So, How Are You Doing?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on March 23, 2020

The Coronavirus continues to spread all over the world. Each day there are more restrictions: closed schools, churches, restaurants, bars, libraries, hair salons; no sports; no gatherings of more than 10 (last I heard); weddings, elective surgeries, vacations, elections, tax deadlines, all being put on hold. And now we practice “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” as we check anxiously for the latest update–which seems to change for the worse hourly.

My question is this: How are you doing with all of this? How are you feeling–fearful, angry, frustrated, depressed, vulnerable, confused, bored, numb? What do you think of the slower pace of life this crisis has forced upon many of us? Has your prayer been affected by the virus? Is it more earnest, more difficult, more expansive, more sincere, more bewildered? What do you miss most: social interactions, your normal schedule, greater financial security, going out to eat, going to church, watching sports?

Do you see any good things happening as a result of this pandemic? If so, what? I have a sticker on my community car that says: Kindness is contagious. I didn’t put it there, and sometimes I want to remove it. (Too much pressure!) But I strongly believe what it says. COVID-19 has resulted in a lot of kindness going around. Have you noticed it too? Our Ohio Governor, Mike DeWine, suggested we might even use this time to write letters to family and friends. His audience snickered a little. He defended his remark. “Yes,” he said. “People still like to get letters!” How true–especially anyone who is isolated or not online.

I’d like to pass on this beautiful poem by Rev. Lynn Ungar, an ordained minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church. This poem, entitled “Pandemic,” has spread around the world via the internet—faster than the coronavirus! So, you may have already seen it. I tracked down a website where you can read more of Ungar’s poems: https://www.uua.org/offices/people/lynn-ungar

“Pandemic” by Rev. 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 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 shall live.

PS: If you’re looking for Mass, try your local diocese for Mass online or EWTN. Bishop Robert Barron (and another priest) of Los Angeles celebrate Mass online: Go to “Word On Fire daily Mass.” You can access Mass throughout the day. I’ve also tried several parishes in my area too. Check their websites: Church of the Resurrection in Solon, OH, St. Ambrose in Brunswick, OH, and St. Helen’s in Newberry, OH.

Also: there’s a little treat at the end of this blog.

Our song today, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” was written in 1708 by Isaac Watts. It’s a paraphrase of Psalm 139. I chose an “oldie” to link us to our ancestors of the faith (both Christian and Jewish) who, amidst their hardships and trials, trusted in God’s love and providence.

The Little Treat: If you need a break from all the heavy news, I suggest you view a short video of baby goats frolicking in their pajamas! For some reason, I couldn’t embed it or provide the link. But just google “youtube baby goats in pajamas” and several videos come up. Click the one that is 2 mins. and 58 seconds long entitled “The Greatest Goat Kid PJ Party Ever!” The kids live at SUNFLOWER Farm Creamery in Maine. They sometimes wear pj’s at night to keep them warm. For me, there’s no surer sign of spring on a farm than baby animals!

I gave you lots of questions to reflect on today… plus a beautiful poem, a song, a baby goat video… I welcome your responses below.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas DeFreitas March 23, 2020 at 5:32 am

Hello, Sr Melannie, hello, everyone:

Well, good morning to everybody! Yes, it’s a bit strange. I miss gathering. I’m going to gather like mad if I survive this pandemic. Mass, poetry readings, meetings of other sorts, concerts, what have you.

I love solitude. I think it’s one of the extra-sacramental “places” where we can encounter God very powerfully. But I have a “monkey mind” or a “hamster wheel” where the self-talk can get obsessive and negative, at times. I need Somebody Else. I need something that takes me outta myself. Above all, I need fresh air and gentle vernal sunlight. Under ordinary circumstances!

I worry about my 90-year-old buddy in the North End of Boston. (The news reported the virus-related death of a nonagenarian in Suffolk County, and my heart stopped.) I’ve paid him 2 visits since our cautionary measures began — taking, of course, those precautions myself. He’s shut in, basically, getting visits from a nurse, a homemaker, and a kind neighbour who lives above him. But of course, I worry. I don’t want to imperil him by visiting often, and I don’t want to abandon him either.

