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Finding inspiration beyond whipped cream

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Finding inspiration when you’re not looking for it, well, that’s a gift. But what about these days during a surreal global pandemic when you crave something to get you through another day of altered reality?

It’s been six weeks since the Catholic Herald launched its virtual newsroom, and it’s been working well. Daily Zoom videoconferencing calls keep us on track planning our daily online coverage, culling together the best for our weekly e-newsletter, and prepping for the crunch time for our biweekly print issues.

The staff has been working hard to bring you stories from throughout the diocese: what couples are doing about their spring weddings; how one senior center continues to reach out to its clients staying at home; how the Mormon Church donated 35,500 pounds of food to the Catholic Charities food pantry, and how you can help by donating money or food; where to find livestreamed Masses and which parishes have drive-in confessions or adoration.

We tapped local counselors to give advice on communicating with spouses and, it’s uncomfortable to talk about, but we have suggestions on getting your affairs in order and working through grief when closure might not be possible.

This week, I challenged the staff to come up with ways to inspire you, and for that matter, to inspire me.

My husband and I are both journalists and the constant news flow in our home — cable news stations, local radio stations, email news digests, print publications and breaking news texts — all part of our home furnishings, does take its toll.

This past Monday as I logged onto another work Zoom call, I noticed it was cloudy outside our living room window, now my home office. I had to stop and take a deep breath before I turned on the video camera and mustered my smile and hello. This week, Week Six, was harder.

I’ve been doing daily #MugOfTheDay photo postings on my personal Facebook and sometimes my work Twitter accounts. Funny how this little diversion has taken off as people comment and post their coffee mugs. This day, though, I needed more than that daily frivolity.

I wished I could pick up a book, check a website or turn to a calendar page a day for just the jolt I needed to climb back up on my chair on wheels at the rectangular folding card table, papers overflowing onto the nearby TV tray and cocktail tables. I needed something more than a brightly colored pen or a dollop of spray whipped cream in my morning tea to set me right.

I reached out to a few folks for advice, words of inspiration and suggestions of how they are getting through the crisis and how they are ministering to others.

The Benedictine Sisters of Virginia in Bristow, the order a dear family friend, Sister Benedict, served for decades, is a bright spot in the diocese and always good for a kind word, quick prayer and gentle take on reality.

Sister Mary Clark said, “For a group of Benedictine women who place hospitality as a vital part of our mission, it is difficult to have closed our monastery to outside visitors.” The Benedictine programs and ministries have been suspended, “but the grounds remain open as a means for people to find a little peace and for our columbarium and St. Andrew Cemetery visitors.”

She said one blessing is that the sisters have had a chance to do more together during the quarantine, including their prayer schedule, a COVID-19 rosary, more lectio divina with the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as exercise, Catholic trivia, movie-and-popcorn days, and puzzles.

The social media-savvy sisters share photos, links to local and non-local parish Masses, prayer services, virtual retreats and talks, and reminders to people that they are being prayed for and that “Jesus is very much alive this Easter and with us.”

“Thank God for technology, which allows us to reach out since we can’t be there in person,” Sister Mary said. “More people have been asking for prayer through our website as well, which gives us a chance to remind them of God’s presence in their lives, even at this scary time.”

Sister Joanna Burley, prioress, hit the proverbial nail on the head: “The longer this pandemic goes on, the harder it is to keep hopeful. And also, if one is not directly touched by the virus, it is easy to become complacent and forgetful about precautionary procedures. Perseverance is needed in many ways.”

Sister Joanna said that even though the daily monastic routine is the same, “the tragedy this pandemic has caused and the fear it engenders weighs heavily on our minds. If we do nothing but dwell on the bad news of the day, then we will succumb to the devil of despair. So, adding some extra measures of humor and relaxation, spontaneity and surprise into our days is important.”

As Benedictines, they “keep death always before our eyes,” not to be morose but as a reminder that “each day is a gift from God,” and we must make the best use of each day for our own sake and the support of everyone else, she said. The sisters were kind enough to assure us of their prayers, which we need and appreciate.

So, why is inspiration, encouragement, hope — or whatever label you put on it — so important, especially right now? Because these times are uncertain, uncharted and unsettling. Even the most upbeat might need something to tuck in their back pocket for that cloudy day when there’s not enough whipped cream. There’s always hope, especially during the Easter season. We are an Easter people and we will get through this.

Where do you find inspiration? Send me an email and I’ll share your thoughts with the Catholic Herald community. We’re grateful you’re a part of our community.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020