It is 30 days since the restrictions of March 27th were announced. In these 30 days households throughout the diocese have experienced both good and the bad days as well as humorous and the painful experiences, some of it spoken about but perhaps much of it unspoken.
It’s inevitable strains have been building up. A certain restlessness is now inevitable. We see signs of the strain – people risking what they see as small compromises, home-drinking rising excessively, tensions over whether and how the restrictions might be eased. Tensions full-stop. Worse still, word of a growth in domestic violence.
Now is a time to remember what is often called the common good. None of us lives for ourselves only. None of us dies for ourselves only. Each of us, in our life and in our death, has an impact on each other. We are created to be united and to be a gift for each other. What this means is that every gesture, every action, every omission impacts on the common good. When we keep this in mind, we realise we’ve got to keep making sacrifices in this Pandemic.
Put it this way; no hurler, footballer, rugby player, boxer wins if they stop trying. There’s a huge victory for us ahead but it is going to take sacrifice and it’s going to team teamwork. We all are THE team. If we don’t truly commit throughout the ‘season’, we will lose. And we’re not here talking a sports championship, as important as that would be. We are talking life and death.
So, it’s about the common good. And the common good, however, is not just about society as a whole. It is also about what is good for us personally. Heroic sacrifices should not be masochistic neglect of what’s going on inside us. For the sake of the common good, as well as being ready to do our part for society, we need to seek help if we are in a situation where we feel we are floundering. Or, worse still, under attack.
An expert on radio this week, for example, warned of the perils of drinking excessively. Drinking excessively, even if one doesn’t have a drink problem, is a sign that the pressures are getting to you. It also threatens the immune system.
It may be that it is a persistent problem and now is the time to tackle it; to chat to someone about it. There is help available for those with those challenges, for those suffering from serious anxiety, for those confronted with domestic abuse and other issues.
It would not be wise to bottle things up. Resorting to over indulgence in drink or giving in to addictions damages both yourself and society. In particular, it has a dreadful toll on children. It is not easy to break the stranglehold that the addiction has on you but you must dig deeper than ever. And seek help.
It doesn’t serve the common good not to. Nor does allowing one to be subjected to domestic abuse, verbal and, most definitely, physical.
Today, as well as encouraging people to think of the common good in terms of their own wellbeing, that of their family or of Irish society as a whole, I would like to highlight how we all need to keep in mind the common good of the world family, too. When we consider the fears we in Ireland experience about how our hospitals might be overwhelmed if we fail to keep up our social distancing routine, we must be concerned also for countries in the developing world when we hear facts such as Malawi having one intensive care (ICU) bed for every one million people, Sierra Leone having no ICU beds and South Sudan having two ventilators for 12 million people.
On top of the specific concern regarding healthcare facilities etc., the rise of starvation in many parts of the world is an alarm call for us. During the week David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, spoke alarmingly of food shortage in many countries. Between the virus, the lockdowns and lack of transport, the situation in many countries is catastrophic. He spoke of a hunger pandemic emerging and he forecasts there will be widespread famines of biblical proportions.
While our own needs are great here at home, we need to hear a piercing cry reaching us from starving sisters and brothers of ours in other lands. Their cry “I am hungry” isn’t just the lament of someone feeling the loss of something, but rather the anguished groan from people experiencing a starvation from which they will die. I am grateful to Trócaire and other relief agencies for what they are doing to help. I encourage us all to do whatever we can to help. We live in one world. And as the United World Week (May 1-7) begins this coming Friday, let us recognise we need to keep our horizons open. Our common home is not just the island of Ireland. Our common home is the planet and how we relate to one another within the world family impacts on the world’s biosphere.
Our politicians will need our support, prayer and wise discussions as we engage with one another in working out how best to achieve the common good as we move forward.
Finally, this being the last weekend in April, it would ordinarily be the first weekend of First Holy Communions. I know that there are young boys and girls, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and, indeed, grandparents who are denied this special moment, a moment that so many have relayed to me in the past has taken them by surprise in terms of the depth of emotion and beauty they felt on the day but also the reconnection it gave them with their faith. Mostly, I have been
taken by people’s assertion that it was actually the Mass itself and not the party afterwards that meant the most. So, this weekend, many are deprived of that special moment and I think of and pray for you all today that when we regroup in the time ahead for your First Holy Communion, it will be made even more special again.
I think too of some who are in special and very sensitive circumstances because of ill health. Older citizens and, indeed, much younger ones, who for one reason or another fear they may not get to enjoy this great day. My most heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you, in particular, that you will, indeed, join and rejoice in the joy of this beautiful moment in your young loved one’s life.
- Bishop Brendan Leahy is Bishop of Limerick.