How can we survive spiritually, morally and internally?

How can we survive spiritually, morally and internally? Here is some advice from our confrere Fr. Alfredo Tortorella of the Province of Sicily and Naples.

By Fr. Alfredo M. Tortorella, MI

The time of the Italian lockdown of last March, with its slogans about ‘everything will be alright’ with coloured rainbows seems now truly far away, although Covid-19, with its truly unpredictable moves, constantly exposes us to health-care attention, individual and collective cautionary measures, new ministerial decrees and those who have the most issue the most. Day by day we see that although we have thought up and applied the most disparate and studied means of precaution, the battle against this small but powerful enemy is still far from a definitive triumph. Science itself – at least that medical voice that makes itself dominant in television salons and talk shows on internet – seems to be resigned to the idea of a prolonged co-existence, or, remembering the history of epidemics, gives, in our view, weak and inopportune hopes, because to follow logic one epidemic is not the same as another and an epochal context of the past is certainly not our epoch.

The fire of uncertainty and fear seem to spread nourished by a declining trust in medical institutions themselves, especially when they are unhappy when communicating, with criteria and method, the analyses and situations that have to be addressed. And we should ask ourselves: ‘will it still be alright?’ Perhaps not, and with courage, without panic, armed with good Christian virtues, this should be said increasingly with a clear voice.

But in the meanwhile we ask ourselves: how can we survive? This is a licit question and one not connected to a possible imminent lockdown with the connected expenditure on yeast, milk and face masks that has to be done. How can we survive spiritually, morally and internally? Here is some advice that perhaps can be useful amidst this hodgepodge of communications and at times anxious health-care concerns:

  1. However much one should be prudent and attentive, one should not dedicate all the time of one’s day to the ‘question of the pandemic’; the information on Covid-19 and connected measures should be only a part of the information that is sought. We should also be interested in politics and international social questions, sport, questions connected with the local areas in which we live. Here we should not dwell too much on discussing and countering opinions about Covid-19 which are to be found on blogs, forums and areas for discussions. We have learnt the point: on the internet above all everything and the opposite of everything circulates in relation to the pandemic, and as a result to align oneself with one side or the other does not help the health of the soul and interior peace.
  2. Returning to a healthy personal lockdown that is not imposed but sought after: not shutting oneself up in one’s home but rediscovering it as one’s own healthy environment in order to defend one’s mind and one’s spirit. Praying at home, going back to fine reading, cultivating one’s own passions connected with music, art, cinema, botany and domestic animals.
  3. Reminding oneself that one is not in that famous lockdown of March, as a result of which one has ample freedom to attend one’s church with its allowed activities, very many open-air public places, obviously observing social distancing and due precautions. Here it is important and fundamental to live charity towards those who, especially if they are friends or family relatives, are in a state of need: with the right attention we can still make ourselves useful to our elderly folk, to the disabled, to our neighbours who live on their own, and to those who, distant from ourselves, are in a state of need. Fraternal solidarity, where this is possible and practicable, is a real cure-all for the soul: even if the world is sick, charity and nearness towards those who are in a state of need and can be easily reached, remind us that life is sharing and encounter.
  4. Having the humility to allow oneself to be helped: asking for help, if one notices an interior heaviness, is incumbent upon us in this period of uncertainty. Anxiety and fears become more acute if they remain shut up in our interiority. Having the humility to speak about them is beneficial not only to the individual but also to the community. When one speaks about the burdens on one’s soul to a friend, to a loved one who knows in his or her turn how to bear them, to one’s priest or to a trusted therapist, not only does one face up to the problem by humbly acknowledging one’s own weakness, but one begins the process of healing and relief of the entire context in which one lives.

Therefore, ‘will everything be alright?’ As regards Covid-19, in all honesty we do not know. But everything will be alright for the peace of our spirits if we avoid useless panic and set ourselves to examining, as a priority of every morning, what is really useful to us and what is toxic for us as regards our own peace. This is individual work that aims at psycho-physical health but which also has a purpose very much connected with the community: a better quality of life in this period which is so tense, shared good with those with whom we live and interact every day.