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As quarantine rules relax, it’s time to “distinguish the superfluous from the essential”


A and I. Kruk | Shutterstock

Agnès Pinard Legry - published on 05/26/20

A priest in France offers a method for deciding which parts of quarantine we'd like to continue once it ends.

Faced with the response of governments and health officials to the COVID-19 pandemic, people everywhere have had to give up so much of what they were used to: taking public transportation to work, dropping their children off at school in the morning, going out for a drink with their colleagues, meeting friends at a restaurant, going to Mass on Sundays, going to the swimming pool, shopping, traveling … Although we all had our daily lives turned upside down almost overnight, now we are starting to be able to return to some of those activities. But are we sure we want our lives to go back to exactly the way they were before?

Fr. Jacques Turck, a priest of the diocese of Nanterre, France, proposes a method for reflecting on the period we spent in quarantine so we can learn from it. The first step is listing the areas that quarantine disrupted, such as family life, work, social relationships, faith and Church life, and also shopping, reading and culture, the formation of our bodies and minds, transportation, and other commitments.

Superfluous or essential?

Once we have listed these areas, he invites us to note what has changed. For example, when it comes to shopping, owing to the interruption of supply chains or to a desire to support the local economy, perhaps we now have a greater preference for local and seasonal products. In the area of faith, we may have established a time for family prayer in the evening, or regular spiritual communions.

Once you’ve identified the consequences of confinement in each area, “it’s time to make a distinction between the superfluous and the essential,” says Fr. Turck. What has been beneficial or harmful? What seems to be essential or superfluous?

For example, the Eucharist is an essential for believers. “It obliges us to look at our relationship to the sacrament, to the Eucharist,” Father Turck said. “It’s obvious that each person will have their own definition of what is superfluous and essential, and that’s totally normal. The idea is not to force certain conclusions from the exercise of reflection, but that each person learn about himself or herself through it.”

Once these elements have been established, it’s time to make decisions. As you review the areas of your life that were disrupted by confinement, and the consequences of the situation for you personally, ask yourself what initiatives you can take—or continue, if they were initiated during confinement—to “move from consumption to creation, from quantitative to qualitative, and from independence to interdependence.”

The pandemic “is a warning shot for all humanity,” said Father Turck to Aleteia,

“But it is also a time of grace … The Lord, with his silence, speaks to us in events. What is He trying to tell us through this pandemic? Are we going to heed this voice of the Holy Spirit that exhorts us no longer to live as before? Are we going to return to the way we were before, or are we going to explore new paths, ones that are more just and more full of solidarity?”

In his view, these new paths are based on three foundational principles: Everything is connected, everything is a gift, and above all, everything is ephemeral. “What we have gone through is an opportunity to refocus on the essential—the essential being to put the human person back in first place in all our concerns.”

This personal analysis of lockdown “is not intended to feed intellectual debates on economic systems,” he says, “but it should enable everyone to regain room for maneuvering and to understand that we all have a responsibility to fulfill, and a role to play.”


Read more:
5 Lessons to carry with us after quarantine


Read more:
3 Guidelines for parents on socializing as lockdowns are lifting

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