St. Patrick, Me, and COVID-19

Man dressed for St. Patrick's day with hat over face.

My family celebrated St. Patrick today, but capped at 10 only. Dad read from the Confessions and we sang St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I wore my green Irish sweater and made mashed potatoes. It’s St. Patrick’s day.

But it’s also the day that all the schools in my town locked up and the library shut down- while the librarians wore plastic gloves. Culver’s is takeout only and the Wellness Center is closed.

It’s a new day, this St. Patrick’s Day.

COVID-19 Tests Our Hearts

Pressures squeeze out what’s inside of us. Surprise trials test our hearts. Coronavirus burst on the scene and with its coming, temptations abound.

Some of us are tempted to anxiety, some to pride. Many are tempted to find security in hoarding supplies and as many are tempted to arrogance because we don’t.

Some of us grow harsh trying control to our little kingdomsVirtual school starts at 8:45 sharp. Go wash your hands again- sing Happy Birthday two times. Go outside! You need 30 minutes of exercise.- in a world that feels out of order.

Some of us are so overwhelmed that we’re letting go of any semblance of self-control- Sure, wear your PJ’s all day. I’ve lost two hours scrolling the news feed.- and tempted to dulling sloth.

Coping Skills Or Just Rats?

We might try to excuse it by saying, We didn’t see this coming, and We’ve never lived through anything like this before. But don’t take it. What we might call our coping methods C.S. Lewis just calls rats.

…Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? 

If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. 

Coronavirus hit us fast and hard. The rats had no time to take cover.

I’ve had my heart laid bare and humbled. My desire for order turned surfaced and turned into bossing the boys. I didn’t buy extra toilet paper, but I did hit the grocery store three days in a row.

The last few days, I acquired lots of peanut butter. And, I pray, more humility toward those who don’t see things just like me.

Impending Chaos

Which brings me back to St. Patrick.

Last year, I told how St. Patrick and I love the sun. Two years ago, about his gratitude. Before that, I shared my own bittersweet confession about a selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone. There were 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My Homeboy and one more reason that rustic Patrick is a kindred soul.

But today is a new day, and time for a new confession from one of my favorite saints. (You can read all 62 confessions here.) Confession #34 (C 34) is a confession about acceptance- acceptance of good or bad– and gratitude.

Here’s where I connect Patrick, me and COVID-19. In big ways Patrick’s day wasn’t so different from our COVID-19 day. Patrick lived on the ragged edges of the Roman empire where “there was a sense of impending chaos, if not a very real experience of it.”*

Rather like our day.

The Time of Our Temptation

In the face of that wild world, living at the edge of western civilization, with high anxiety (C. 27), almost perishing (C. 28), very real threats to his life (C. 35, and actually running out of food (C. 22), here’s what Patrick said,

I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation… He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end...

God is able to keep us faithful in the time of our temptation. For many of us, this is the time. Whether it’s pride or anxiety, control or sloth, the rats that live in our hearts come out.

But If Not, He’s Still Good

We all fear the unknown. Some days, we fret. Honestly, some of our worst fears may come true. I might wish I had bought more toilet paper and peanut butter or not gone out at all. I don’t know. But I do know this: God will provide all that we need for our souls to prosper.

Not a single one of us- the CDC or otherwise- knows what the future holds. But we know who holds the future. And he is good.

St. Patrick trusted that all things come from God’s fatherly hand and gave thanks. Don’t you want to do the same?

For I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!”

But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands…

Psalm 31:13a, 14, 15a

*The Wisdom of St. Patrick, Greg Tobin, p. 164

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