We will mark the World Day for Consecrated Life on February 2. Here is the testimony of Simone Huneault, a member of the Secular Institution called the Oblates Missionaries of Mary Immaculate .
What is the experience of this pandemic like for you? For me this question makes the familiar cry of alarm ring out: ‘‘Stay home!’’ In these paragraphs I will very simply describe to you what my experience has been like under this directive, which of course is so necessary in order to save lives, but which is so contrary to normal life in society and in the Church.
I am a member of the secular institution called the Oblates Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and thus am a consecrated layperson living in similar conditions to those around me. I had just moved into my small apartment in the Résidence Soleil Plaza when, in January 2020, COVID-19 turned the world upside down: ‘‘Stop! Stay home!’‘
Once in lockdown, I was saddened to have to put my day planner away. It was a complete impoverishment: no general meeting of the Institute in the summer of 2020, no trips to see our families, no Masses, no more volunteering or meeting with my Oblates team, no more meetings with catechumens, forget about my plans with the residents’ committee and our dinners together. We were put on pause, on indefinite standby.
‘‘Stay home:‘‘ but how can I stay home and still carry on ‘my’ mission within a Church which is called upon to go forth towards those in the peripheries? While I was looking for some direction, I experienced a conversion of my attitude. One day, as I was watching the news on television about this catastrophe affecting all humanity and crying out for collective action on a worldwide scale, I suddenly saw all these individuals on the screen as though they made up one body, human, alive and striving towards the same cause: that of saving lives and saving our social systems for everyone’s sake. In that brief instant, I heard a little voice inside saying, ‘‘Get rid of those mental constructions from the Institute, from the Church and from your country. Open yourself up to the world that you are part of!''
I felt a flush of pride at that moment: yes, I am part of this humanity. We are all members of the same body, each with his or her various and complementary charisms. We are all agents of transformation, missionaries, responsible for one another in solidarity, in coordination, with Christ at the head. What a comfort that ‘‘my’’ little mission, in union with those of everyone else, covers the entire planet. At each Eucharist, whether virtual or in person, I love to offer up this human body with that of Christ, suffering and glorious.
‘‘Stay home;’’ this unprecedented reality is even changing my spiritual life. For Oblates, spirituality consists of the 5-5-5. These are the 5 privileged moments of prayer, 5 attitudes of life and 5 conscious acts of charity. We share the spirituality of the attitudes of life and of the Charity of Christ in action with the Associate Group Volunteers of God.
The 5 moments of prayer are: Eucharist, Meditation/Oration, Divine Office, the Rosary and the Review of the day. ‘‘Stay home’’ gives me more time to be fully conscious of God the Trinity, to talk to Him and really experience His Word. To let Him enter all the corners of my being. Now, as well as being offered in communion with the people of all the countries in the world, all members of the same body, my universal prayer mentions names, concrete situations and real faces.
These times of prayer inspire me and mould me with the mentality of Christ, to live and witness to His charity through 5 particular attitudes of life: the Presence of God, abstention from destructive criticism interior and exterior, abstention from useless complaining interior and exterior, being of service and fostering peace. When things are going fairly well, these attitudes come almost naturally. But when the whole world was turned upside down on account of COVID-19, I lost my regular bearings. I had to go deeper and test my own convictions.
For example, to the question, ‘Where is God, and what is he doing during this harrowing pandemic?’’ as an Oblate who believes in the loving and acting Presence of God, I have learned to answer, saying that God, by giving us the gifts to carry out the mission, relies on us to be His Word, His heart, His hands and His feet, to build and rebuild a more just and human world by being of service to the concrete needs of people and of creation.
Also, rather than criticizing and complaining about the quantities of bad news, I force myself to find the beautiful, the good, the positive in others and in events, as well as to share it. My hope is that by bringing the best into circulation in the world, by spreading peace and hope, we will be able to come out of this painful pandemic renewed, with greater awareness and more empowered in our choices for the common good.
The third 5: to do at least 5 conscious acts of charity in one’s day, as Jesus of Nazareth lived, doing good along His way. Now that we have to limit our outdoor activities, our conversations have become much more private and based on our emotions and needs, on our view of the world and of life, suffering and death. I try to listen and speak with benevolence, friendship, love and encouragement. I also make a point of bringing a note of cheer when I take part in various Zoom courses, conferences, meetings, as well as in friendly get-togethers and on the platforms of various types of social media.
These are all opportunities to come together in the mission and, as we face the unexpected, to experience fully the present moment in trust, gratitude and hope, as we were taught by our founder, Father Louis Marie Parent, o.m.i.
It is with great pleasure that I invite you to visit our website: www.ommi-is.org
Happy World Day for Consecrated Life!