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In this time of COVID-19, daring to say, ‘All will be well’

Posted on February 21, 2021, by Karen Cassidy CoL

… we have an opportunity to discern how we can recreate within ourselves loving-kindness and hear the Living Light.

Karen Cassidy CoL

As we grapple with the ravages of COVID-19, we are invited to experience our grief. Are we courageous enough to turn to the fire of our own grief? It is so much easier to run. Losing those we love is where the fire burns hottest. Losing our own health is trial by fire.

Oh the loss!

The desolation at not being at the death beds of those we care about … and those who need us. Loss of authentic connection to the outside community, where we long to be of service to those in need. For some of us: loss after loss. While we grieve, hurting and tender remembering those who have died, we are being transformed. Awareness of this — for this is God moving in us — allows us to create new life and love in the post-COVID-19 world.

A woman and two children pass through an overpass on a paved path next to a creek.

This pandemic brings my grieving heart back to my old friends, the Women Mystics. During this COVID-19 pandemic, Julian of Norwich has been a true consolation. Julian’s words, “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well” is a favorite saying for many people. I am comforted knowing that Julian experienced and understood pandemics. Living through many rounds of the Black Death, she faced immeasurable suffering within and around her. History tells us that up to 50 percent of the European population died during the bubonic plague. Julian possibly lost half of the people that she knew and to whom she was closest. One scholar suggests that her husband and children died during the plague. Julian turned to the fire of grief instead of running from it. What a lesson for us today.

It is believed that she went to live as an anchorite to have a kind of quarantine. Forty years’ worth of quarantine! She was not a hermit, though. A window open to the outside allowed her to accept freshly baked bread and share honey from the hives she kept. She provided consolation and advice to the struggling villagers. A window into the church kept her on the schedule of prayers and routine. Contemplation and action.

Where do our indoor and outdoor windows open? As we quarantine in our own anchorite-homes, we have an opportunity to discern how we can recreate within ourselves loving-kindness and hear the Living Light. From our outside window we can envision a community and

Light streams through two simple stained glass windows into a dark room.
Loretto Motherhouse Church, Nerinx, Ky.

Where do our indoor and outdoor windows open? As we quarantine in our own anchorite-homes, we have an opportunity to discern how we can recreate within ourselves loving-kindness and hear the Living Light. From our outside window we can envision a a community and a world fully engaged in the care of the Earth and each other.

Looking at death teaches us many lessons. Lessons we must learn on our own. A pandemic stared Julian in the face her whole life. She grew up with death and fear all around her. And yet she was able to say, “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.”

Recommended reading: Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic – and Beyond (2020).

Photos: Christina Manweller

Read the Loretto Magazine Winter 2021 issue in full here.

Karen Cassidy CoL

Karen Cassidy CoL

Karen Cassidy is a Loretto co-member and Executive Director of Hildegard House, a comfort care home for the dying in Louisville, Ky. www.hildegardhouse.org
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