I miss readings and other gatherings. Zoom is wonderful technology, but my connectivity often experiences problems midway through a Zoom chat.

Meditation, the rosary, music (YouTube is a blessing!), friends (another blessing!), and brief solitary walks: all help to keep me sane.

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John E Hopkins March 23, 2020 at 5:39 am

God bless you, Tom. You’re a good man! We’ll get through this!

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John E Hopkins March 23, 2020 at 5:55 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie…..
Good morning, all….

What a beautiful poem by Rev. Lynn Ungar. The line, “reach out with your words” really resonates with me these days because for the past week (and two more to follow), I’ve been reaching out to my students on-line. This new teaching reality has been disorientating to say the least. I am an “old wineskin” trying to hold this new wine. It’s like being a first year teacher again, and I’m about ready to burst!

I like what Jesus said in yesterday’s gospel after his disciples asked — regarding the blind man — who sinned, this man or his parents. Jesus says neither: “it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

“The works of God” — patience, kindness, love. Yes, “Promise this world your love.” Amen.

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Thomas DeFreitas March 23, 2020 at 6:08 am

Beautiful thoughts, John. And thanks for your encouragement!

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Jean Canatsey March 23, 2020 at 11:45 am

Thank you, John, for the thought about trying to put “new wine” into “old wine skins”. We all need to reflect on that.

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Ed Johnson March 23, 2020 at 6:15 am

Sister Melannie,
Touching reflection. Thank you. So, how am I doing? Some words that immediately come to mind: fearful, hopeful, prayerful, bewildered, thankful, angry, trustful, delighted, saddened, united, separated, thoughtful, uplifted, watchful, confused, understanding, loving, concerned, isolated, connected, changed……..My wife was exposed to Covid 19 nine days ago….thankfully so far no symptoms. She, my daughter, and I share prayer, readings, reflection, novenas every evening, a practice which will remain permanent even after all this passes(changed). Internet streaming of daily mass from our church gives an entire new dimension to mass attendance; a unique sort of connectedness to our parish community. The poem is wonderful; shall check out Reverend Ungar’s collection. And the goats…..well, such a delight (love the baby observing all of this!). Sending an attitude of trust to all…..Peace and Blessings!
Ed J

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Thomas DeFreitas March 23, 2020 at 6:40 am

Ed, be assured of my prayers joining yours and your family’s for your wife’s health, and for the health of all those who are dear to you.

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John E Hopkins March 23, 2020 at 7:26 am

I second Tom’s words, Ed. God bless ya!

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Jean Canatsey March 23, 2020 at 11:48 am

Our prayers are with you, Ed.

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Jack DiLullo March 23, 2020 at 6:58 am

Sister, thank you for the post today. Here is the goat link BTW

https://youtu.be/LQhJqoRbaII

Very funny. My grandkids will get a kick out of it.

Jack

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 23, 2020 at 8:29 am

Thank you, Jack. When I put this link on my blog, it said the video is not available. But when I just clicked YOUR link (the same link I had!) the video came up! You must have the magic touch. Thank you so much! Sr. Melannie

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Jean Canatsey March 23, 2020 at 11:50 am

Thank you, Jack! My husband and I (and our little dog, Mikey) loved it!

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Jack DiLullo March 23, 2020 at 10:07 pm

My wife lived it too…made her day.

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Kathleen Magiera March 23, 2020 at 7:06 am

Good morning Sr. Melannie and friends!

I try to build in structure to my day. It helps me cope. Sometimes I just feel lonely. I am an extrovert. My husband and our dog Ernie help a lot.

I have discovered on FB a faith sharing led by Fr. James Martin at 3pm everyday except Saturday when he is on Twitter. He reflects on the readings of the day. It is wonderful.

Saying the Rosary regularly is great idea. I usually pray it in car but driving around much less these days.

My mother-in-law had an eight hour surgery last Thursday. She survived but no one can see her because the hospital is on lock down.

