April 1, 2021, Holy Thursday
Last Tuesday, BFF Carlo told me that several priests and seminarians of the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary (where he worked and stayed) had to take a covid-19 pcr test and a number of them are already quarantined. The following day, yesterday, he was sending me one liners. “One priest tested positive.”, “As we speak, 20 seminarians are now positive for covid.” “23.” With a final count of “44 seminarians and 1 priest” at the end of the day.
How does one respond to messages like these from a friend 50 kms away whom I’m powerless to help? No. There is no guidebook for this. I assumed that during that time, he was trying his best to remove his emotions from the equation so that he can focus on what needs to be done. It was evident on how clinical and abrupt his messages sounded which is rarely the case between us. During that time I also had to turn on my logical mind as not to fall into desperate thoughts. “98% of cases are mild and asymptomatic, the seminarians are young, and hopefully in good health, so they have a high chance of getting thru this.” I prayed that most of the priests, who were older and who possibly had comorbidities, be spared. Thankfully, only one tested positive by the end of the day.
It was when Carlo finally retreated to his room at the evening that he was able to release and share the events of the day. He sent me a voice message where I heard the weight of his emotions. He described how many of the seminarians volunteered to help during the day. Some brought food to each of the seminarian’s rooms where they are quarantined, some carried gallons of water, some brought medicines, some disinfected rooms, while others coordinated the separation of areas for quarantine. I heard in the tone of Carlo’s voice how deeply he was touched and maybe already in tears because they, the priests and administration, didn’t ask these students to do these things, they did it on their own, being the last to eat after those they served, being among the last to take rest.
While I was listening to Carlo’s recollection of the day, my thoughts went back to the Share The Word Lenten Reflection held by ICMAS a couple of weeks ago. I recognized that what I was hearing is the embodiment of the very same Lenten Reflection. It was about how giving space for others is giving space for God, emptying oneself to become available for empathy and service, not having to be asked, but responding according to the need the situation presents and the abilities/capabilities one has. Indeed these individuals carried their cross the same way Jesus did and just as Jesus asked [us] to do.
I prayed for each of the seminarians Carlo described as I thought of their good works that day. I also prayed for those who are covid positive, both in a physical and emotional battle against their illness. I’m grateful that Carlo shared this with me because being a witness to this story erased my earlier frustration with Catholic teachings (even the Lenten Reflection) being too theological, too intellectual in nature. For here before me is the embodiment of the teachings of the bible. Here are the selfless acts of love for others, all in quiet work, seeking no praise or acknowledgement, simply doing what is called for them to do at the time of this crisis.
Graced are those who were there doing His work, and Carlo, whose cup overflowed, shared what he saw. I too feel graced for seeing and feeling the truth in this. Now I write this down so that I may not forget and so that I may share with you.
May you find Christ not only in challenging times, but in the everyday.