I have been silent for a while for various reasons, so I’ll start again sharing my Lenten “promise” again this year here. This is a special year, it might be the last lent for me, for us, for my father, for my son. Who knows, we are in gods hand now.
We are a family of three generations in lock-down living on two different locations now. My father still takes care of himself, but since he will with his age unlikely survive hospitalization, I have been doing shopping and other logistics for him since begin of February and “self isolated” him. He understands that he needs to be in self quarantine, and we all understand the we take with any action potential death and life decisions for the three others.
03/20 2020 The announcement
Social life has been shutdown the last days, school, libraries, university and the astronomy observatory are closed now. Some test of my son were canceled, and the next “semester” of him and me enrolled as a guest student might not really open on time.
From today Midnight a Corona-virus lock down will be in effect. Rumors flew earlier so me and my wife took extra time visiting the park when we walked the dog in the morning. The owl was awake, swans start breeding and making a point who is in charge under the other birds. Its really a strange mood.
03/21 2020 1st lock-down day
The first day. A miserable gray day. My Magnolia, which opened most of its blossoms after a few nice days too early, is freezing and suffering in the rain and a cold spell.
As usual, Lent means for me no meat, no alcohol, no cheese, no sweets. So this year I decided (again), that I will not think unkindly of others for the season of Lent. This year I will succeed. I know. This year we will survive, I hope.
Churches have been closed too, The benedictine monastery, which I often visited for service or weekend retreats offers in addition to podcasts now live video streaming of the services, also the special service of the St. Benedict today. St. Ottilien christened in a way this site.
I am very pleased with the live video streaming, its better than just podcasts. The monks are way faster and sophisticated than our two universities in the city, despite their “excellence status” which guarantees better funding.
03/22 2020 4th Lent Sunday St. Ottilien
I attended today’s first live video streaming of the St. Ottilien Sunday Service. That’s a GREAT symbolic move, that the church is present in the need and more important than a hair cut (not closed before the lock down). Proud of the digital monks, really.
This Sunday was formerly called “Laetare Sunday” since its mood and theme was one of hope and rejoicing that Easter was near.The vestments worn by the celebrant are rose-colored, not violet. The first reading is first Book of Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a,l. The second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:8-14 is particularly fitting today because the darkness-light theme indicates believer must leave darkness. The Gospel reading, John 9:1-41 was reflected in the sermon, that everybody has a beautiful face, everybody counts.
Sun comes out and warms the plants expecting spring weather. So far we are doing good. Well, being mostly an introvert I am fine with the Bavarian soft lock down. Lots of reading and astronomy when the nights are clear. Walking the dog in the park. We have enough food and epidemic essentials. My family was claiming, that I am panicking, but I followed Italy, China events closely (and crunched numbers believing nothing told) and mitigated the risks based on my analysis. So far.
03/23 2020 3rd lock-down day
It was a sunny cold winter day, but we went visiting the park anyway. When we walked the dog in the morning, we found the owl was sleeping. The park was almost empty.
“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen was the theme of the 2019 Christmas Sermon. Is it?
Coming back I saw the damage two freezing nights and snow had done to the plants. The air is crystal clear though.
Pope Francis delivered today over Internet a dramatic solitary service for relief from the Covid-19 #coronavirus pandemic. In his meditation, the Pope reflects on Jesus’ words to His disciples: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? Pope Francis meditated on the calming of the storm from the Gospel of Mark:
“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).
Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.
The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.
In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.
The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.
Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).
There was picture of St. Corona, of whom a German cathedral will publicly display her relics. St. Corona, an early Christian martyr. Commonly known as the Imperial Cathedral because it was used by the Emperor Charlemagne, has housed her relics since the year 997 AD.
St. Corona however is not the patron saint of epidemics, but St. Edmund and St. Roch are venerated as the patron saints of pandemics and the plague.
03/28 2020 Saturday one week lock down
Yes. I can recommend Thomas Mann to everyone as at lecture at Lock Down.
The novel »The Magic Mountain« (Zauberberg) by Thomas Mann was published in 1924. It describes the seven-year stay in the sanatorium of the Hamburg merchant’s son Hans Castorp. The place of action is a fictional clinic near Davos in the Swiss Alps. On the eve of the First World War, Castorp met personalities with a wide variety of worldviews. The discussion with them is formative for the young man. The time told covers the years 1907 to 1914. It is story of Hans Castorp, which Mann wanted to tell – not for his sake (but for a society which had enough and choose to become sick), but for the sake of the story, which seems highly worth telling today: this story is a long time ago, it is, so to speak, covered with historical noble rust and yet absolutely fitting to the sick year 2020.
