Never Waste Away A Crisis


The year 2020 seems to be remarkable in a surprising manner. At the beginning of the year, 20/20 was often referred to with the implication that it would be a year of better vision, insight, or even clarity.

The latter is rather happening but not before a period of confusion, instability and anxiety all of which characterize what more than half the globe is experiencing from Coronavirus.

Specifically, the clarity in question focuses today on the signs of our time and how we respond to these signs keeping in mind the Jesuit focus on the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs).

I see that there are two signs in our time: sound health; and institutional collaboration. The former is a goal, the latter is a choice, and the context is managing the pandemic virus. The functionality of ministerial or even apostolic collaboration is already happening in our society.

I have never seen before this pandemic period, a more collaborative initiative between governments and public institutions including the Churches. Even Bishops are calling their sheep to listen to the experts in the medical field and embrace the measures declared by local governments. When I reflect on our UAPs, I notice that in our context today, there is a genuine companionship among institutions to slow down the spread of Coronavirus. Truthfully, the marginalized are potentially all of us – those infected with the virus and the virus carriers.

It is the first sign of our times that really needs reflection: What is health? The Biblical sense of Shalom first comes to my mind – the reference here is about perfect health, the best possible harmony among existing beings, and what would life be without health? In the natural course of things, healing is embedded in nature, including our own bodies but there are cases when we need interventions such as medication, rest, self-care and when necessary, a healthcare system.

Even before the pandemic, the majority of our society has been medicated for various illnesses; we got used to depend on the healthcare system. What I am noticing these days by observing the social measures to manage the attack of the Coronavirus, is that health branching off to outside the healthcare system, outside the science of medicine, outside the health sciences and even outside the realm of vaccination – given that there is no single vaccination available to fight the Coronavirus.

Today, perhaps unprecedented, preservation of health is a civic duty, a national stewardship and a mind-set that challenges our constant dependency on healthcare system which we take for granted. It is the duty of every citizen, including our children, to have a mind-set that entails the well-being of each one of us as a sacred duty.

In the absence of an available vaccination, we are challenged to practice social distancing, and if necessary, physical isolation so that we (the potential carriers of the virus) do not spread it beyond ourselves. Social distancing is in effect, a sacrifice and a compassionate gift to protect others from getting sick as much as it is self-care. Healing of a society starts with this mind-set as opposed to careless socializing that infects.

This opens to a different viewpoint during the current pandemic: to socialize or to be connected. Our state of technology serves as our ally to remain connected with one another, rather easily. It is the social distancing that we resist because we get bored and restless staying at home. We have to make a choice followed by a commitment to bring health back into our experiences. I treat social distancing as a collective medical prescription that still lacks willing participation.

The problem of free will remains with us, and the original sin keeps reminding us that we miss a step towards proper Shalom. Without proper social distancing, the globe is destined to suffer unnecessarily even with death consequences. And if death does not alarm us, what other scares do we need to start listening?

Healing starts with a mind-set, a proper attitude of listening to the prophets of the scientific community, and a caring perspective to foster sound health. The quality of life suffers tremendously before a compromised health.

The Biblical sense of Shalom is our Magis and collaboration is spiritually embedded in the Jesuit praxes of the UAPs which could lead to the proper health; the direction of the health caring for the entire planet starts with us: we who are not trained in the medical sciences, we who are not in scientific research, we who are not environmentalists, but we who are citizens with a civic duty towards a healthy society and we who potentially could listen to signs of our time: health and collaboration.

Our society is also facing the challenge of health preservation before the Coronavirus. The latter is not just an enemy; it is a new chapter of learning, listening, sacrificing, considering new praxes and praying. Both the UAPs and the Coronavirus are timely and we could set them in fruitful dialogue as both challenge us to be prudent before the unknown illness at hand.

We have what it takes to pass through it, despite the exhaustion of health care resources, because we have faith in God, the God of possibilities, the Merciful One and the God of the living. But faith is not lived except through collaboration for the purpose of harmony in relationships, well-being and health. In final analysis, the gift of salvation is always healthy.

Sami Helewa, SJ, is President of Campion College in Regina, Saskatchewan.

  • Richard Grover
    Posted at 09:25h, 06 June Reply

    Excellent article Fr. Helewa. Which forward button do I press so that all the people of Canada will read your words of wisdom?And why stop at Canada?

    • Sami Helewa, SJ
      Posted at 18:11h, 06 June Reply

      Thank you. Try FB for sharing.

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 09:48h, 06 June Reply

    Thank you very much Sami!

    • Sami Helewa, SJ
      Posted at 18:11h, 06 June Reply

      Thank you for reading it.

  • John Meehan SJ
    Posted at 11:30h, 06 June Reply

    Many thanks, Sami, for calling us to better health, collaboration … and shalom.

    • Sami Helewa, SJ
      Posted at 18:12h, 06 June Reply

      Thank you John.

  • Charles Pottie-Pate
    Posted at 12:26h, 06 June Reply

    Thank you Sami. This is an excellent article on health and collaboration.

    • Sami Helewa, SJ
      Posted at 18:12h, 06 June Reply

      Thank you Charlie.

  • Deborah Morrison
    Posted at 07:34h, 07 June Reply

    I have never felt our interdependence, both physically and spiritually, so keenly before this period. And looking for consolation, I am repeatedly drawn to my faith and those who have always supported me in it. Thank you, Sami, and all of your brethren.

    • Sami Helewa, SJ
      Posted at 14:52h, 07 June Reply

      You are welcome Deborah. Hope you are in good form and safe.

  • Mavis Assad
    Posted at 16:49h, 01 July Reply

    Dear Sami,
    Thank you for sending me this article. I particularly liked the statement that our well-being is a sacred duty. The “sacrifices” of social distancing and self isolation are not so great balanced against the well-being or even life of another. I know people get “bored and restless” and this may lead to acting in an imprudent or even reckless manner. I think we must consider our actions in the larger context, the need for SHALOM for all. Surely God would like that!
    Thanks again; you are a dear.

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