Interacting in Community Despite the Pandemic

Oil painting on canvas, Saint Francis of Assisi (Giovanni Francesco di Bernadone) (1181-1226), Italian (Lombard) School, early 17th century.

One of the reasons for pushing forward to launch this website now was the express hope that it would provide a way for Secular Franciscans to interact with each other while we are all isolated and practicing social distancing in the midst of the corona virus pandemic.

As you can see by the email below, Frank Vargo, OFS, (the Formation Director for my local fraternity) was having related thoughts:

“Peace and Joy to all my brothers and sisters in Francis and Clare: This Saturday will make the second fraternity meeting that we will not have been together. I miss you all and our common joy and hugs and laughter. 

I was thinking that now would be a good time to reflect on this year’s Lent. As Francis would say, we are to be “Conformed to the death of Christ by sharing in His sufferings.”  It would be good to spend this week (off and on) writing down our thoughts – lessons – revelations. Next month when we meet (I hope) we can learn from each other’s trials and victories.

Some helps – starters:

What did you learn about yourself – others? How was your prayer life? Family life? Church life? What were your worries, your joys? Were you at peace? Why not? 

Shake us from complacency, O Lord, and give us a new spirit”. 

Peace and fraternal hugs.  Frank.”

Here’s a couple other potential starters:

We know Francis felt cave time was important. He struggled between being in the world and being isolated. Is the forced isolation of the pandemic actually a time of great opportunity? Can we copy Francis’ example of using isolation effectively to discern the will of God within this hardship? How might our experience of God expand if we use this time constructively?

We also know from the gospel reading last Sunday that Jesus does not abandon us in times of isolation. When the disciples were locked away for fear of the Jews, Jesus appeared in their midst and brought them peace. In your isolation, in your cave time, have you had an experience of peace that you might not have had were it not for your enforced isolation? If not, would you consider searching for that peace, asking for it directly within your prayer, as part of your isolation experience?

Use Frank’s starters or follow one of the links above and prayer over the material. (Don’t be afraid to create an account at the first link. It will give you access to the entire set of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents.) Then, as Frank suggested, consider writing down your thoughts.

But please consider pasting what you write as a comment at the end of this blog post. You can take credit by adding your name, or you can do it anonymously if you prefer, but consider the possibility that one of your brothers or sisters might be helped through this difficult time by something you might write and share below.

As our profession language says (see the home page of the blog), “may the fraternal bonds of community always be my help….”

Are you willing to offer a little help, a little fraternity, to someone that you might not even know by sharing your thoughts here? If you got comfortable doing that now, in this time of hardship, and then continued to offer that help even when things return toward normal, would that be in and of itself a blessing that could come out of this time?

I asked permission to post Frank’s note here in the hope that maybe we do not have to wait until the next meeting to share our thoughts. Maybe we can go ahead and live out our fraternal calling right now by simply posting comments at the bottom of this post. It’s not the same as being together and being able to share hugs with everyone. But at least it is a chance to know how everyone is doing and to provide some support to each other in this time of absence.

So go ahead, take a chance, and make a comment. It doesn’t have to be deep and mind bending. It doesn’t even have to be about Lent or one of the links. It can even be silly or just a quick hello and how are you. Share whatever the Spirit leads you to share.

I know I would appreciate seeing your comments and I bet others would as well. So give it a try. There’s really nothing to lose, and you might even learn a little something new about interacting with a blog as you do.

2 thoughts on “Interacting in Community Despite the Pandemic

  1. I’m getting a lot of things done that needed doing anyway. Smoke alarms going off in the middle of the night (don’t you just love it – no fire!); fixing a clothes washing machine; hanging pictures I haven’t unpacked since moving here from Northern VA, small things that add up! I read a lot. I am reading now the biography of St. Francis by Englebert. Just started yesterday evening.

    I saw the Pope at his Easter vigil Mass. He seems to be healthy enough. A little tired toward the end; you could see it in his eyes. It was midnight in Rome.

    You all are in my daily prayers.

    God bless,
    Timmy DeCelles

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My mother taught me a little adage which I’ve reflected upon many times recently, especially as the time away from our Secular Franciscan family gets longer: namely, ” Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” The longer this isolation from all the folks we love whether family, fraternity, co-works, friends increases, the more I realize how very much each of them means to me. Jesus gathered the apostles around him, Francis formed a fraternity of brothers to be of support to him and to each other . . . and both given credence to what the Creator said in Genesis, “It is not good for one to be alone.” There are without doubt gifts and graces to be appreciated in silence and solitude, but God created us to be fraternal. Even the Trinity is a community of the three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. And the love between them is surely what is reflected in our wishing to once again share time, not virtually, but in real time and real space. I suspect our first fraternity meeting will be one joyous occasion of enjoying the presence of our brothers and sisters.

    Just a little extra note: yes, I’m gifted with the presence of my sisters in community and we’ve come to appreciate more what living in community in means. But our lives include so many others — Secular Franciscans, parish members, co-workers in our schools and hospitals — they, too, are missed and will be warmly welcomed with joyous Franciscan hugs — once it’s possible.

    Love you, missy you, and praying that we can be together again soon!
    Sr. Agnes Marie, OSF

    Liked by 1 person

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