Stress, isolation of pandemic leading people to reexamine faith life.
Hardly anyone needs to be reminded of the situation, but Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič summed up the effects of COVID-19 when he spoke on Wednesday at the sixth Interfaith Dialogue 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives, countless others are suffering from the severe health crisis; many businesses have been closed around the world, many of which will never be able to reopen their doors, national economies have been devastated; production was stopped in many places, education has been reduced to virtual learning or has ceased altogether and situations of poverty have been pushed to the breaking point,” said Archbishop Jurkovič, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva.
Although he acknowledged the importance of restrictions implemented to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the archbishop noted that “isolation at home, wearing of a mask, the loss of jobs, the impossibility to physically interact with family and friends” continue to have a profound psychological, emotional and spiritual impact on everyone,Vatican News reported.
From a Christian point of view, “God desires communion,” said Jurkovič. “The Almighty created us so that we can enter into a deep and meaningful relationship with our Creator and with one another. Only through this mutual and open sharing of ourselves we find true contentment and peace.”
Halfway around the world, a consortium of retreat centers want people to know that there are ways to find that communion and that “deep and meaningful relationship” with God, in spite of lockdowns and other restrictions.
“It seems the need for solace, peace and understanding has never been higher as the [Los Angeles] area wrestles with the effects of the pandemic, economic conditions and a seemingly unending divisiveness in the nation,” said a statement from the Los Angeles Retreat Center Community (LARCC). “We are beyond the need for a mental health break; many have reached a state of emotional and spiritual exhaustion in their lives.”
The consortium acknowledged that most of their retreat centers are closed for physical on-site gatherings, but are offering a service that they say is increasing in demand: spiritual direction.
LARCC is quick to point out that spiritual direction is not the same as counseling, and is not a substitute for mental health care that might be indicated for those experiencing depression, anxiety or other problems. But at a time of crisis, many people might be reexamining their faith and their relationship with God, so it could be a good time to take up spiritual direction.
“In simple terms, spiritual direction is a means for an individual (the directee) to meet with a qualified spiritual director on their spiritual journey,” LARCC says. “So it is more of an accompaniment with another than purely giving advice. Compassionate listening is often a crucial part of the service, and those receiving spiritual direction share their spiritual journey in life, covering all aspects which affect their relationship with God. Ultimately, the goal is to deepen our relationship with God and find the increasing inner peace which all seek in these difficult times.”
Each of the retreat centers in the LARCC consortium has several spiritual directors on their staff and offers the service regularly. Meetings, which typically take place once a month for around an hour, can be carried out by phone or Zoom or a similar service. There is usually a fee for the service.
LARCC members, which also offer retreats online, include:
- Holy Spirit Retreat Center, Encino, California.
- Mary and Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes
- Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre
- Sacred Heart Retreat Center, Alhambra
- Serra Retreat, Malibu