Fr Gerald Arbuckle sm, is about to publish his latest book: The Pandemic and the People of God: Cultural Impacts and Pastoral Responses. He provides us with this summary overview:
The world is grappling with the most severe health, economic and political emergency since the Second World War as a consequence of covid-19 disease. It has left so many people in so many nations traumatised. An untold number of people have died. The enduring human suffering especially among society's most vulnerable - the poor and elderly – is incalculable. It is estimated that the pandemic could cast 490 million in 70 countries into extreme poverty, reversing almost a decade of advances. Business institutions world-wide have encountered disruptions at a rate and scale without precedence since the Great Depression. Vaccines alone will not resolve the chaos.
There is an understandable yearning for 'normality' of the pre-covid-19, but it cannot be. When big spectacular cultural, political and economic events happen, such as the pandemic, the cultural, political, social and economic reverberations take years, even generations, to play out, and they rotate in uncertain directions. Moreover, an experience of such traumatic severity leaves physical and mental marks which are indelible. There is a difference between a felled tree and a felled human being. The tree is doomed. Uprooted human beings may be equally powerless, but they are conscious of their fate.
An Impact of traumatic severity
Before the pandemic, economic and social inequalities, the breeding ground of violence and racial tensions, both within and between nations, had been on the rise. The pandemic has dramatically intensified these cultural realities. The more unequal a society, the more the political and social upheaval. In order to move forward in a transforming manner, therefore, there needs to be a narrative, not of individualism, that is 'dog-eat-dogism' behavior, but of solidarity, respect for human dignity and participation – all the values inherent in the Good Samaritan parable, as expounded by Pope Francis in his latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti. The encyclical is a clarion call for the refounding of the capitalist system.
Hope keeps us moving forward on track. We are not lost. God is present in the midst of the pain. God, indeed is groaning in labor also (Rom 8:22-27). The pandemic reminds us that we are in midst of a rite of passage to new life, our ritual guide, and one with us, is the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus, our journey's companion, is with us, groaning with us, interceding for us; it is a cooperative action of the praying Christian with the revitalizing encouragements of the Spirit. A central task in this in-between-time is to pray, with the Spirit taking the lead as it were, in the midst of world's pains. It is time for lamentation, for prayer in the midst of the chaos of the pandemic: "How long must I bear pain in the soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!...But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation" (Ps 13:2,3,5). Lamentation is inspired by hope. Lamentation releases energy for creative pastoral action within the People of God and the refounding of ministries.
The Pandemic and the People of God: Cultural Impacts and Pastoral Responses (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2021), G.A. Arbuckle: Publication: Early October, 2021