Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Tomorrow is not promised and other lessons from 2020

By Lorraine V. Murray, Commentary | Published January 22, 2021

To say last year was bleak would be a major understatement. With a raging virus stomping through the world, it’s little wonder folks were eager to bid farewell to 2020.

I’ve done my share of complaining about the trials and tribulations the pandemic brought us, but I’ll acknowledge there were some worthwhile lessons too.

Let’s cherish our heroes. The pandemic has revealed ordinary people among us who deserve to be called heroes. Topping the list are the doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants, pharmacists and emergency technicians who face the virus on a daily basis.

There are also priests who have bravely donned protective gear and ventured into the hospital rooms of desperately ill people, to administer the Sacrament of the Sick. One of these is Father Michael Trail in Chicago who said simply, “This is what I was ordained to do.”

Around the world, religious sisters have faced the specter of COVID threatening people under their care. In Kerala, India, the Sisters of the Destitute run the Home of Mercy for 120 elderly women.

When more than half were sickened by the virus, Sister Ann Paul courageously continued her ministry. In an article in “One” magazine, she shared her simple prayer: “Only your will, Lord.” “All our patients recovered,” she wrote, “except for two, whom the Lord called home.”

The risks taken by religious sisters, priests, deacons and laypeople remind me of Christ’s words, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Tomorrow is not promised. The pandemic vividly brought home the lesson that our plans for the future can be upended within the span of minutes.

As cases of the coronavirus started showing up around the globe, many things we took for granted, as part of “normal” life, grinded to a halt. Restaurants and small businesses were shuttered—and suddenly something as ordinary as dining out became a memory.

Much worse was the shuttering of churches. I’ll never forget seeing the sign on the church door announcing public masses had been suspended. Suddenly, what we needed most—the Eucharist—wasn’t available.

Let’s pray for our enemies. I once believed that if our nation were threatened by a common enemy, people would put politics aside and work together to conquer it. That seemed to be the lesson following the events of 9/11, but sadly this wasn’t the reaction to the pandemic. Instead of cooperating, politicians began battling each other and pointing fingers of blame.

I learned we must pray for people we disagree with, whether they’re politicians or the folks next door. Christ emphasized loving our enemies, but “love” needn’t mean becoming best buddies or having warm, fuzzy feelings.

Instead, Thomas Aquinas defined love as “willing the good of the other,” which means we can love others by praying for their health and salvation.

Let’s be grateful. Each night I thank God for everyday gifts, including my meals, which aren’t fancy but are nourishing; kind folks who’ve included me in their “bubble” of safe-to-visit people; priests whose homilies are spiritually sustaining.

I’m also grateful for the beauties of the natural world. One day I walked outside at the exact moment when hundreds of red-winged blackbirds swooped into the neighborhood. The chattering herd joyfully perched on branches and squawked loudly before suddenly flying away.

Each month I admire the full moon illuminating the night sky, while recalling poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ words: “The world is charged with the glory of God.” And I would add that even during a pandemic, God’s glory brightens our lives.

Artwork is by Jef Murray from “Black and White Ogre Country: Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien.” Lorraine’s email is