At the beginning I think I behaved like most people:- we regret it’s happening but we feel it’s far from us. As Furio Colombo, Italian journalist of the 20th century, once said, when “others “become “us” the reality of it all changes and changes you.
In fact, as the first cases in Italy and the rest of the world started, this disease was getting closer and closer to me, to us.
Then news and fake news began to spam our smartphones with social media becoming ever more far-fetched. News, debates, arenas for discussion, television broadcasts had as a common denominator, rightly or wrongly, the collective fear that generated fear and almost blocked people and their activities.
We began to exorcise that fear in the hope of immunising ourselves from the disease and to take away the thought from our minds: when will it end? Let’s hope it doesn’t last too long.
We feel close to the pain of families, to those who are in hospital in a serious condition, to those who have lost a relative, a close friend or a colleague at work and who, perhaps, could not hold their hand in the last moment of their lives. We feel close to the doctors and to all the health personnel who are giving their lives for those who are seriously infected, or to the family doctors who struggle and unbelievably sometimes lack the necessary protection.
The world, metaphorically speaking, has put the hand brake on and the frenzy of life in the third millennium has waned, leaving us astonished and with the question: now what do I do? In families, where both parents work: what to do with their young and older children ?How to stay close to their elderly parents?
After a moment of panic, creativity which characterizes human beings prevailed and it became an opportunity to rediscover the relationship between parents and children, without the nagging of the clock and the thousand things to do outside the home.
Someone else discovered the beauty of looking after, what some psychotherapists call “the first child”,i.e. the relationship between the couple.
With so much time available someone else has found a way to contact and care for the people they love, for some relative they haven’t heard from for a long time, for that lonely neighbour, for that acquaintance who has no one.
While concluding a long and deep conversation with one of these people, it came spontaneously to us to define that beautiful shared moment as a “goal scored against the coronavirus”.
It seems that this virus can open up for some the abyss of loss of meaning that creates bewilderment, that extraneousness to oneself that preludes a new kind of healing. A healing from the pervasive technology in our lives, from the needs induced by advertising, from the superficiality of relationships and the list goes on.
The newspapers continue in an under tone to write of violence against women, the payment of lace for merchants, the taking advantage of the health crisis by increasing the price of masks (those that can be found) to 0.30 to 1 euro, etc…
Yet, while all this is happening, in various parts of the world, in a silent but effective way, families have mobilized themselves to continue to meet by using the most varied means of communication; to share their life and those gestures of service to their neighbours and those in need. Others organize moments of prayer and reflection by reading meditations by Chiara Lubich or other authors of the Church. There is a beautiful group of families from Central America connected online every evening from more than 50 places; after a brief reflection they pray and meditate the rosary. The same life also invades the Philippines, the USA, Australia without forgetting Italy and Europe.
We were able to connect with families in the city of Ibarra, Ecuador, where people in quarantine have communicated their doubts and joys about how they are living this pandemic. These were moments of deep communion that instilled hope and gave courage to all to continue to believe in God’s love. The pandemic was flanked and almost “overtaken” by the reality of fraternity among us even at such a distance.
This is the opportunity that this virus is giving us; to discover ourselves to be human, to value relationships and to realize that this is worth much more than the GDP, than economic wars, it overcomes all divisions even those of the various sides of political parties.
Just the other week I heard the news that President Rivlin of Israel called the President of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, to make joint efforts to counter the COVID-19.
One may ask oneself: But why is this happening after decades of lack of communication?
Looking at the world map of the spread of the virus it seems almost as if a shadow is stretching over the world.
In the last century, the Spanish mystic Maria Zambrano, speaking of the “night of God” over Europe, wrote in one of her essays: “It seems that night has fallen over Europe;while it might just be God’s shadow covering humanity.”