by Sr. Christine Emmanuel (Novice)
Imagine these scenes: the used-to-be 24 hour traffic along the main highway in Manila, Philippines is nowhere in sight; the busy and noisy streets of the slums of Tondo and the cries of children and men playing in thousands of dilapidated covered courts right in the middle of shanties of greater Metro Manila – are gone; the Malls, daily “summer” respite of the rich and the middle classes stopped operations; to thousands of millennials, concerts and get-togethers are banned. For the poor, their little sources of “small talks” while sweeping their frontyards had to be cut, daily wage earners had to look for creative ways to at least keep their families alive for the weeks to come. The past days, the frontliners are not anymore those with guns and patrol cars nor tanks, but those with gloves and masks, those who wear personal protective equipment shielding their bodies from the invisible enemy. These sights and more are the ones to behold now – at least here in the Philippines.
And, in another blink of an eye, the scenes change again, each one is told to stay home – that is the new face of charity. Every family is told to follow whatever is instructed them – subtly, to keep them safe and alive in the coming months. Each country beefs up their security measures to save lives. The world suddenly became in a hurry to go back to basics. And at one point, because of this Novel Coronavirus 2019, a new perspective is slowly emerging – that the world suddenly goes through its “Novitiate” months – a time and space so apt so as to allow everyone to RECOLLECT, RECONNECT, to PLUG IN again – to the very SOURCE of our existence.
The Enhanced Community Quarantine seemed to be like that of a time set apart from all that is happening outside. To see things from a different and bigger and meaningful perspective – a renewal. One would notice a series of fresh air that has been blowing since this pandemic began if only we were conscious enough to be still and know that He is making all things new.
In the Novitiate, everything flows from prayer and so too in the world today – each one, each family, suddenly tries to give birth to a renewed habit of praying together – which unfortunately during the advent of the new millennium was fading away.
Very much like novices; the world is now told what to do and how to do things – for it is for the best in the time being. For those who have been living a carefree life – obedience might be a real struggle. But if one considers to be life-giving for the community and for the country, the humility to obey and to trust that our government and those who care for us, know and are doing what is best for everyone. We learn to trust God more because all our plans are put in a halt – God now takes control of our journey. Our NOW is that we learn to live day by day.
Maybe the earth too is breathing its best. Only at this moment that we have stopped polluting our common home, if there is something worth thanking, it is this. That we give some breathing space for our environment. The time when first class nations are stopping its productions and factories. When the world’s highways are free from cars. Have we actually taken the time to stop at sunrise to admire the golden rays we can now clearly see? Or have we taken even a shortest stare to sigh at the beauty of sunset? Maybe the vast sea is also having the time of its life when beaches are emptied, when ships are docked. Mother Earth probably is thanking us for allowing her to breathe once more.
For us, the Novitiate Community, we suddenly are home away from home. We find ourselves together with our bigger communities here in Assumption San Lorenzo. This too, we find as breath of fresh air, that at this time of pandemic, we are with our Sisters – to pray together, to act together to respond to the PRESENT call of our time. To be uprooted from our reality as a formation community is already a challenge. To be suddenly thrown to a different dynamics and context invited us to widen our perspectives and our sense of self. The very gift of the two communities of Cana and Emmaus helped us to enter into another avenue of formation – to continue to nurture our sense of belonging to a wider community. Now more than ever, we are learning that formation is not only in the four corners of the Novitiate House, it goes as far as our dispositions can embrace.
We have been here for over a month, and in our own little ways, along with the other two communities, we try to be of service to our fellow countrymen, who are braving the battle against our common invisible enemy – COVID 19. The past week was for us an experience of both being “Martha and Mary” so as to respond to the needs of our frontliners and some poor families nearby by providing them lunch packs and food packs, respectively.
As for the rest of the Sisters, we are committed to pray the rosary every evening to ask the intercession of Our Lady during these trying times.
Pope Francis’ Urbe et Orbi gives as a classic rendition of “hope springs eternal.” The Pope didn’t promise a sudden miracle to end this pandemic. But our hope stems from this: that Jesus is with us all throughout this ordeal. He is our “Emmanuel” and He never abandons. When the time comes, we can only await the beckoning of a new day. We may be going through our longest Lenten Season in history, but we are always promised an Easter – a glorious and hopeful resurrection. For we will always be an Easter people!