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Letter From Fr. Abraham "Another Bigger Pandemic?"


Dear Friends,

I have heard some experts say that we need to be ready for a bigger pandemic than coronavirus: the mental health problem. We are all shocked that all areas of our lives are suddenly disrupted. Change in our work schedule, keeping social distancing, living in isolation, dealing with family, and facing financial uncertainties are just some of the factors that can cause stress leading to depression. Dr. Robert Leahy, an attending psychologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, the author of The Worry Cure and Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job, and a national expert in cognitive therapy, says: “This is the perfect storm for depression and anxiety. We are facing a national trauma, whether it’s the fear of being infected or infecting someone else, or the economic downturn, and many people are isolated.” Yes, fear is a big factor that we need to face in order to reduce anxiety. Overcoming fear will increase our hope and joy so that we can be stronger during this pandemic. There are many tips out there given by various experts. But here are five of my personal suggestions:

Listen to God’s reassurance “Do not fear!”: This is in today’s Gospel. Did you know that similar promises, not to fear or not be anxious, are mentioned 365 times in the Bible? This reminds us that God wants us to be living without fear each day of the year. Hence believe that God’s protection is with us daily.

Count the blessings and practice gratitude: it is so easy to focus on what we miss during this pandemic. True, we miss our freedom to travel where we want, meet who we want, eat where we want, etc. Focusing on these will certainly make us moody, irritable, and sad. Instead, look at the blessings that we still can enjoy: blessings of life, family, easy availability of food, connectivity with people, etc. and thank God for these daily.

Follow a schedule: When we have unstructured time, we can become lazy or lethargic. We tend to procrastinate. Instead, following a regular schedule will keep us in good shape physically, mentally and spiritually. This will make us feel good about ourselves.

Use every opportunity for personal spiritual enrichment: This is an excellent way to fortify ourselves against depression. Our parish offers daily Mass (in person and online) and Gospel sharing on Wednesdays of summer via zoom. Other means — personal meditations, intentionally choosing books or shows that are uplifting, etc. — are healthy.

Make family prayer a daily habit: Praying together as a family can be a challenge. To pray together daily can be a bigger challenge. But can each family decide some common time and day/days of the week to pray together? Read a Bible passage and reflect together or pray the rosary, or express what we are grateful for today. Make it a daily habit.

Each day can be positive or negative. It all depends on our attitude. The choice is ours to keep ourselves happy. I believe this is why St. Paul was able to say: “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

God bless us all.

Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal