Recently, the monastery has had some cases of COVID. We’re all vaccinated and boosted, no one has so far been seriously ill, and it’s not as if a lot of sisters have had it all at once. Nevertheless, it’s a real learning experience.
We got all through the height of the pandemic without a single sister at Saint Benedict’s Monastery getting COVID. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that as things normalized a bit, we would actually start to experience cases. I thought we’d be safer now than we were two years ago. So, it’s come as a bit of shock that the reverse seems to be true.
For me, the situation has provided something of a meditation on our common humanity. Humans get COVID and they pass it to one another. We’re going out more, even if not as much as pre-COVID levels, and we’re welcoming guests on a regular basis to the monastery, sometimes as individuals and sometimes as groups, both large and small. I’ve learned that in a post-pandemic world, that means that we don’t only get to share the joy one another’s company but also, sometimes, one another’s virus!
It definitely pays to be careful but, I’ve realized, being with people and making personal contact is worth the risk of possibly getting COVID. Human beings are social animals. We need one another and the benefits of personal connection, for me, outweigh the risks now that I’m vaccinated and boosted and probably wouldn’t get too sick anyway, if I caught the virus.
Taking that perspective, I began to think about whether St. Benedict has any advice on how to live in a world with COVID. Yes, he does! I can sum that advice up in two words—Benedictine moderation. We need to protect one another, so wearing a mask if you know you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID and keeping away from others is the kind thing to do. If you know you’re going to be in close contact with a crowd of people, it’s sensible to protect yourself by wearing a mask. By protecting ourselves, we protect others and vice versa. We’re all part of the human family so why wouldn’t we want to do what is best for ourselves and one another? On the other hand, we’re part of the human family, and that means we need to connect with one another, hug one another, share a meal with someone we love.
I guess my takeaway from our recent COVID cases is that life includes risks, and we have to accept that this part of being human, while at the same time trying to mitigate the risks by acting in ways that protect ourselves and others. Moderation in all things!
Karen Rose, OSB
Photo: Handmade face masks that were, at one time, available for purchase in Whitby Gift Shop