Signs of Hope During a Global Crisis


Like many others, my mind is racing these days and it is difficult to slow it down and rein it in. The world is changing so quickly from day to day, even hour to hour. Let me just offer a few personal thoughts about our fear and the small signs of hope that we are seeing.

Others should feel free to add their own comments in the space provided for them.

Fear is real and is ever-present. Even something as simple as reading the description on a canister of disinfecting wipes can evoke thoughts of fear. The label says, kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. I see it and wonder, yeah, but it’s that 0.1% that has me worried. It’s difficult to stay focused and deliberate at this time. Even sleep seems disturbed.

I have plenty of things I could be working on. And this period could be the rainy day that I often looked forward to, to do reading that I have long desired. But the combination of helplessness and disorientation is almost paralyzing. I focus on something for a few minutes and then I rush to check my favourite news websites.

This probably heightens my fear, but it at least allows me to stay connected and up to date, to know more about what others are going through. I try to call my aging mother every day, even for just a few minutes.

There is plenty of bad news out there and it’s likely going to worsen. But I’m discovering that I find some signs of hope at this time. Signs of spring are showing up in this part of the country. The air is clearer, because so few are driving vehicles.

All over the country individuals are risking their lives to help others, specifically health care workers, cleaners, supermarket employees and others. People are reaching out in kindness to family, friends and strangers. We seem friendlier with each other. Violent crime statistics are down.

Previous enemies have paused in their battles, at least in many cases. Both the Secretary General of the UN and Pope Francis have called for other regions to follow suit.

We are discovering who and what is most important in our lives. Family, friends, health and God top that list. We are learning new ways to do our work and to connect with one another, all from the safety and ease of home.

Those involved in Christian ministry are learning new ways to be present to the other. People are gathering in small groups online, to pray together. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and Microsoft Team are proving invaluable.

Many political, religious and business leaders are shining out at this time, with a combination of honesty and compassion. People of faith are growing in the recognition that they are the church; the church building is just a building, albeit beautiful. I wonder if we are seeing something of the beauty of the early Christian community.

I read that sales of staples such as flour and sugar are soaring, as people bake at home, rather than purchasing prepared food. Sales of seeds are increasing, as people decide to grow their own veggies.

We seem to be discovering how our parents and/or grandparents came through the Great Depression and why they have a deep appreciation for frugality and being practical.

On a macro level, our culture has a chance to press the reset button on our global priorities. It’ll be exciting to dream about the new normal that we will adopt as a world. Will we learn from the mistakes we have made in recent decades?

On a micro level, each of us can ask how we want to live now. Do we still need so much? Do we need to spend so long commuting to work? Are there ways that teamwork can happen from a distance? Humour helps.

There are many hilarious and witty cartoons online. Humour is a source of hope. I am not alone in this. I may feel isolated, but I’ve never been so connected to the painful situation of others.

Where do you find hope? Where do you see the hand and heart of God comforting us at this time?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:42h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Joan Levy Earle
    Posted at 06:45h, 01 April Reply

    I hear the birds singing outside my window most mornings now and their song of spring provides hope for my heart. Thank you for sharing your innermost feelings; you are not alone and we are all united in prayer. Have been sharing an online retreat by Father Allan MacDonald, CC and though I miss the Eucharist very much, it is refreshing my soul to at least hear his encouraging message. God is still in charge pf this world, and will make many good things happen from this difficult time. God bless those who are suffering, and the health care workers who are attending to them. This time will pass.

  • Margaret (Peggy) Wilson
    Posted at 07:32h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experience of this time. I have tried to use this time as a sort of retreat and that, as well as the Jesus You Take Over prayer, has kept me calm and sleeping through the night. I thought a lot of the “when I have time things” would have been done prior to this, but it is an unsettling time and, even though I have had to set limits on the amount of news coverage I watch, I am spending more time on the internet and phone connecting to people as I live alone. And really I see that connecting as more important than washing my kitchen cupboards. I have been examining my priorities and am grateful for my life. And that life, or at least the things I am grateful for, cannot be shaken by global upheaval. I miss morning mass, but I am grateful that my community has extended its fellowship outside the church building, a community of faith and caring, we pray together over the phone and internet. Because God is with us, even in these strange times.

  • John Montague
    Posted at 07:58h, 01 April Reply

    Since I am prevented from the usual constant distractions I follow, I have found this lent to be more peace filled. Ironically the anxiety about the virus has led me to contemplate what really matters. I am treating this like being on a long retreat where I can’t see my friends and run around to one distraction after another. I also recall Aloysius Gonzaga and how he helped people brought down by the plague. Somewhere in the spiritual exercises Ignatius suggests not preferring health to sickness. I’m not there yet, I still prefer health but I realize I am not afraid to die. I attribute this to being more at peace. It looks like this physical distancing will go on for another two or three months; I pray we can continue to be patient.

