One of the greatest lessons learned during my nursing career is the fragility of human life. Many times when a patient and their loved ones are given news of a life-altering diagnosis, they’ve told me: we didn’t expect this; but I’m not ready; I should have…; but I did everything right; we thought we had more time. The truth is we are only custodians of life, and although we like to think we have the answers for living large and living longer, in reality, we have very few answers and even less control. What we have plenty of is fear – of pain, infirmity, loss of control, and that great equalizer, death.
In times when our health and way of life are threatened, we do some crazy things. Witness the worldwide hoarding of toilet paper and canned food. While it’s a good idea to stock a reasonable amount of household supplies, as a virus about which we know very little wreaks havoc on the civilized world, now is the time to remember that our cupboards and bathrooms are not the only areas that need to be ready in these times of uncertainty.
So here is a list – a starting point if you will – of ways we can prepare not just our bodies but our souls during these times when we realize just how vulnerable we are.
- Let go of past mistakes. None of us is perfect and that mistake made years ago, that lapse in judgment that we hang on to will continue to eat away at our physical, emotional and spiritual health if we don’t let it go.
- Let go of past hurts. Similarly, that hurt we’ve been carrying around for a long time and won’t forgive will continue to erode our physical and emotional health. Our sick soul will be laden with the sin of unforgiveness.
- Go to Confession. The Lord is Our Divine Physician; the confessional is His walk-in clinic and His divine forgiveness is the antidote for our mistakes and hurts. It’s here that the life of our souls is revitalized as we receive the medicine of sanctifying grace and actual grace that strengthens us to love God and hate sin. So go often, even for venial sins because, as Dom Benedict Baur, O.S.B, explained in Frequent Confession: Its place in the spiritual life, “the sacrament of Penance cures the soul from the weakness that follows venial sin and from the weariness and coldness toward the things of God and the inclination toward worldliness that venial sin brings…”
- Cling to Holy Mass as if your life depends on it. Because it does. The source and summit of our life (Lumen Gentium,11), the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass continuously strengthens us especially in precarious times. At Holy Mass, we place our fears, anxieties, illnesses on the altar united with Christ’s sacrifice and we know that Our Father in Heaven will use them for good. With this sure hope, we can look at our suffering as a gift for a sick world that we bring to the altar of Christ.
- Stock up on what’s important. While it’s good advice to have on hand two weeks’ worth of non-perishable food and other supplies – just in case – make sure to leave something on the store shelves for other people. As we ensure that our bodies are cared for, we also need to fill our spiritual pantry with supplies for our souls. For this, we have the sacramentals of Holy Mother Church: holy water, blessed salt, blessed candles, medallions of our favourite saints, a scapular, crucifix, rosary, blessings. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sacramentals “prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it…They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.” Armed and fortified with our sacramentals, we are prepared to receive whatever Our Lord in His great providence wants to give us.
- Do not be afraid. Be wise and follow medical advice to wash your hands often and thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water (hand sanitizer if you can’t get to a sink), sleep and eat well, watch for and report symptoms of fever and coughing. Do these things not just for yourself but for the health and safety of everyone around you. But do not give in to fear. The best advice is from Christ Himself who tells us so many times because He knows how weak we are: Be not afraid.
- Don’t go crazy. The constant barrage of Coronavirus media reports updating the latest numbers of infected individuals worldwide can drive us a little bit nuts. Turn off the news and listen instead to St. Paul: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
- Use the good dishes. Wear your fine jewellery. Put on your best clothes. Enjoy the good things that the Lord has given You. Why should we keep them hidden away only to be brought out for a special occasion? Every day given by Our Father in Heaven and lived for Him is a special occasion. With gratitude and joy, embrace whatever happens, offer it back to the Lord and use your best stuff.