A reflection on COVID-19 by Rev. Jim Voiss, S.J., vice president for Mission and Ministry

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

It’s been quite a push! These first few weeks since COVID arrived on our doorstep, Marquette — and the rest of the world — has been in high gear.

So many decisions in rapid succession: extend spring break, pivot to online courses, send students home, social distancing, sheltering in place, shifting to Teams meetings. Not knowing from day to day how the landscape would change next.

And then, the hard consequences: refunding room and board, facing the hit to the bottom line, cutting budgets, furloughs.

Yet before we can begin to absorb these blows to the Marquette community, the next set of challenges is upon us.

Urgency, vigilance, anxiety and loss — these mark the world of COVID. They seep into our hearts and minds. They shape how we navigate this new world.

This experience is real. It is human. But it is also a challenge to discernment. It weaves fear into the fabric of our thinking and choosing.

Fear binds and compels. It corrodes our ability to trust, especially to trust God. We reach out to grasp what we can control. We yearn for something secure. Moved by fear we cannot discern well.

Fortunately, the wisdom of Ignatius points us toward freedom from such fear. In the Examen, the regular exercise of discerning prayer about the movements in one’s heart, Ignatius instructs us to begin with gratitude.

We are to recognize and to savor God’s blessings. Only when we are bathed in gratitude will we have the openness of heart to confront the places of darkness with freedom to discern.

Likewise, at the end of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius immerses the retreatant in a contemplation of the many ways God labors to shower love on us. For such knowledge evokes gratitude and gratitude spurs on the generosity of heart which expresses itself through love. In the place of gratitude and love there is no room for fear.

In this challenging time, as we seek to discern Marquette’s path to the future, it is important that we not be driven by fear.

Let us therefore make time to be grateful.

Let us savor the goodness of God shown forth in the generosity and dedication of the Marquette community and the beauty of the mission entrusted to our care.

Rooted in gratitude and compelled by generous love, we can trust that our discernment will lead us to the Greater Glory of God.