God bless!
Kathleen

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John E Hopkins March 23, 2020 at 7:30 am

Hang in there, Kathleen. Praying the Rosary is indeed a great idea. A bead for you and yours — especially your mother-in-law!

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Jean Canatsey March 23, 2020 at 11:54 am

Kathleen,
My husband and I of 63 years empathize since this is a possibility that weighs on our minds. What if? You and your family are in our prayers.

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Kathleen March 23, 2020 at 4:13 pm

Thanks for the extra prayers! My mother-in-law is coming home on Wednesday.

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Jan Honeycutt March 23, 2020 at 8:18 am

I don’t usually comment , I wanted to today though.
This is so lovely and yes yes yes to all the questions.
Love and bless out there… hearts join….
jan in red Oak Texas….

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Barbara Erdmann March 23, 2020 at 8:27 am

Being retired, I should be used to not doing alot. But since retiring I found myself busier than ever. I miss most of all, the Eucharist, volunteering at the hospital and Church. I find myself praying more, so that’s a good thing. I have confidence that this will be resolved. All the love and concern I am seeing on social media is so encouraging. So is this bad or good for all of us,I don’t know.

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Barbara March 23, 2020 at 8:47 am

I am sometimes very afraid of what is happening, but other times I am doing my best to love the quiet. I do my readings early in the morning (5:30am) and while reading I am now hearing the robins doing their early morning song, and after they are thru, the cardinals start. I feed the birds (and have for years) and belong to Cornell Lab to count birds so we have some idea of what is happening with them. I also have a garden with lots of flowers for butterflies so I will be having lots to do outside. I think that helps a lot of people. Outside and with the creatures. Thanks you. You do such wonderful readings and I have your books, which are wonderful also. Hope everyone can get thru this.

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Debbie McCoy March 23, 2020 at 8:49 am

Your email makes Monday so much better, especially now. I have some anxiety issues so this current situation is hard for me. I’m doing pretty well overall but then I feel like I’m going to throw up. I’m normally a busy person, teaching, chess with a friend, dancing, book club, meetings… I am grateful for the way we can reach out to one another using technology. But there is time now for prayer, to just breathe, and to trust in God. I’m learning to slow down and just be. Perhaps this is the gift of the corona virus.

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Chris Keil March 23, 2020 at 8:59 am

Good question. I remember one of your earlier posts about chossing sacrifices for Lent, and that sometimes our sacrifices choose us………..well that’s certainly happened this year!
I think of all the “normal” things that we are having to “give up”, things that many of us would normally give up for Lent, except now it’s not our choice! Things like: eating out, going to the movie, all after school activities, and of course school. Work for some people, although I still get to go to work, with a change in how I see patients though. I wonder, will this change the way we look at life in the future? If so, for how long? I mean, since it won’t be so easy to eat out, will we cook more at home, eat more at home, have more family meals, since parents and kids aren’t rushing from work/school to an after school practice or activity and having to “eat in the car”. Will screen time go down and reading, or family games go up? Will some of us lose weight because we’re eating better by cooking at home? Will we learn how much money we can save by not eating out, going to the bar, movie, concert, etc.? Will we sleep better without all the life stressors we had of work/school/home? Will kids play outside more? Will adults go outside more? Will we be able to appreciate God’s gifts in nature? Will we become more “connected” to those we’ve been disconnected from? It seems as though we have been given a chance to “go back to the simpler time” we often lament about. It appears these changes will be with us for several months…………which may be a good start to a lifestyle change………..or will we just “tolerate it” and once things “get back to normal”, will we join the human “race” again at warp speed?
I’m missing all the social contacts, and of course singing in choir! Even though I can do office visits “telephonically”, it’s just not the same as talking to someone face to face.
Thank you Sr. Melannie
PS. I’ve been reading some your books during this Lenten time, a little bit each day!!!!!

