I am not sure how many of you noticed that I didn’t send out a Day 16 message. The reason was that I became ill on Tuesday and had to stop everything and quarantine myself. I can’t tell you whether I have the coronavirus or not, but it changed everything in a matter of a few short hours. I am sharing this story with you because I think it will bring home a number of messages that until Tuesday and Wednesday I didn’t fully understand and live to accordingly.

So to begin, I have been taking very good care of myself, taking every precaution for social distancing, and been living in a region (Spokane, WA) that has had a relatively low number of cases (165 as of a few days ago). Tuesday evening, my stomach started feeling queasy. Overnight I went from an upset stomach to body aches, to a fever. As I woke up Wednesday morning, I immediately thought I just had the “stomach flu”. I wanted to place myself outside of the coronavirus world because I thought I was doing all the right things. My wife, Annette, always the person in my life who keeps me grounded, immediately quarantined me as I tried to downplay the symptoms. In fact, I didn’t think I had the symptoms of the coronavirus. Little did I know that I had three of four symptoms that people are reporting. My point: Whether we like it or not, we are all susceptible to the virus even with the best of precautions. You cannot take lightly the rules for social distancing, for washing of hands, and for cleaning surfaces that you and others routinely come in contact with.

Understanding A New Reality

I slept nearly all of Wednesday. I can’t remember being so tired and having this all come on within hours of getting the first symptom. As I would awaken for short periods of time over the next 24 hours, I started thinking back to the last week. Yes, I did wonder why I felt achy from sitting in my office all day doing Zoom calls. I figured I was just going through the adjustment to a new routine. Yes, I did wonder why I got light-headed a few times when I went down to pick-up a box or feed the dog. Maybe I wasn’t exercising enough or drinking enough water. I started replaying the last two weeks and how I had tightened up my social distancing. I will admit, my habits didn’t change quickly enough, especially when I thought back to being around family and friends. When someone is familiar to you, you don’t want to distance yourself from those that you are closest to. I thought I was being good by doing a “little” more distancing and a “better” washing of hands. It wasn’t really what a new discipline requires. Now that I am sick, I realized that passing along a virus to a family member, a friend, or a passerby isn’t something you ever want to think that you have done.

At the same time, I was getting sick, my daughter has come down with similar symptoms, but also a bit more severe. As she battles her illness, I am concerned about a young mother trying to take care of herself. How does she even try to distance herself from family? We all immediately think about the health and safety of her 9-month old and 2 ½ year old daughters. The two young girls are doing pretty well, but you quickly think of the transmission that occurs when families are together. This virus divides families.

As I thought about my illness yesterday, I was living in a new quarantine. Annette and I agreed that I would stay confined to my bedroom (and today my office has been added). I decided that my symptoms weren’t severe enough to warrant going to an emergency room, and we are still trying to find out if there is a drive-thru test site in the area. I couldn’t help but think of those who are going through similar experiences and are fearful of being cut-off from family or being dropped at a hospital not to return home or see a loved one. The isolation is real, whether you are diagnosed or not. It becomes very real to all of us, as we learn of a family member or friend who becomes ill.

Today I got up and, while still tired, I decided I would see what energy would return as I started my morning routine. Fortunately, as the morning progressed I felt a pick up after a few of my Zoom calls. It was great to see the faces of staff just sharing this new reality together. I didn’t worry that things wouldn’t get done but wish to support everyone. There is solidarity in going through this journey together. We will undoubtedly face some additional obstacles in the coming weeks, and we need each of you to know that it will be okay. There is someone working next to you who will step up when you need to attend to what is most important.

“Living” with the Coronavirus

We may not really know if I ever had the coronavirus. The reality is that we need to live as if we and everyone around us have the virus if we are to proceed safely through this period of time. This is difficult to imagine. Each of us has to “live” as if we have the virus.

Daily we continue with our morning prayer routines, prayer intention lists, and the daily corporal work of mercy of burying the dead. It is a very spiritual life that we try to lead.

As I began the week, I spoke with our leadership team about the weight that this virus will have on each of you individually. My concern is how each of you can get through this time of uncertainty. Next Tuesday we decided that we would have a CFCS nationwide webcast with a counselor to help us all understand what we are going through. We want to start with this resource and make additional resources available to each of you. I hope all of you will join us. Afterward, we are going to live-stream a special mass for everyone in CFCS. Details will follow shortly.

It is in the midst of this crisis that God walks with us side by side. Thank you for your continued support.

With blessings and gratitude,