04/04/2020, 18:58 – Martin: PALM SUNDAY 2020 – A REFLECTION
Dear Brothers and Friends,
Greetings from Mount St. Joseph, Cork! I hope you are keeping safe and well.
We are living through extraordinary times. The Covid 19 pandemic moves across the world, affecting every country.
While China and South Korea would appear to have moved to the other side of the virus, most countries are still in its grip.
I hope that the countries of the developing world, where numbers of cases are small at present, will be able to avoid the worst by implementing proactive measures to break transmission.
What does all this mean for us as Presentation Brothers and Presentation Family?
For those of you who attended the L.E.A.F. Conference for leaders and formators in Dublin last July – how do we lead through this crisis and form people for the challenges of the future?
Pope Francis would say we need to proceed by way of discernment. What is God asking of us now as we seek to respond to a suffering world?
Major challenges in mission await. Beyond this crisis, there will be a great need for repair, renewal and healing. Many people, perhaps most especially those who suffer poverty or disadvantage, will need help.
God is setting a new agenda for the Church now. Religious and lay groups are called to be at the centre of this.
We will need to set aside our own agendas to respond to the great call of our age. We will probably have to take on this challenge in the context of economic recession and downturn.
What prophetic response will the Presentation Brothers and the Presentation Family make?
This is an issue for discernment for leaders, formators, members and all those with whom we share mission.
Here are some things we can do now:
Pray for the deceased, the bereaved, the sick and the recovering. Pray for medical personnel and frontline/essential workers. We have many past pupils of our schools in these categories, including many young people, who are laying their lives on the line at the moment. They need our prayerful support. Pray for civil and Church leaders that they may have the wisdom and courage to lead well.
Stay in touch by phone, text, What’s App, email etc. Offer words of encouragement and hope. Be conscious, especially, of those who feel vulnerable or isolated.
Re-visit the notes and practices from our Leadership Conference last year. You need them more than ever now! Be conscious of the Power of Gratitude and practice it as you connect with people.
Be present in the moment. Pray for the grace, as leaders and formators, to act in a way that is worthy of our call.
Prepare for the new challenges and mission that await us when this pandemic subsides.
LESSONS FROM HISTORY
History is a great teacher. The Italians say: “Chi vivra vedra”, loosely translated as “Whoever lives will see”. In 1918, a flu epidemic swept across the world, infecting a third of the population of the earth.
It raged in Ireland in the winter of 1918 and the spring of 1919. Historians tell us that 23000 Irish people died of this ‘flu’ (It was later identified as a virus).
In our cemetery at Mount St. Joseph are the graves of Br. Malcolm Bartholomew O’Driscoll (Died 18 November 1918 – Age 31) and Br. Patrick Luke Barrett (Novice. Died 15 February 1919 – Age 21). Br. Lawrence Salvator O’Callaghan also died in 1918 and is buried in Enniskillen.
Novice Br. Luke was almost certainly a victim of the flu pandemic. The record mentions that he died of pneumonia (which often followed the virus). His brother, Matthew Barrett was also a Presentation Brother. (He went on to serve in England and was in the school in Orpington when the air force of Nazi Germany dropped bombs on the school in the blitz of 1940. He survived and died in 1952).
The period 1918/1919 was a hugely traumatic time in Ireland and Europe. I often think of my grandparents generation who were young at that time. They lived through the devastation of World War 1, the 1916 Rebellion, the Flu Epidemic of 1918/1919, the War of Independence, the Civil War and the Ecomonic War with Britain!
As leaders and formators, as Brothers and as members of the Presentation Family, let us pray for some share in the faith and courage of these people. Let us pray through the intercession of Mary, Blessed Edmund Rice, Br. Luke Barrett and our ancestors in the faith.
We do not choose our times. The times choose us. As we enter Holy Week, may we be worthy of the challenge before us. May we witness to Christian hope, so greatly needed now.
With prayers and good wishes,
P.S. Sometimes, a little humour helps. A friend told me this story yesterday:
A man is walking down the street in Cork. He meets God. The man asks God: “What are you doing here?”. God says: “I’m working from home now”!!!😁