Time to combat fatigue with faith

In this illustration photo, a disposable medical mask hangs on the side of a pew at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Minneapolis. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

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In mid-October, a New York Times headline seemed to sum up the feelings of a weary nation: “As the Coronavirus Surges, a New Culprit Emerges: Pandemic Fatigue.”

It’s a phrase that doesn’t need further explanation, because we’re all too familiar with it. We are over the restrictions, and the need for care and caution. We’re aching for a return to a sense of normalcy. For many of us, just attending Mass or eating inside a restaurant sans mask would feel liberating.

As we approach the holidays, the feeling of pandemic fatigue is becoming even more acute. Dr. Anthony Fauci, for many the face of the U.S. COVID-19 response, has urged families to have scaled-back gatherings, with only immediate family present. We know what those are like. We had them for Easter, for Mother’s Day, for graduations, for anniversaries, for birthday parties. To add Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve to that list — time with family and friends to which we look forward all year long — is sobering indeed.

Despite our fatigue, the pleas for continued caution from infectious disease experts, of course, must be heeded. Since peaking at more than 75,000 new cases per day in mid-July, the coronavirus is surging again in the United States. On Oct. 16, we hit 70,000 new cases per day. More than 8.2 million people have been diagnosed with the disease, and 220,000 people have died. With schools back in session, and with gatherings moving indoors with the arrival of cold weather, experts are predicting a rough few months ahead.

In the midst of these challenges, as in all times of difficulty, people of faith are blessed with the comforting knowledge that we are not alone. We also know that we are called to accept our sufferings willingly, and carry our crosses — big and small — as a way of uniting ourselves to Christ crucified.

Which brings me to a resource that I think can be really helpful for people of faith today, and which is coming out at just the right time: “Finding Christ in the Crisis: What the Pandemic Can Teach Us” (OSV, $1.95). Written by Michael R. Heinlein (yes, my husband) and Father Harrison Ayre of the Diocese of Victoria, British Columbia, the small booklet puts the pandemic into the perspective of faith and provides a much-needed antidote to pandemic fatigue. It’s also affordably priced to encourage pastors to share it with their flocks for encouragement, spiritual growth and fortification for the journey ahead.

“Right now, a lot of us feel abandoned not only by the Church, but even by God. We lack a spiritual interpretation of this moment and are unable to discern God’s presence at this time,” the authors write in the book’s introduction. “The goal of this book is to begin to shed light on what God might be saying to us now, both in the Church and in the world. Using scriptural interpretation and examining particular realities of faith, we aim to identify what God expects of us and what he is trying to say to us in this challenging time. The path forward through the pandemic is, as in every circumstance of life for Christians, to follow Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. And his way is the way of the Cross — the way of charity and self-sacrifice for others.”

St. Paul, writing to the Romans, reminds us that “all things work for good for those who love God.” That includes times of pandemic, which disrupt our plans and deflate our spirits. Instead of giving into feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment and loss, let us continue to learn, to grow, to extend ourselves for others.

Let’s combat fatigue with faith. And with the confidence that this, too, shall pass.

Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.

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