Making and Writing History

We are creatures of habit, social creatures, creatures who crave love and belonging, connection and trust. We thrive in circles of love, we thrive when we find meaning, purpose and a mission in life. We can even endure suffering if it is lived with meaning and in love with others. Knowing our lives as part of a bigger whole grows our hearts and spirits, secure in knowing ourselves to be connected in meaningful ways with the past, the present and the future.

The current Covid-19 crisis is affecting each of these deep human needs, disrupting us at our very core. We are mandated to act together by keeping apart in every way we normally take for granted. It is a painful paradox of communal solidarity that spans the globe. The words of God as recorded in Deuteronomy resound in whispers through families and governments, through nations and the corporate world, in many tongues and in many versions: I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. … I call heaven and earth (…) that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. (Deut. 30:15—20)

How indeed, do we choose life in the midst of this unprecedented global health crisis? Indeed we have a choice of life or death: to cower in fear and panic, or to reach deep into ourselves to find solid inner feet under our spirit in order to grow the splendour and beauty of the human community. Now is our moment.

What do we need in order to reach deep into our own spirits to steady the inner anchor? One way is by learning to become more self-reflective. There’s nothing like a crisis to thrust us into the deep waters of our soul and begin new habits!

If you don’t already do so, begin writing a Journal. Our future off-spring (biological, adoptive and spiritual) will be forever grateful to get to know us through the written word and to learn how we lived through this time of global upheaval. They will most certainly live through crises of their own; we can leave behind a legacy of important lessons in courage, resilience and creative community connections. We are each making history and we can do it in creative and life-giving ways for generations to come.

Here is a simple guide to begin your Covid-19 Journal. Give yourself permission to spend time alone – on a walk or in a quiet corner of your house (can’t suggest a coffee shop anymore as they’re all closed). Sit with the questions one by one, or choose only a few for each day. Don’t force your writing; choose the days that work best. Find your own rhythm, listen to the heartbeat of your own desires, fears and longings, and carve out your own story. This is you – today.

2020 Journal

Name: ………………………………………………………..

Title for your Journal: …………………………………………………………………………

Heading for each page: ……………………………………….

Date: ……………………

What is happening in my world today?

What do I need the most today?

What and who am I grateful for today?

Who needs my love and care the most today?

Who/what helps me to remain steadfast, to resist fear, and keep a generous spirit?

How is God present to me in this time of uncertainty and social isolation?

Is there a word from Holy Scripture that speaks into my fragile heart right now?

Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?

What part/expectations of “normal life” can I let go of today?

How am I getting outside today? How do I ensure adequate physical activity today?

What beauty and joy am I creating, cultivating or entering into today?

What am I learning about myself, others and about God?

A Second Death

The spiritual earthquake caused by the revelations about Jean Vanier has shaken Jim and I. Being among those who knew both Jean Vanier and Père Thomas personally (we lived at l’Arche back in the 1970’s), we are suffering a serious spiritual concussion of the heart. The 154 l’Arche communities in 38 countries broke the news to their members as follows: our founder has died — a second time* … Jim and I are shell-shocked with them, we weep with them and with all who feel shaken, betrayed and horrified. Because once part of l’Arche, always part of the l’Arche family, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.

Biological death is a natural part of life. It is expected, even though we are never ready to embrace it. Biological death at a ripe old age after a rich life, as Jean Vanier’s appears to have been last May 2019, can even be a true celebration of thanksgiving. Now, nearly 10 months later, both the church and the world are in shock. This second death, caused by grave sin, is unexpected, shocking, and worse, way worse, especially in the wake of the radiant, global, life-giving movement that l’Arche has become since it began in 1964. Already universities are revoking past awards, schools are considering name changes, publishing companies are ceasing publication of his books. The effects of the news are devastating, far-reaching and far from over. There will be more … oh my God, there will surely be more.

I too feel the effects. Not even a recent harrowing drive home through a snow storm affected me the way this news has. My writing and my ministry are being sucked bone-dry. Grief is exhausting. I’m guessing there won’t be many blog posts for a while. I’m grateful for guest preachers in my parish over the next couple of Sundays. From here on I will let the words of others speak their own painful truth (see the links below), while aching for healing and understanding, for mercy and reconciliation in and with all in the l’Arche family. And we cry out to God in prayer:
If you, oh Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?
(Psalm 130)
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80)

l’Arche International Letter
Scroll down past the letter to find more important links

L’Arche International Coordinator Stephan Posner on French TV (English subtitles available in Settings)

Michael Higgins in the Globe & Mail

Ian Brown’s article in the Globe & Mail

The Sinner and the Sin in Convivium

When Saints Fall by Thomas Reese

Krista Tippet reflecting on the revelations

CBC Radio Interview on The Current

Ron Rolheiser’s column

* From Irene Tuffrey-Wijne’s account of a shell-shocked l’Arche community

A deeply thoughtful reflection by Rhonda Miska on Living Lent

Former Irish President of Ireland Mary McAleese wrote to Pope Francis