In early March, I went to Sam’s Club to stock up for the coming shelter-in-place order. On a whim, I put yeast and a large bag of flour into my cart. Having never baked bread before, it was the definition of a random purchase. Something in me thought bread may be hard to come by, so I wanted the ingredients to bake it myself if need be.
For the past seven years, I have walked the nighttime streets, alleys, parks and “jungles” of Seattle with the Operation Nightwatch ministry team. I’ve probably met well over 1,000 of our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness, and I am privileged to call many of them friends.
It’s 8 a.m. on Monday, March 16, our first day of learning-at-a-distance-for-safety, and our third-grader is weeping. “No school at school. No grandparents visiting for Easter. You’re Mom, not my teacher. The coronavirus has ruined everything!”
The long Lenten twilight
This column is written on the same day I made the unprecedented decision to restrict the public celebration of the Eucharist for the Archdiocese of Seattle. More than likely at the time of this reading, we are still living with this new reality, and the advance of this COVID-19 health threat.
Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” The great 17th-century philosopher thought that most of us, most of the time, distract ourselves from what truly matters through a series of divertissements (diversions). He was speaking from experience. Though one of the brightest men of his age and one of the pioneers of the modern physical sciences and of computer technology, Pascal frittered away a good deal of his time through gambling and other trivial pursuits. In a way, he knew, such diversions are understandable, since the great questions — Does God exist? Why am I here? Is there life after death? — are indeed overwhelming. But if we are to live in a serious and integrated way, they must be confronted — and this is why, if we want our most fundamental problems to be resolved, we must be willing to spend time in a room alone.