Learning New Ways to Reach Out and Touch Others

During the coronavirus pandemic, many spiritual resources have been being passed around the internet via email, Facebook, and other social media.

One item I received that touched me profoundly is the poem/prayer “Pandemic” by Lynn Ungar (see full text below).  Lynn is a minister for the Church of the Larger Fellowship, an online congregation of Unitarian Universalists and other like-minded people.

The part of the poem that has touched me most is this section:

Center down.
And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

As someone who is concerned with the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBTQ people, I have three thoughts after reading this poem.

First, I appreciate her suggestion to use this time of quarantine, self-isolation, and lockdown to just be still and quiet, to “center down.”  It’s a time, albeit forced upon us, to stop. To be quiet. To be still. To be. So many of our regular routines have been broken, and that can be disturbing. But it can also be a time to re-evaluate the past, reflect on the present, and re-imagine the future. This time can be an opportunity to reflect on the ways that we witness and advocate for LGBT equality in the church, in civil society, and in our personal circle of family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

Second, Ungar’s poem reminds that “we are all connected. . . You could hardly deny it now. . . . Our lives are in each other’s hands. . . .Surely, that has come clear.”  This period of isolation can be a time to appreciate the connections we have with one another. Most importantly, we can remember that we are connected even to people who disagree with us about LGBTQ issues in the church, that they, too, are part of our Catholic family.  As many commentators have pointed out, the virus knows no borders, no ideologies.  It does not discriminate. It affects us all. In a strange and terrible way, it is reminding us that we all share a common, vulnerable humanity.

And finally, during this time when we are limited in our physical interactions with others, the poem directs us to rely more on our invisible ways to connect—with our hearts, our words, our compassion.  Perhaps living during this time will teach us ways to show love to one another through these more invisible ways.  Maybe we can find ways to spread this love so that our church and our world can be a more inclusive, just, and equal world for all. Perhaps this exercise will teach us to continue such practices when restrictions are lifted.

Our restrictions don’t have to confine us.  They can be opportunities for us, and our church, to grow.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 7, 2020

Related posts:

March 18, 2020: COVID-19, Closed Churches, and LGBTQ Catholics

March 24, 2020: At Home Due to COVID-19? Keep Busy by Advancing Catholic LGBTQ Equality

April 5, 2020: Palm Sunday, Pride Parades, and Pandemics


Pandemic
by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath —
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

 

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