Lent: an invitation to be present and distant

Blog Published: March 25, 2020
By Sister Maxine, IHM

A wise woman once told me that life is mostly about showing up. “Be present to yourself, to others, and to God” was her advice for a meaningful life. These days, I think about her words in new ways, as the coronavirus challenges me to be present and distant at the same time. 

Of course, I’m not alone in this challenge. Millions of people around the world are with me. That includes the entire state of Ohio, where I live. Two days ago, our governor issued a Stay-At-Home order for everyone except those providing essential services in places such as hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores. Last week, the bishops of Ohio suspended all publicly celebrated Masses.

The new language and reality of distance are now part of everyday life. That’s true even for the great outdoors, which provides the essential service of a much-needed break from the indoors.

On my walk yesterday, a woman was strolling toward me on the sidewalk. About 40 feet apart, we both stopped and looked at each other. I’m sure we were thinking the same thing, which is why she then waved, shouted hello, and crossed the street. Under other circumstances, intentionally avoiding someone this way would not create a feeling of presence and connection. How quickly life is changing!

New beginnings

Lent invites us to change and new beginnings—with ourselves, each other, and God—and the invitation echoes through the unusual times we’re in. One of the ways that we at A Nun’s Life are accepting the invitation is by hosting livestreaming prayer on Facebook at noon throughout this week. (Being online is a great way to be present to each other while maintaining social distance!)

Today, people joined us for prayer from France, Germany, Italy, and many states in the U.S. As one person noted, “We are miles apart but our hearts connect at the feet of Jesus.”

We also asked people about Lenten practices that they’ve found meaningful at this time, the ways they are present and distance. Below are a few of the thoughts they shared. I hope they inspire you, as they did me. I also encourage you to check out our Live Lent calendar, which offers an activity each day for being more present to self, others, and God!

  • “I have been keeping a diary of my blessings.”
  • “I’m still working and trying to do so safely while serving people with a smile of love.”
  • “I call one person every day that I haven't connected with in a while with particular focus on people in nursing homes. It's been a joyful experience for me hearing their stories.”
  • “I am trying to be more intentional in remembering people by name in my prayer.” 
  • “I am trying to connect with all my family members and remain positive each day."
  • “I am fortunate to have nice weather and a beautiful campus to walk around whenever I start to feel down. Fresh air, sunshine, and being with God in creation have been essential these days!”

Keeping you connected:

  • Did you miss last week’s Lenten blog, find it here!
  • Are you looking for ways to live lent? Check out our Live Lent calendar!
  • Looking to receive our newsletter, add your email address in the box at the bottom of this page. 

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