During these days of lockdown, my daily walk fills me with hope. These Easter days are beautiful and no matter the terrible things this virus is doing, it leaves spring untouched, unblemished. I can see and hear people (living alone in ‘lockdown’ is not so easy) – even at the distance of two metres, so feel human again. Sometimes my nod and smile are answered – although I do feel people are afraid.
I came across this poster on my Holy Saturday walk. “Please believe these days will pass”. Speaking to us here and now for me it also helped me to think of the transition between the sadness and isolation of Good Friday and the joy and promise of Easter. Keeping faith, knowing that we will eventually be able to see, feel, embrace one another again, reminded me that the disciples too were urged to believe and keep faith in Jesus, in his presence and his absence.
At the Eucharistic service I joined on Easter Sunday I was thrilled to be introduced to the work of the Irish poet, John O’Donnell. His poem ‘When’ had featured in the Irish Times on Holy Saturday. Our celebrant read the poem in his homily: “And when this ends we will emerge, shyly and then all at once, dazed, longhaired as we embrace loved ones the shadow spared, and weep for those it gathered in its shroud.” Poets, with their gift of imagination and language, can help us get in touch with our feelings and help us better understand what is happening at a deeper level.
There is an edge to this keeping faith, it is not just a romantic notion. Jesus, and our neighbour, are one and the same and our challenge is to see and act on this in the here and now too. The lonely and isolated, those in prison, the sick, the bereaved, the homeless, the fearful – our neighbours. How great to know that the Irish Chaplaincy continues its outreach and care in these strange days – helping us all maintain our humanity.
Pat Gaffney is an Irish Chaplaincy Volunteer