Living in lockdown
Fr Michael Sheil SJ, Rector of Clongowes Wood College SJ in County Kildare, reports on the latest developments in the Jesuit and school community and tells a story of coming together relevant to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They all lived together and shared everything in common ……. [Acts 2:44]
The first reading of last Sunday’s Mass [on 19 April] describes the first Christians – after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – living together and sharing everything in common – and recognized as associates of Christ [Acts 4:13].
Future generations reading that line might consider it was a brief description of Ireland in 2020 – and of how we have been living in lockdown for these past few weeks. For hasn’t this been the experience of everyone – as we have gone into confinement mode and accepted the Government-imposed restrictions? Everywhere families have been coming to terms with the demands of the lockdown – facing the challenge of non-holiday confinement – and yet discovering or rediscovering the joys of the sharing – not just space but time!
Here in the Holiday Camp [where the regular charge-of-the-Light-Brigade on the stairs should be shaking the foundations!] it is strangely quiet. The Community is doing well, thank God. We come together every day for Mass at noon – with social distancing easily respected as we are well spread out in the College Chapel!
As has also happened all over the country – our own little “family” of 5 has welcomed two prodigal sons – Scholastics back from abroad. Niall Leahy – well-known to current and recent CWCnians – is due to be ordained a priest in June, please God – and Pat Corkery will begin his regency in Gonzaga in September [covid-19 volente!]. They have also reduced the average age considerably – and have provided the residents with news from the wider world! As we spend much longer in each others’ company at table [no duty to rush us away!] the Elder Lemons can [as Elders are inclined to do!] regale our younger Companions with tales of the good-old-days in the Society!
In his recent excellent letter to the Student body – our School Captain gave his fellow-CWCnian some ideas for looking after others in this family lockdown. He called on everyone – to try and make the life of your Parents a little easier around the house! – and he suggested a few simple ways ……..doing the dishwasher, hoovering the house or cleaning the windows. One might add another challenge [beginning with one which Mikey might have thought a bridge too far!] – making your own bed – and even trying your hand at baking (but do, please, test it out on yourself first!)!!
It all seems to fit in well with my quote from Sunday’s first reading – for the best gift we have to give to each other is …….. our time and our selves!
It leads me to a story you may remember from TL Night Prayer – it illustrates well the need to share ……..
One day a holy man was speaking to God: “Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.” So God led him to two doors. He opened one and the holy man looked in. In the centre of the room was a group of young boys sitting at a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water.
The boys sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arm, they could not get the spoons back to their mouths. The holy man shuddered at seeing their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell.”
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first room. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The boys were using the same long spoons in the same way – but here they were well nourished, laughing and talking. God said, “You have seen Heaven”. The holy man said, “I don’t understand.”
“It is very simple,” God said, “In the first room the greedy ones were thinking only of themselves. But, in the second, the difference is that the boys have thought of reaching out to feed someone else – and in turn fed themselves.
In that way, everyone is looked after – everyone is happy to be together. You might call that second group ……. yes, you’ve guessed it! – men-for-others! Are you someone who shares your spoon with others?
Just like those first Christian communities – it is in our togetherness that we can live to survive and come through to better days! At home and together – would you be recognized as an associate of Jesus?
And didn’t Jesus say: Give and you will receive in return – in full measure – pressed down and overflowing?!
Dearest Lord – teach me to be generous – teach me to serve ………. well – you know the rest!!