A Lent during Coronavirus

on 19 Mar, 2020
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LA VIE, Published on 03/13/2020, Sr. Anne Lécu (http://www.lavie.fr/debats/idees/un-careme-au-temps-du-coronavirus-13-03-2020-104667_679.php).- A Dominican nun and a doctor in prison, Sr. Anne Lécu calls on Christians to be "legitimate" and to implement non-profit health decisions in the name of the common good. But she also offers a deep meditation for these moments of solitude and silence.

It's 9 p.m., level 2 of the target plan of my hospital has just been started, which means I must be ready to be on call if necessary and LA VIE is asking me to think about the coronavirus from my dual experience as a doctor and a nun. My first reaction to this request is quite simple: I don't have much to say, except that we have to be legitimate. Doing what is asked of us is possibly the best service we can do to each other, in the name of the common good. I have no competence to say whether we close the schools too early or too late, whether we are too flexible or too rigid and I think that is not the issue at this time. Now is not the time to ask whether we trust our authorities or not, we must act together in the same direction.

This is true in prison. This is true in the Church. I just know that for no reason in the world would I not want to be in the place of those who have to make this kind of decision. To be faithful to Christ, wherever we are, is to be united in all that misleads and damages the social body, mistrust, arrogance, cynicism, lies, cowardice and division.

Now is not the time to ask whether we trust our authorities or not, we must act together in the same direction.

Moreover, this is coupled with a spiritual attitude that is completely ordinary: it is when there is no reason to believe that faith is faith, because stripped of everything that is not, then it is a decision "I want to believe," said Therese of Lisieux. What is within my reach is to decide to trust the authorities or at least to obey them. There will always be time, once the tornado is over, to review our decisions to better understand those that have been useful and those that have been harmful.

My medical colleagues in prison, and especially the chiefs of the services, have been active for several days in an attempt to anticipate as best they can something that is very difficult to predict. The Italian prison system probably does not completely overlap with the French system with a greater proportion of common space than we have in detention centers. So we still do not know how we are going to weather the storm. But the fact that 15% of those infected seem to require hospital care, and 5% intensive care, does not reassure us. The criminal population of Fleury Mérogis is over 4,000 inmates, certainly younger than the general population. Will we be able to hospitalize all those who need to be hospitalized?

What I will miss during this time of Lent is not first of all the communion in the body of Christ, but the gathering as a Church Community.

At the ecclesial level, I admit that I appreciate the reactions of those in charge who are doing their part and accepting that the liturgical life of their diocese is being turned upside down, especially with the closure of churches, in the name of this same legitimacy. Now it is up to us to find meaning in all this.

I realize how much I will miss during this time of Lent is not, above all, communion in the body of Christ, but the ecclesial gathering, in which we communicate together in the body of Christ. The imposed isolation makes us realize that the Church is a communion and I think the occasion is favorable to think about all those who are normally far from communion because they are sick and isolated, because they live in the depths of the Amazon or because the discipline of the Church requires that they do not communicate.

Our imposed solitude in the time of Lent and probably even for Easter, forces us to realize that we are not Christians for ourselves, but for others, for the world. When we celebrate the Eucharist, when we take communion in the given body of Christ, we do it for those who are not there because the body of the Lord is given by the multitude. Then, now confined, we have to believe that we are associated with this mystery, with those who can celebrate it, because they are celebrating it for us.

There is another point of union between my two "worlds": the caretakers will give their time, their fatigue to others. It is up to each of us, at this different time, to find out what we can do "for" the other, by being attentive to the older, more isolated ones. This is a Eucharistic life: to take care of the other, because his existence is a gift.

Our imposed solitude in the time of Lent and probably even for Easter, forces us to realize that we are not Christians for ourselves, but for others.

Last year, we were overwhelmed by the discovery of the scale of sexual crimes in our Church. We have just begun Lent with astonishment of the control exercised by Jean Vanier over women in situations of spiritual subjection... During the past year, I had hoped that my Church would stop adding unhappiness to unhappiness by speaking when it should be silent and by remaining silent when it should be speaking. In a way, through this coronavirus epidemic, we are being given the opportunity to be silent.

Let us take the time to read the Bible, listen to God's word, and share it with our loved ones when possible. Let us take the time to sit and pray, for those who cannot, for the sick, for this troubled and disturbing world with Humility,  for those who must stay awake at night. For the poor who have no house to confine themselves to, for the foreigners who have no country..., for the victims of the most sordid trafficking in persons, for all those who abandoned our assemblies in despair, but also for the wicked, for the thieves, with whom the crucified Christ wanted to be close to them until he became confused with them. He has in his two open arms the scattered humanity that we are. Take the time to stand there at the foot of the cross of Christ, as Pierre Claverie said, because everything else is simply not wanting to see reality.

The Church is wrong if…

"If the Church is not on the scene of this splitting of humanity, what is she doing? Jesus places his Church on these dividing lines, without arms, without will or means of power. The place of the Church is on all the dividing lines, between the human blocks and within each human being, where there are wounds, exclusions, marginalization. [...] Where would be the Church of Jesus Christ himself, the Body of Christ, if it were not there first, at the foot of the cross? I believe that she is dying because she is not close enough to the Cross of her Lord. Paradoxical as it may seem, as Saint Paul clearly shows, her strength, her vitality, her hope and her fruitfulness come from there. Not elsewhere, nor in any other way. Everything, everything else is nothing but dust in the eyes, worldly illusion. It deceives itself and the world when it sets itself up as a power among others, as a humanitarian organization or even as a great evangelical movement of spectacle. It can shine, it does not shine with the fire of love "strong as death," as the Song of Songs says. Because it's about love here, love first and only love. A passion that Jesus lived, gave us a taste of and paved the way for: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends"(Pierre Claverie, (1938-1996), Bishop of Oran. Extract from his last homily given in France, published in La Vie spirituelle no. 721, December 1996).