By Fr. Louis Studer, OMI, U.S. Oblate Provincial
Upon testing positive for two Covid tests, I was required to quarantine in Vancouver after Oblate meetings with Canadian Provincials.
Ken Thorson, Provincial of Lacombe Province, offered me the opportunity to stay at St. Augustine Oblate Parish in Vancouver for the required 10 days.
Fr. Andrew Stendzina, OMI, Pastor, readily agreed, though I later discovered that some parish employees were not comfortable with this arrangement.
I received bountiful, Oblate hospitality during my stay. Ken brought me food, showed me how to access Netflix, called me often just to make sure I had everything I needed. Andrew gave me a private suite of three rooms, complete with kitchen, dining room, bedroom and bath.
Those first days I felt mildly depressed, lonely, anxious and often bored. Although I never suffered from any physical symptoms of the virus, I was angry about the positive test results. Those negative, angry feelings were rather overwhelming throughout my stay, although they began to diminish after the first few days.
Reflection and prayer at first were filled with looming questions about why this had happened to me and also about when I would be allowed to return to the States. Reflection and prayer seemed to only provide the quiet space for these negative feelings to become more intense.
By the fourth day of quarantine, eight Oblates and six other personal friends had called and texted. Contact with them seemed to provide the beginning of a breakthrough in my attitude. I was able to openly express these strong negative feelings to some of them. In gratitude after one of the calls, I automatically brought those negative feelings to prayer. I had not done that previously. That prayer became one of tremendous gratitude, first of all for the concern and care from Oblates and personal friends but then also extended to thanksgiving for my comfortable surroundings, good food, no symptoms and Netflix!
Although the negative feelings also remained, at a deeper, more profound level, the gratitude was brought to an even deeper, more intense level as my prayer continued during those long 10 days. That gratitude now became focused on the gift of my faith, the love of Jesus for me, this quiet time to appreciate more deeply that love.
Darkness comes early to Vancouver in mid-November and light appeared only after I had wakened a couple hours before. The long darkness often amplified those feelings of isolation, loneliness and anger the first few days. Only gradually did those many hours of darkness conjure up within me a desire to discover more deeply God’s presence and love for me.
That desire has remained with me in some challenging, difficult moments since quarantining.
Those days helped teach me not to put expectations on God but rather, to focus on the desire often strong in my heart, to continue to discover God’s presence and love for me, and embrace some ways to return that love and care. The desire itself is the key, I learned, for a more positive attitude and letting God be God.
I have remained grateful for the gift of that required retreat.