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Cathy March 23, 2020 at 9:22 am

Thanks for this reflection! Last week I would wake up with this song “O God our help in ages past”. Confirmation with this post that He is indeed our hope for years to come & our eternal home.
Peace

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Mary March 23, 2020 at 9:24 am

I usually don’t leave comments but something is moving me to do so. I have felt every emotion on every printed mood chart. I am usually very strong and now feel unraveled. I have gathered my different groups on Zoom and that is delightful and frustrating as us seniors waddle through tech. A poem by Kitty O’Mear is also very touching. I have reached out to someone everyday by mail, writing in long hand, phone, or tech. I have made food for our neighbors and now will tackle making face masks for health care workers . I also ” My Charted” my docs and said I hold them in prayer. I have also put a lot of pressure on myself to use this time to the best. I naturally love quiet and solitude but this too is challanging. I hold all in prayer as we lament, pled, praise and hope. I appreciate the reference to Father Martin’s sharing. Stay strong everyone.

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Mary Therese March 23, 2020 at 9:25 am

Since my husband has Lewy Body dementia we’ve been socially isolated for a few years already and we have found ways to occupy our days. Now that I can’t go out to the store it will be a bit more challenging, but God gave me a wild imagination, so I’ll find ways to fill that gap. Two links I’ve found to be useful: Creighton University Online ministries “Pray Lent” page. Also https://folkcloud.com. which offers folk music from around the world. As I type this I’m listening to music from Azerbaijan. I woke up to an inch of snow on the ground here in Kalamazoo and it’s been entertaining to watch the Robins try to run through the snow! A winter wonderland today. Peace to all of you.

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Kathy P March 23, 2020 at 9:50 am

I , like the rest of you , miss the gathering of friends and my community. I miss my library volunteer work. I have found that this time has allowed me to reconnect with my husband on a different level. Long walks, reading, doing jigsaw puzzles and knitting is helping to past the time. One link I have found helpful is Mass-online.org. You can see daily Mass live streamed from different churches all over the world. It has been amazing to see the inside of those churches and hear so many different perspectives on the gospel. Sometimes the accents make it a challenge! As our Governor here in Kentucky says, we will get through this together! Blessings and peace.
Kathy

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Jean March 23, 2020 at 10:00 am

Good Morning Sister Melannie and all,
Thank you for an uplifting Monday morning.

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Susan Slaninka March 23, 2020 at 10:29 am

Thank you as always for the wonderful message this morning. I already teach online and find that students connect with each other often, even more than if they were in a traditional classroom. A pleasant surprise. I’m missing personal contact with folks I see each week, but we are all adapting. Zoom meetings, phone calls, email and texts help a bit, but it’s not the same as being with people. I pray each day that God will provide an answer to our prayers. In the meantime, I have a Zoom meeting this morning, a bible study Zoom meeting tomorrow, and have a DVD to keep doing Tai Chi. Stay safe everyone.

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Pam March 23, 2020 at 10:40 am

Good morning…Thank you for the uplifting message this morning.
That goat video is a hoot!!!!…
We watched our mass from Pax Christi Catholic Church in Eden Prairie Mn. It was live streamed… so wonderful to be able to do that…I find that I am feeling very emotional…was on the verge of tears all through mass…I feel with this virus that God is telling us something…reminding us who is in control…..I do pray more fervently…My prayers seem to be so much more urgent..and I feel like I want everyone to wake up and start praying. Yes, I have noticed more people being kind, reaching out to those in need of food etc…If everyone who heed the ;message to stay home… hopefully this virus would come under control sooner.There seem to be so many young people 18-50 that are just defining authorities and doing what they want….I am having trouble with the love thy neighbor thing with those to are so selfish.
Stay safe… God Bless…

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Deb March 23, 2020 at 11:32 am

Thank you Sr.Melannie! A dear friend sent me this poem and I shared it with others. It reflected my thoughts that, as dire as the virus is, what else could have stopped all our busy-ness and brought us back to what is most essential in our lives—those we love and cherish, and the God on whom all our hopes are centered. I am praying constantly for an end to this pandemic, safety of our people, and a true renewal in our faithfulness. I miss mass, but find comfort in online support and the knowledge that God’s church is reaching out to all to unite us in prayer and hope.