  • John McManus
    Posted at 08:06h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you for this Fr. Shano. I find that this time of isolation is leading me in a number of directions: I feel sorry for, and pray for, all those who are facing this crisis alone; I lament our political and financial leaders who seem to see this as yet one more opportunity to manipulate and use their positions to increase their own power and wealth at the expense of others; and surprisingly I have come to treasure this unexpected gift of time to be quiet and reflect not only on my life and work, but on the speed and superficiality of so much of our lives (my life – I should own it!). I have rediscovered the St Louis Jesuits and their wonderful, tranquil music, the serenity of sitting and watching the sun move across the sky, and I am beginning to once again listen for, and hear, the still small voice – silver linings to the dark cloud. I expect the struggle will be to hold on to this simplicity once the threat posed by the virus recedes.

  • Esther Buckley
    Posted at 09:31h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you Fr. Shano. Excellent blog ,provides lots of ‘ Food for thought ‘. Many prayers needed at this upsetting time . A rose for St.Theresa to pray for us .

  • Bernice Khan
    Posted at 09:46h, 01 April Reply

    Thanks Fr. Shano for these words of wisdom. It is indeed a new world order at this time. God sent it for a reason and God will detain it only when He is satisfied that the world is still and listening to Him. As we breathe in deeply in silence and solitude, let us hear Him say to us, “You are my beloved, be not afraid”.

    Together, we will continue to pray for the needed miracle as “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7)

    Blessings always.

  • Terrence Prendergast SJ
    Posted at 09:53h, 01 April Reply

    Thanks, Philip, for these reflections–very encouraging!

  • Jeanette Woodley
    Posted at 10:11h, 01 April Reply

    I find hope and love from others who contact me by phone or email to see how I’m doing in this isolating time. People are being deliberate about connecting with others and I am also doing the same. It’s all about loving one another. I am encouraged to see a person I know who strayed away from God and His Church now praying! That is my hope. That many will turn toward God during this pandemic and that they will continue to do so afterwards. Thank you Fr. Philip.

  • Bernard Carroll, SJ
    Posted at 10:43h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you Philip. Your reflections and the comments from others speak of the awakening of a new consciousness among people. I too find it difficult to get down to those things that I have told myself I would do if I had time. But in the midst of all this I am much more conscious of the whole world and especially the people in places where there is a lack of water and sanitation, where living conditions are so crowded that social distancing is impossible, where I can make an effort to contact people I have neglected, especially those who are alone or who have been confined by age or illness for a long time. These kinds of reflection awaken in me a realization that God is not going to miraculously rid us of this virus but God is effecting the miraculous gift of love in so many people which stirs hope and faith and love. It is love for one another and all of God’s creation that will most truly bring the whole world through this time. Let’s keep on loving!

  • Michael Radcliffe
    Posted at 11:55h, 01 April Reply

    Good Morning Philip

    Thanks for your comments they are quite inspiring, I follow the blog everyday and it helps to keep me grounded.

    Mike Radcliffe

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 12:21h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you Fr Philip!! You have voiced what a lot of us mere mortals are feeling. It takes a great amount of discipline and intentionality, to not get swept up in the fear that has surrounded us. I try to be mindful each day for the blessings in my life and make it a point to write it down. Life is difficult at times but our hope is so certain, in the Lord. He reminds us that his grace is sufficient for us. With his strength we shall live each day and overcome whatever comes our way. May God bless you, and all who read your insightful blogs.

  • Greg Schmidt
    Posted at 14:35h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you Father Shano. I always enjoy reading your commentary.

    I find myself less optimistic for the world these days however.

    This pandemic, war mongering continues in North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Ukraine and much of Africa and famine & death are widespread.

    I hear the hooves of the Four Horsemen getting closer.

    So I pray for the suffering of this world, but listen expectantly for the call of Jesus:

    ” COME UP”

  • Dennis McCloskey
    Posted at 15:21h, 01 April Reply

    Father Shano, to your comforting and encouraging words I would only add a quote for those who are overcome with fear during this crisis. I read this in the Toronto Star recently: “ Fear, I hear you, but you are not running the show. I am.”

  • Elizabeth Borhi
    Posted at 12:43h, 02 April Reply

    When I saw Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square the other night, alone, in the rain, in the dark, and with all the silence in our streets, across the world, it seems as if the world is waiting for God.

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