselves, for our families, friends, communities and our sisters and brothers in China, Italy, South Korea and over 130 other countries besides our own.
With the whole human family, we are facing our fragility in a way that most of us have never experienced. Life is precious — and precarious.
Times of change and crisis can trigger anxiety. They can narrow our focus to our own needs and fears, even turn us against one another (think of supermarket fights over the last bottle of sanitizer).
Yet times of crisis can also summon us to be our best selves. Think of the selfless first responders and care providers after the 9/11 attacks, Hurricanes Katrina and Irma, Superstorm Sandy, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires near and far.
As people of faith, we pray and believe that “life is changed, not ended” (Preface Mass for Christian Burial). Changed it will be, indeed. Of that we are certain, when so much else remains uncertain.
Through it all, we desire to keep the fire of Charity alive within us, with eyes and hearts open to those most in need, deliberately living from the perspective of “we/us/our.”
In prayer, let us call on our Sisters and colleagues who have gone before us:
You who served the people of New York during epidemics of yellow fever, cholera and influenza—
Response: Give us a share of your courageous charity.
You who nursed seriously wounded Civil War soldiers—
You who treated persons with HIV/AIDS with compassion and skill, even when little was known about the cause or transmission of that deadly virus—
Much is uncertain. Yet we know and believe in the certainty that our God will be with us, giving us the grace and strength to do the work that is before us to do.
Sr. Regina, a writer, retreat leader, speaker, and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.