LETTER FROM ROME: It  Takes A Virus

April 18, 2020

Greetings from Rome. Still surviving five weeks of lockdown. The number of cases in Italy has reached 168,941 with 22,170 fatalities; 109 priests died of the virus – mostly in the north. I am praying fervently for friends who have tested positive (one in Barcelona, one in Amsterdam & one in New York). Can anything good come out of this pandemic? Here’s a poem I wrote:

It Takes A Virus

The skies are clear and birds fly freely in the air
There are no smoke coming out from factories
The rivers  and canals are blue
The shops are closed, the streets are empty.
Where’s everyone?

Everyone is at home all day long.
No need to leave at dawn and come back late at night.
Fathers and mothers are playing  with their kids.
They  gather ’round the table and feast on their meager meal.
Food is shared among neighbors or delivered by strangers.

They wave and smile at their neighbors from a distance
It’s been a while since they’ve seen each other.
They sing at the top of their voices or play the guitar
in their balconies and rooftops and get a round of applause.
When was the last time this happened?

The classrooms are empty. Lessons are learned at home.
There are no school-children running in the corridors and gyms
except for the homeless  who have been welcomed and fed
after being driven away by petty barangay despots and police
from a religious center that fed them. Rules have to be followed.

Priests celebrate  mass on empty churches
as the faithful watch them online in their homes.
The Pope gives his blessing in front of an empty square
watched by millions of people around the world.
No distance, quarantine or lockdown can separate them.

The guns are silent. The fighting has ceased.
The combatants have gone home.
Logging and mining have stopped,
the forest gets a respite.
The pangolins can frolic and bats fly freely.
The earth has been given a chance to rest.

Meanwhile the hospitals are full as the sick multiply
and the dead cremated hastily.
We are now on depression mentally and economically
Inept leaders have been exposed and found wanting
while the true servant-leaders are being discovered.
Bumbling politicians are trembling knowing their time is up.

The  whole world is sick, gasping for breath.
Economic and political systems are collapsing
and new ones will emerge.
Release of GHG have been reduced
and the ecological crisis  can be averted.

Can good come out from a bad situation?
Felix Culpa. Let’s count our blessings

The end is near. But not for us
but for a system that puts profit over people
where leaders are elected for their image and messianic pretensions
rather their competence and compassion.

When this is over it will not be business as usual.
It will be different. Much better – we hope.
“Behold, I will make all things new,” someone said long ago.
It only takes a virus to trigger this.
It is up to us now.

(Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR is Executive Co-Secretary of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of the Union of Superiors General (USG-UISG) in Rome. He started his new work in January this year, after living a quiet life as hermit and exile since 2018. A native of Iligan City, Fr. Pics lived and worked in Davao City from 1995 to 2011 and was assigned to Manila where he served as Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Basic Ecclesial Communities Committee from 201 to 2017. He went around the Philippines several times on bike or on foot, for peace and justice).

 

 

 

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