At first, the thought of closing our Pauline Books and Media Center here in Charleston for a few weeks didn’t seem that it would be a daunting task. My sisters and I thought that we might get some cleaning and painting done, the work we usually never have time to do. After the first week we had completed inventory. All the books and items in our book center were counted and the numbers entered into the computer. Finished. We could check it off the list!
After this, I thought we would all move on to the next task we had decided.
However, it was then that things began to change.
I found myself unable to sleep after reading too much about Covid-19.
I started worrying about my family.
The tasks we had determined to carry out began to feel secondary as we daily adjusted to news reports.
We started to miss the visits of our friends and realized there would be no possibility of visiting family perhaps for a long time. I found myself calling them more often. Spending time on the phone meant I wasn’t getting to the projects we had listed on our “coronavirus to-do list.”
I started feeling guilty.
Wasn’t I supposed to be getting things done?
What is our mission, I wondered, now that we’re not able to open the front door to people seeking gospel inspiration? What is prayer going to be like, now that we are streaming Mass on a computer instead of going to the church? Yes, we kept our regular schedule as much as possible, yet even that seemed more and more unfamiliar.
Since our community would be taking turns making annual retreat in the convent during these weeks the Book Center was closed, I asked if I could make my retreat first.
I knew I needed some one-on-one with Jesus the Good Shepherd!
As I knelt and sat in the Lord’s presence day after day for eight days, my attitude began to change.
The invitation to “be still and know that I am God” reminded me that the Shepherd was a door to his sheep. The sheep could go out of the sheepfold to romp in the fields and the Shepherd would silently watch over them, call their name if they strayed, and go out to find any who had wandered too far from the flock. At night this Good Shepherd lay across the entrance to the sheepfold to defend it from wolves. During the day the Good Shepherd again led the flock to refreshing water and fields of grass. Knowing the names of each lamb, ewe, and ram, the Shepherd also intimately knew their individual needs.
Surrendering my fears to Jesus the Good Shepherd meant to trust Him with everyone I felt concerned about.
It meant I could sit near Jesus and watch how He loves each person I love.
Turning myself over to His care was a reminder that getting tasks done was not what needed to be primary.
Learning to love was primary.
And that felt strange in a new way.
How to love during a pandemic? After a while I tried new ways of reaching out to my sisters and others. First I let myself be loved by the Shepherd, and then I followed His lead.
I could go safely in and out of the fold listening for the Lord’s voice because I knew that this Good Shepherd had already laid down His life for His sheep … for me.
Copyright 2020 Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp