Ruminations from a life in quarantine

The scourge of COVID-19 is teaching all of us a bitter lesson: That even the wisest among us, the most astute and the most cunning included; and that even the best and the most formidable of our social structures, secular or supernatural, can be seriously threatened by the least, most inconspicuous of nature’s creatures. 

An unseen David wreaking havoc on our Goliath. And it struck hard, leaving us dazed and helpless, in the wake of thousands of sick people and lonely corpses.

We have only begun to strike back. Our strong institutions, our prized globalized economies, the tower of Babel we are building with all the arrogance of a proud species, has actually been proven to be fragile by this minute virus. And for many struggling nations, the artificial edifice glorifying our independence from God, is in danger of crumbling fast.

The only hope of being rescued from our folly remains in our Father’s offer of redemption.

We may survive this. It will be a grim struggle, a suspenseful vigil over a decline in the body count, and hopefulness in succeeding that we will keep our families intact. But in case we do survive, we should be reminded of rethinking our way of life and changing our beliefs that we must be humbled and forever be in awe of our God; that nature should not be dominated, but respected; and that others should not be commodified, but given the dignity worthy of our Creator.


In the midst of this pandemic crisis, what motive underlies our prayers for relief and redemption? Is it a prayer that we may be saved so that we can return to our old ways and our systems of injustice in which the poor have obviously and irreversibly been pushed into conditions that inclines them to defy discipline and order, and in which the unspeaking vulnerable are quietly left to die?

Or is it a prayer that we may be saved so that we can finally discard our greed and selfishness and our unjust structures, that we are given a second chance at the reign of God, a kingdom of solidarity and compassion where no one is in dire need, where no one is left behind?

Our sincere prayer for social change may be the key to the end of this scourge, a test of the Lord of social change to challenge us, a deep and thorough examination of conscience which I think he expects us to contemplate carefully and to respond decisively.

People wearing face masks stand and pray outside an empty Quiapo church, usually filled with devotees during Fridays but now closed due to restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Manila on March 27. Catholic church authorities closed all its churches in line with the government’s imposed enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against COVID-19. (Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP)

An unnerving tour-of-duty

How does it feel to be a front-liner in these deadly times?

Amidst the free meals, lodging and transport, and the occasional jokes and lullabies among health-care comrades, it is a daunting and unnerving tour-of-duty.

Every day is another day of surviving from being a statistic. Every day is another day of getting through without the reassuring embraces of family. Every day is another day of hope that we will all see each other again.

Let us be consoled in the fact that Jesus was a front-liner, too. He chose to confront a plague of hypocrisy, of indifference and an unbridled competition for power, which unduly constrained people of misfortune to the margins of society under the guise of punishment for transgressions and divine wrath.

And like all front-liners, he was the first one to suffer from all the pain and torment inflicted by the plague, a suffering he endured in spite of the weapon of love and the armor of compassion he bore in the field of battle.

And like all front-liners, he was the first one to rise above all the hypocrisy, indifference and power struggles, to be its eternal Judge. He who continues to offer mercy, will ultimately be the sole authority to impose justice from the heavens.

Therefore, be consoled that though all front-liners will suffer, all will triumph in the end — like the Christ of our adoration.

Front-liners must continue to offer their humble service for others, in spite of the brazenness of the attack, in spite of the selfishness and greed evoked in its aftermath.

Fallen or not, in victory or in defeat, they shall eventually stand as judges to the monstrosities we have created, and to the actions we will take to ensure that the war in which they fought, should never happen again.

A man sits by the bay in Manila amid the ongoing lockdown of the Philippine capital to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus disease. (Photo by by Jire Carreon)

A blessing

A blessing for all of us (based on the blessing of St. Francis of Assisi):

May the good Lord bless all of us, and keep all of us from the present pandemic.

May the good Lord show his holy Face upon this stricken world, and have mercy on us.

May the good Lord turn his compassionate countenance upon our political and religious leaders, our front-liners, and the sick and dying.  May he give them his holy peace.

May the good Lord bless all of us. Amen.

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of

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