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Jean Canatsey March 23, 2020 at 11:40 am

Good Morning, Sr.Melannie!
I enjoyed this morning’s reflection as well as all of the comments today. How do I feel about all of this? Mostly I am confused but really grateful for the quiet (If we turn off the news!) and the slow down in our pace of life. Imagine! No deadlines!
My husband and I have established a new routine beginning with a live-streamed 8am daily mass from our home parish of St Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs and Sunday we even “ attended” 2 masses-10am from our parish and 11am from Our Lady of Lourdes in Daytona Beach. (Check that one out on Facebook.) Fr. Phil is something special!
We are spending a lot more time in prayer and I am faithfully journaling. I have a FaceTime session with my Spiritual Advisor set up for Thursday afternoon. I’m beginning to understand the appeal of the contemplative life. I hope we are able to continue enjoying this slower pace when this is all over.
On the lighter side: Our little dog, Mikey, enjoys watching nature shows and went absolutely crazy over the goats pajama party! He jumped up on the TV table and even tried to find them behind the set! Thanks for the lovely treat!

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Christine March 23, 2020 at 1:58 pm

Good afternoon Sister….thank you for the wonderful song today, certainly an “oldie but goodie”. Since I am a singer, I started to sing along with it. However, partway through I realized that I was drowning out the choir and missing the beautiful intricate harmonies they were doing. So I stopped singing and replayed it from the beginning. I think it was God telling me – now is a time to be quiet and listen!
Blessings always….

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Kathy Hassink March 23, 2020 at 8:27 pm

Hello dear Cousin!
Its wonderful to hear your encouraging words during this time of stress and uncertainty. Our family is doing well but of course I worry about Marla – she is an ER physician working 24-hour shifts at one hospital and 12-hour shifts at another and occasionally helping out at a nearby urgent care center when they are short-handed. All that with a busy husband, a two-year-old and four-month-old! We’ve been keeping our distance with this virus going around but I miss their family! Face Timing with Kurt and his family in Columbus… he and Chelsea are working from home and entertaining their two-year-old and four-month old also. Those last two grand babies arrived within 48 hours of each other! Praying that my family and yours stay healthy. Please give my love to all of your siblings, nieces and nephews. Take care and stay healthy – Kathy

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Sharron Kenney March 24, 2020 at 8:16 am

Dear Sr. Melannie,

Without minimizing the concern and sadness I share with everyone, I feel a great sense of joy and peace that the pace of life has slowed, and I can actually experience Lent more intentionally and profoundly. Normally, my work and activities fill my days, keeping me overly busy. Now, through contemplation, I feel the presence of our dear Lord and Our Lady so strongly. I feel safe, protected, and enveloped in their love. When this is over, I hope to emerge better equipped to do God’s will.

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Jacqueline Schumacher March 24, 2020 at 10:04 am

Dear Sr. Melanie, Thank you so very much for your words of inspiration, as well as the beautiful video. An IHM religious sister, a friend of mine, who resides at Camilla Hall, had shared that she reads your articles. So happy she told me about you! May God bless you and yours. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

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Kay March 28, 2020 at 10:43 am

Thank you for the comfort of your words, the music, the prayers.

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Lupe Converse April 1, 2020 at 12:10 am

Hi, I really enjoyed your poetry, religious hymns, especially Celtic cause I like the bagpipes. It was so inspirational and uplifting, especially during these times, as we miss the usual hymns at mass. I’m so happy to have found your website. The baby goats in their pjs were too cute. Thank you

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Madelyn Frances Svidergol April 2, 2020 at 2:37 am

I’m still working at 70, and I work for one of the major hospitals here in Pittsburgh, but I have been grounded. I know nothing and after a talk with my supervisor I still know nothing. I am not getting paid and not sure how my Insurance benefits will be paid but guess what I am at peace. Don’t ask me how, maybe because I try to take one day at a time. I’m trying to take this time to rest, I don’t think I realized how tired my body is. Let us pray for each other and hope for a solution to all of this soon, especially a cure for all who have the virus. God bless us all!

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