MY LOCKDOWN STORY
By Fr. Sean Doggett
The sounds of schoolchildren playing and the sight of children around the school from early morning to late afternoon is normal if you live in Beaulieu presbytery as I do. School holidays come and go but somehow children, in or out of uniform are part of the scenery. The abrupt closure of the schools when the partial state of emergency was declared, the locked gates and deserted playground is what characterises for me, the reality of the Corona virus pandemic. It is so sad when children are neither seen nor heard!
It is my good fortune that I have a seminarian from Kenya living with me. Humphrey has been in Grenada for just over a year. Although I have often lived alone for long periods, I am very happy that I have his company at this time. Humphrey was scheduled to return to Kenya to continue his studies for the priesthood at the end of this month (May), but with airlines not flying and airports closed and countries insisting on quarantine, his departure has had to be indefinitely postponed.
Palm Sunday was unreal without a congregation. For only the second time in my 54 years of priestly ministry I did not take part in the liturgy of the Sacred Triduum. (The other time was Holy Week 1968 when my father was dying.) Viewing the ceremonies on television from an armchair in the sitting room was a very poor substitute indeed for liturgy in a church with a congregation.
Celebrating Sunday Mass with a congregation of one, feels very strange indeed. With nostalgia I remember Sundays in the past when, for whatever reason, the numbers attending Mass were small and I wonder, with trepidation, what the attendance will be when all restrictions are lifted. When parishioners for whom baptisms or weddings had been scheduled to take place in the Easter Season ask what is happening, I feel helpless as I tell then “We can only wait and see!”
Weekday masses without a congregation do not have to be tied to a time that suits other people. This means that I don’t have to get up so early in the mornings and I enjoy the extra time in bed. Not being able to go out during the day means that I should, by now, have been able to tidy my desk, deal with all the tasks that had been put on the long finger and get the parish accounts into the required order. Sadly, this is not the case! Every day I find new excuses for putting off, yet again, matters that should have been attended to weeks, or even months, ago.
Two good practices that have come into their own in my life since the lockdown are physical exercise and prayer. Whereas before, these were fitted into my “busy schedule” they now get priority during the day and both get more of my time and effort than ever before. The outcome is that the time spent on the exercise machine results in deeper sleep at night and the time spent in prayer in greater peace of mind.
All things come to an end and the lockdown won’t last forever. While I do feel a certain apprehension about the challenges of the post-pandemic Church and the post-pandemic world, when the lockdown is lifted and the “new normal” emerges I suspect I will feel a certain nostalgia for the days of pandemic quarantine.