Covenant Culture in COVID times
The great pandemic of the new coronavirus has made 2020 a historic year. It has been a year of numerous challenges that potentially attacked the macrocosms – the exterior world, the common environment – and the microcosms – the interior world, the individual.
Gabriel Afonso Dutra Kreling
1. February, 2021
I sealed my Covenant of Love in the Shrine of Londrina, in the state of Paraná, Brazil. My parents are part of a Schoenstatt couples group. My wife, Carina, and I live in Cascavel, Paraná, where I work as a doctor. This year, I have had the greatest professional challenge of my life: being a coordinator of the Covid-19 wing of the biggest public hospital of west Paraná, the University Hospital of Cascavel.
Fear, insecurity, despair, longing, anguish, uncertainty, and loneliness were some of the feelings I experienced. I was afraid of dying, of getting sick, afraid of bringing the sickness to the persons I love, afraid of not being able to save all the people that depend on my care and that of my team. They called us superheroes, but I never had the superpower of being immune to all these feelings; I am only someone who is able to care for persons who have been called to work.
The sodalist heroes gave me strength
To move forward, I could count on the unconditional support of my wife and my family, but without a doubt, the Covenant of Love played a fundamental role in it all. What comes to mind is the image of the founding generation, who at the beginning of their youth were called to war, giving a confident yes to their Mother, prepared for the future or not. I am sure that they also had fears, but the real presence of Mary made them continue. They did not have superpowers, but today they are considered our “Schoenstatt heroes.” This real presence of our Mater was one of the great motivations that sustained me all of these days.
Pray with trust
Many times, I did not have the depth needed for prayer. My thoughts were directed toward the patients, to my team, to the structural problems. I tried, but I could not. It was beyond my human capacity. The solution that I found was to stop before leaving for work, face the image of Mary and tell her: “I’m sorry, I can’t pray. Take care of everything. Cover me with your protecting mantle. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.” This was my daily prayer, the only way that I had of concentrating enough to pray for few moments. I would like to thank Fr. Vitor Possetti who was a great friend in leading my spiritual life.
Another way of feeling protected was to ask people to pray for me. I asked my parents and grandparents, my in-laws, my wife, my siblings. In the daily calls to my family, it was not strange to hear: “We are praying for you.” My response always was: “Thank you very much. I depend on you. Please keep praying.” That’s how I could, especially in my most fragile moments, feel the presence and care of Mary and of God, most merciful.
It is the will of God, be still
There are many situations that I could recount, but I would like to share one in particular. During Lent, I was on night watch in the intensive care unit (ICU), of a city hospital. There were no more beds for Covid-19 patients in this hospital and we had to use the beds of other patients. That same night, the ICU of the University Hospital was overcrowded and there was political pressure to have more beds, but we could not obtain from day to night. We did not have personnel or teams. At this moment, I went to the break room and cried. I sat on the bed and did not know what to do. The weight was heavy; the responsibility, enormous. I took deep breaths, turned off the light, put on my headphones, and listened to the song “Na Tua Misericórdia” (In Your Mercy). I stopped for four and a half minutes and let go of everything. I opened my eyes and the phrase of Father Kentenich came to me: “It is the will of God, be still.” I washed my face and returned to the floor. The next day, I found the motivation and sense to continue, trying to do everything as best as I could. I repeated this phrase many times breathing deeply to find strength to continue.
The mission led by Mary
With this great challenge, I could feel the Covenant of Love in a concrete way. In my spiritual smallness, I could live the “Nothing without you, nothing without us.” I offered my suffering, my work, my abilities and weaknesses, daily trying to do the ordinary extraordinarily well, with fear, sometimes like a child, looking at my Mother and being sure that she would do her part. Moreover, my personal ideal has never been so present in my thoughts. The daily experience of something so close to my personal ideal made me feel the fullness of something that I had not experienced so clearly: to live my personal ideal in the midst of suffering, in the midst of challenges. This made me encounter the meaning of my existence, of my life.
The example of the path of the Schoenstatt Movement and of our Mother, Queen and Victress, who has been present in the Shrine through the capital of grace, and who tied bonds that strengthened in the midst of two great wars, helped me to understand this period of my life as a calling, as a request of God. And like Mary, I had no other option but to give my “yes.” In the moments of suffering, I could imagine Mary at the foot of the cross: present, strong, mother and daughter at the same time, silent, contemplating the love and will of God for the life of her beloved Son.
I wrote this in past tense, but the pandemic continues. Let us take care of ourselves and of others. Social responsibility is an imperative of the current time. Let us educate ourselves for it. May Mary intercede for all the families who have lost their loved ones, for the souls of those who have passed, and for all those who in one way or another have suffered, suffer, or will suffer due to the pandemic.
Translation: Wayne Wang