For Women Only: All Hands (and Hearts!) on Deck

In the past few weeks, we have all been on a rollercoaster ride of events and emotions as we try to navigate the huge changes to life as we know it under the pall of the coronavirus pandemic.
Christ at the home of martha and mary

In one sense, COVID-19 has certainly stopped us in our tracks…we can’t run around from pillar to post. We can’t fill the hours of our day with places to go and people to see. We’ve been effectively limited in the extent to which we overextend ourselves, busy with the cares and concerns of the outside world. But on the other hand, I bet that most of the Marthas in us have gone into survival mode, with our minds and our bodies ramped up into overdrive as we fight fear, anxiety, and worry over the future and the health and wellbeing of our loved ones.

Our “new normal” is more like “no normal” as life changes on a daily basis, and yet, it looks as if we’re in this situation for the long haul.

Survival mode is a necessary protective mechanism, and a rush of adrenaline has most likely given us a much-needed surge of energy as we’ve had to make snap decisions based on limited information, and change gears in mid-stride in response to government updates, school closures, and work directives. Our “new normal” is more like “no normal” as life changes on a daily basis, and yet, it looks as if we’re in this situation for the long haul.

So, in order to make sure we have enough stamina to stay the distance, and have the reserves we need to take care of our loved ones, we need to call in the reinforcements, and for us women, those reserves need to come from the Mary side of our nature. In the midst of our hustle and bustle as we scramble to stock our shelves, count our linen for unexpected house guests, and put on the soup pot, the Lord invites us to beg Him, like Martha, “Tell Mary to get up and help me!” Indeed, having Mary help you is a good thing, because Mary is all about self-care, whereas Martha goes all out in service to others.

In other words, we need to look at this COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive. Thriving is about so much more than just getting by, than keeping our head above water, or hanging on by our fingertips. Thriving is about becoming stronger and more resilient because of being stretched to our limits, not in spite of it. Thrival is an urban term that describes “looking beyond your soul into the deepness of society’s problems; sacrificing yourself and going beyond one’s comfort zone in order to help the people around you.”

But if we are to thrive, we need to calm that anxious Martha in us by having her learn a few lessons from her sister, Mary. We need to learn how to take care of ourselves, to sit at the Lord’s feet and rest, so that our jar of oil is filled up and ready to pour out on others. You could say that the Martha in each of us symbolizes the hands we need to cook for our families, reassure a loved one, help a child with homework, or care for those who are sick. On the other hand, the Mary in each of us represents our heart, hidden in the Heart of Jesus, drawing comfort and strength from Him as we rest at His feet. Through St. Faustina, Jesus told the world to “snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace.” We need contemplation as well as action in our daily lives; in fact, we need our contemplation to fuel and direct our action so that we can continue to grow and thrive in the middle of this situation.

Last week, on March 20 – the first day of spring – our Catholic Church granted a plenary indulgence to …” the faithful suffering from COVID-19 disease…as well as to health care workers, family members, and all those who in any capacity, including through prayer, care for them.” Wow…what an opportunity we have to put our contemplation into action and be effectively active in our contemplation – Mary AND Martha – a united force against this unseen enemy! A plenary indulgence not only cleanses our souls, but also does away with all temporal suffering due to sin – in other words, it’s our direct flight ticket to heaven!

Each time you pray the Divine Mercy, you not only fill up your jar of oil and add another jewel to your own spiritual crown – your heavenly corona – but you also have the privilege of sitting at the bedside of some unknown soul who is suffering and dying during this pandemic. Each time you pray for the holy souls in purgatory, you help speed them on their way to heaven, where they’ll join the ranks of the celestial army in interceding for the healing and salvation of the world.

During the Protestant Reformation in 16th c. England, St. Edmund Campion wrote a defense of the faith that served to rally the faithful when they were being cruelly persecuted by their enemies. Campion’s Brag, as it came to be known, was not only a call to spiritual arms for the Church, but also a courageous commitment to spend his life in the selfless service of others, especially for those most in need of God’s mercy. Today, in the spirit of St. Edmund Campion, I challenge you with my own humble brag – imperfect and inadequate as it is, because I too, have moments when I feel fear and uncertainty over the future and the health and welfare of my loved ones. But from the depths of my Mary, I’m calling each of you, my dear sisters in the faith – to tie on your apron strings, shoulder your wooden spoons, and march forward with hope and confidence during this time of crisis in our world. And the world needs each one of you – because a Martha transformed by her Mary faces life with her jar of oil full, protected by the power of grace, and hidden in the heart of her Lord and Saviour. A Martha at the service of her Mary is a true Psalm 31 woman: trustworthy, resourceful, motivated, and industrious, one who laughs with joy and hope at the time to come.

Let’s all put our Martha energy at the service of our Marys by giving ourselves a spiritual spring housecleaning. Pray the Rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet, offer spiritual sacrifices, participate in the Holy Mass or sit in silent adoration at the feet of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament online. Or take up one of those spiritual books that you’ve set aside for some day. Today is the day, and now is the time! And don’t forget that we’re not just spirits – our minds and bodies need our self-care and attention too! Remember to get proper rest, exercise, good food, and fresh air in order to fill up your mental and physical jar of oil. Check out the Psychtalk blog post “For Women Only: How to Be Your Own BFF” on the website for more tips and tools on taking care of yourself and keeping healthy during this time. And visit us on social media or the FFI website often, as we’ll be posting regular Psychtalks and Psychbytes to keep you and your loved ones in the mental health loop. Family Foundations Institute is here to connect you and your family with the wider world of our faith community, inform you about upcoming virtual events, and support you as you navigate life as it is during this global crisis. God bless you all, stay safe, and be well.