The Hospital Murnau is one of the largest supra-regional trauma centers for maximum care in South Germany. They do surgery for a living in trauma surgery departments and highly specialized departments with terrific doctors and staff. I was there to fix an old injury acting up, a fairly easy case. Not all patients of the station were easy cases. However it felt like close knit community at the Alps, almost a sanatorium urging me to pick the book Zauberberg from the shelf at home and read it again. I was after my hospital release, when the whole corona mess started, frightfully fitting to the corona virus occasion.
Its main character is a young engineer from a traditional Hamburg family. He visits his cousin, who is suffering from tuberculosis, in the Swiss sanatorium »Berghof«. Joachim familiarizes Hans with the laws of the clinic high in the Alps. The rhythm of life here is different from that in the lowlands: tuberculosis is an infectious disease that mostly affects like corona virus the lungs of people. It is caused by bacteria however, but before penicillin was no cure for it either. At the beginning of the 20th century, tuberculosis was therefor a sure death sentence for poor people. Lying in a high mountain climate was the only healing method, but only the wealthy could afford to stay in a Swiss sanatorium. Thomas Mann sort of complemented it with political observations about Germany before the world war I lamenting the “threatening politicization of the spirit” – today one wonders what is left of it now.
03/29 2020 5th Lent Sunday St. Ottilien
Pater Otto celebrated today’s live video streaming of the St. Ottilien Sunday Service. Well done. The he preached about the gospel which invites us to recognize again that there is a deficit in our perception – a deficiency that we do not feel as such at first, because everything seems to go on normally, even if we no longer have ears and eyes for God and live without him. We need stillness, a stillness of which gives us the lockout plenty.
I am writing to you from Munich currently which means I am writing from Italy’s past or some other lands future. We are now where Italy had been in a few weeks ago. Less death. More mediocrity. The epidemic’s charts shows European countries, all Western countries entwined in a deadly dance.
We are but a few steps behind of you in the path of time, just like Wuhan was a few weeks ahead of Italy February 21th. We watch you as you behave just as we did. You hold the same arguments we did until a short time ago, between those who still say “it’s only the old, why all the fuss?” and those who have already understood.
First of all, I did shop for food. Not just because it will be one of the few last things that I needed still do.
I’ll pull science and literature out of my bookshelves, but will soon find I don’t really feel like reading any of it.
I will ask yourselves what is happening to democracy. What democracy, there is none appreciated it seems. I’ll desert to online social life – on twitter, live stream, Telephone, WordPress…
One will feel vulnerable when going out shopping, especially because if one is old. I ask myself if this is how societies collapse. Does it really happen so fast? I’ll block out these thoughts and when I get back home I’ll go online again.
I’ll go back to the cellar resuming fitness training.
I will count all the things you do not need. Hole up in the attic, kind of social distancing with the family.
03/30 2020 5th Lent week second lock-down week
The true nature of the people around me has been revealed with total clarity. Confirmations and no surprises.
My old father whom you had overlooked, instead, has turned out to be vulnerable yet generous, reliable, pragmatic and resourceful.
I also find walking in the park terribly annoying: nice, but why are they so close? I do not understand if witnessing the birth of a new world is more a grandiose or a miserable affair of death.
For young people one has to worry about him going out, to get infected and die or stay indoors, frozen playing video games.
You try not to think about the lonely deaths inside the ICU or slowly drowning.
I want to thank all medical workers, remember the January at the hospital in Murnau.
We are told that society is united in a communal effort, that you are all in the same boat. A lie. This experience will change for good how I perceive myself in the face of death.
My little possession, however, makes all the difference. Being locked up in a Monet’s little yellow house with a pretty garden without the need to keep on working from home, the office or even constant traveling. That shell in which we are hiding in order to defeat the epidemic foes not look the same to everyone nor is it: it never was.
At some point, We will realize it’s tough. I will be afraid. We want to share your fear with your dear ones, but we will keep it to ourselves so as not to burden them with it too.
If we turn our gaze to the more distant future, the future which is unknown both to you and to us too, we can only tell you this: when all of this is over, the world won’t be the same.