A COVID-19 Grace: Seeing Myself as I Am

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"A COVID-19 grace" by Amanda Woodiel (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2017), CC0/PD

I’m uncomfortable these days. Are you? I feel like life is playing strip poker with me, and I keep losing the hand. Who I truly am is becoming more and more exposed. This is actually a grace. How can I repent if I do not know my sins? Here I share with you what I have learned about myself and antidotes for these spiritual diseases.

I have few practical skills.

Suddenly having weeks at home as a family is an unheard of opportunity in this day and age. Think of what all we could learn! This is a superb opportunity to pass down the wisdom of generations: whittling, darning, sewing, canning, crocheting. Except — oh yeah — I don’t know how to do any of those things. All of those thousands of hours I was doing things like window-shopping on Zillow, I could have spent on learning practical skills.

Antidote: DIY online videos. Pick one thing you would like to learn, order supplies online, and get to it.

I am handcuffed to my phone.

I don’t do social media, I don’t follow any blogs (oh, the irony!), and I don’t read news headlines on a daily basis. (By the way, even so, I knew of Covid-19 before it was in my state, so if you do all of these things because you are worried you won’t know what’s happening in the world, I assure you, the news will get to you). And YET, during this pandemic, I am handcuffed to my phone. I check my emails and texts constantly and ludicrously.

Antidote: Disable gmail app on my phone. Put my phone on the countertop. Set 4x/day when I will check texts and 1x/day when I will check email and headlines. This takes gargantuan strength. Ask for the grace to do it!

I took the ability to receive the Eucharist any time I wanted for granted.

It never occurred to me that I might be fasting from Our Lord this Lent. It still boggles the mind, frankly, and yet increasing my yearning to receive the Lord might be one very good thing to come out of this. I pray that the Lord will give me the grace to be a daily communicant once I can receive Him again.

Antidote: Make a spiritual communion on a daily basis. Offer up the fast from the Eucharist as reparation for my lukewarmness and for neglecting to receive Our Lord on all of the days when I could have.

I said I wanted a less-busy schedule, but once I got it, I didn’t know what to do with myself … or with my kids.

It was Blaise Pascal who said that all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit in a room quietly. The truth is, I have become so addicted to being distracted and entertained, that I cannot sit alone in a room for one hour doing nothing. I don’t know what to do with myself if I’m not on a gadget, cooking, or reading a book.

Antidote: sit alone in a room for 10 minutes. Then 15. Then 20. Learn how to let silence and solitude creep into my soul. Learn how to think of bigger things than what I’m making for dinner. This will take practice and diligence. This will be difficult but will reap rewards.

I’m perturbed by the thought of not having enough milk (or canola oil).

In this land plenty, when do we ever have to do without? We can have blueberries in February and pizza at midnight. A simple thing like being out of one food item is enough to throw me in a tizzy. I have lacked compassion for those in the world who live in a perpetual state of need, preferring to buy myself unnecessary items over easing their misery.

Antidote: do NOT run out to the store any time I need something. Learn to go without ketchup on a burger if I don’t have any or without jelly on toast. Use up food in my fridge/freezer I don’t like just to mortify this tyrannical desire to have what I want when I want it. In fact, learn to fast.

I have made science, medicine, and good health an idol.

When there is trouble in the world, I look to science and government to fix it. I do not actually expect God to intervene, so I do not look to Him but to false gods.

Antidote: Science, medicine, and good health can be temporal goods, but they cannot be worshipped in themselves. Ask for the grace to identify ways in which I have elevated them above their nature.

I feel apprehensive even though I know only temporal things are happening and that the eternal truths are unchanged.

This is the lesson to be learned: true freedom comes in detachment from worldly things. I don’t mean this in the sense of the eastern religions but in the sense of perceiving all of this world in light of eternity. Who was it who said that St. Francis saw the world right side up while we see it upside down? I often think of St. Francis as being the most truly free man the world has ever known, and he had no money nor position in society (once he gave it up). If you love God and His will above good health and prosperity for both you and your loved ones, you are truly free.

Antidote: Ask for the grace to see with an eternal perspective. Ask for the joy and peace that comes from God alone. As Father Jacques Phillippe wrote, ask for the good things of this world, but ask for the grace to be detached from preferring one outcome over the other.

I am not really all that brave.

Before Covid-19 had been known to be in our county, I had an idea to process around the limits of our county bearing an image of Our Lady. I mean, I had an idea that someone else should do it. I am too craven. I told myself that I couldn’t do it because I have five kids at home, which is true. But it is also true that I probably wouldn’t have done so even if I didn’t.

Antidote: Ask for intercession from saints whose courage I find inspiring: St. Catherine of Siena, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Catherine of Alexandria. Look for moments in my day when I can practice courage: saying “God bless you” to a stranger, for example.

I prefer to keep looking at updates rather than pray.

I have tricked myself into thinking that I am “doing something” when I look at updates. All I am doing is fostering an illusion that I am somehow in control by knowing the most updated news (which, in all candor, is usually speculation anyway). I am robbing the world of my prayer when I prefer constant updates to prayer. After all, it does not do anyone much good for me to read that someone in my state passed away. It may do an eternity’s worth of good for me to pray for those who will die today and who will die alone.

Antidote: read news headlines once per day. Every time I am tempted to grab for my phone, utter an aspiration instead: “Lord, may your mercy be upon us.”

In fact — scariest of all — I may not even really believe prayer will do any good.

Isn’t this the crux of it? It’s the age-old sin of Eden. Does God really love me? Can He be trusted?

Antidote: Review my life and count my blessings. Recollect the many and specific ways God has shown Himself to be faithful to me and my family. Marvel at how, when events did not go as I had hoped, I saw good come from it through God’s mercy.

Dear reader, I expose my weaknesses to you to show you that you are not alone if you too feel any of these things. We are all sinners saved by grace. I firmly believe that God is at work in the world and that where evil abounds, grace abounds all the more. I know that God will draw good out of all things. Let’s turn to Him in true repentance for our sins and give Him space to work in our own hearts, in our families, and in our communities.


Copyright 2020 Amanda Woodiel

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About Author

Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 11 to 3, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who believes that the circumstances of her life -- both good and bad -- are pregnant with grace. She leads a moms' group at her parish that focuses on simple and meaningful ways to live the liturgical year at home. Amanda blogs at In a Place of Grace.

4 Comments

  1. Yes! Thank you for writing this incredibly honest and also inspiring piece. I feel as though I could have written this ( in my journal). Thank you. Please keep writing!

    • Oh, thank you, Elizabeth! I wrote a different piece, then went to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and felt that God told me to go try again. This is what came out. Thank you for making me feel like I’m not the only one!

  2. Very nice writing – you wrote about how you are not brave – but to share everything you did was an act of faith and courage – you are not alone in all of the things you expressed in your writing – I feel many if not all of the same things

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