Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and usually it is a day to celebrate being Irish, eating corned beef and cabbage and drinking green beer (which actually makes no sense to me, but still, it is something people do.) I have written about this day before. The story of Patrick and the history or lack thereof is fascinating. At least, in usual times, there are parades and parties and festivities.
Not this day, not this year. Events have been cancelled all over our country and world in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. New information and statistics are being rapidly and what feels like hourly. People are afraid and anxious.
As human beings we often react in one of two ways: worrying about what may occur or minimizing and believing nothing can be that bad. It is normal to be concerned when something new happens and we do not have enough information and knowledge about what may come next.
I am not ashamed to name that I am a little bit anxious and a little bit sad and a little bit uncertain. We truly are living in an unprecedented time for most of us. There have been outbreaks of disease in my lifetime: SARS, MERS, different Influenzas and certainly AIDS. I have some early memories of measles and people quarantined, but nothing, nothing like what is occurring in Italy, China, Spain, France and the shutting down of large groups of people across the United States.
Discouraging people to gather is devastating to small business, schools, non-profits and churches among others. We have seen the stock market plummet and many are concerned not just about keeping their businesses open, but what of those hourly employees who may not have a job and no way to pay their bills Then many now have children home from school and no child care and how do you go to work? The homeless and those who are most vulnerable to disease are at risk in ways we can not imagine.
Panic would seem to be the response of many as we have seen from the reports of people buying toilet paper, bleach, hand sanitizer and other disinfectants. Retail stores are limiting the amount of these things that people buy so everyone will have enough. Store shelves are pretty bare and most are doing their best to be helpful in this time of anxiety.
Where is the peace in the midst of the panic and fear? When each hour seems to bring more bad news, how do we find a sense of calm and faith and hope? While I have no easy answers, I know what I do believe.
This is not the first time that disease has hampered people plans. This is not the first there has been economic uncertainty in the face of a rapidly moving virus. This is not the first time human beings have been faced with deep fear and uncertainty.
In all of those times, God has been there. In every moment of every pandemic, war, economic collapse, God has been there. God’s Spirit is at work in every medical professional, every scientist working on a vaccine or cure, in every retail worker trying to be helpful, in every helper of every kind that is reaching out to alleviate fear, to offer hope and to give the best they have to offer.
Every person has different ways to cope. Music is often key for me, I listen to those pieces of music that bring comfort and peace to my soul. I pray, I meditate, I read and I cook. Picking up the phone and calling people we love is a good thing to do when we are so isolated. E-mails, cards in the mail work as well.
Paul writes that Christ offers peace. He wrote those words when in jail to the church at Philippi. He didn’t know what he future would hold, what he did know was that his peace and his hope was found in his faith Christ. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)
I do not know how all “this” will work out. I do know that our lives will different for the next few weeks and probably months. I also know that God is at work in each of us, calling us to a renewed faith and promises that we are never alone, not in joy or sorrow, not in despair or hope, God is with us always. I suspect we will all find new ways to be connected and creative ways to celebrate the events of lives.
On this Saint Patricks day, I am remembering and praying this prayer attributed to him:
The flashing of lightning,