28 May 2020, The Tablet

Pentecost and the pandemic

Coronavirus crisis

Pentecost and the pandemic

Detail of Pentecost from Fra Angelico’s Corsini Triptych, about 1447-1448, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in the Palazzo Corsini, Rome


The world has been dealt an almighty jolt. To mark the feast of Pentecost, the papal preacher reflects that only the Holy Spirit can transform the chaos and injustice that the pandemic has exposed into something more beautiful, more peaceful and more just

I am living these days of isolation in a hermitage with some cloistered nuns. This is where I have been based for several years when I am not travelling. After preaching at the Good Friday service in St Peter’s Basilica on 10 April I immediately returned here.

I feel privileged compared with the many people who have been confined within the four walls of a house or apartment. I am able to take more time with prayer (though still less than I should!), there is more time to read and, now that the heat is coming, I can take short walks around the hermitage garden.

I have been picking up books that enriched me when I first read them many years ago and discovering how good it is to reread them at a different moment in life. This might also be an opportunity to do some of the things we’ve always wanted to do but has never before been possible. Just being together as a family. Talking and playing with our children, listening to grandparents tell us about their experiences and memories. Above all, discovering the immense grace to be found in praying together as a family, even if it is done very simply and quickly. Many tensions can be resolved in this way.

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