A poem jumped out at me as I was reading my latest issue of The Sun. It was titled “The Pandemic Halo” by Jim Moore. In the poem, the narrator sees a halo around the head of a dog, a nurse and a depressed young man. A halo is a sign of holiness, even amidst great suffering and grief. We see it so often in paintings over the heads of the saints and angels, over Mary and the Christ child.
In a pandemic, according to the poem, halos become commonplace. They hover, appear and reappear, over many lives and life forms, as the ills and tragedies of this world are made holy: as grief is immersed in holiness and this immersion turns the darkness into light.
The logo of the Catholic Worker Movement is a contemporary example of the halo. It uses an illustration of a line-up of the poor in the midst of the great depression. They are all waiting to enter the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in New York City to receive a free meal. In the line is one figure with a halo, meant to represent Jesus Christ. It reminds the workers that as they serve the hungry, Jesus is in their midst. Each person must be treated as they would treat Jesus. It might be a good logo for those long lines of people in this country waiting for a box of food or a COVID-19 test. Those serving them seem to me the new and multiplying Catholic Workers of the great depression of this age.
In our family we have taken social distancing seriously. We wear a mask in public out of respect for those who are doing their best to turn grief and suffering into holiness; turn darkness into light. There are so many serving us and others. Many of those servers seem to have halos, and I sometimes wonder if Jesus is in their midst.
Although we can not control the virus, we can control how we respond to it. Maybe Mother Earth or the God who created us all simply wants us to slow down and smell the flowers. Maybe we are meant to learn anew how grief and suffering, and the invisible but deadly, can bring us to a new understanding of the holy.
I’m troubled by those who refuse to wear a mask in public, but I’m also trying to understand it. I wonder if it isn’t a way of asserting control in a situation where people don’t believe they have any. Rather than wear a mask, admitting that the pandemic is real and death could be imminent, they control their destiny by refusing its reality, at least for them. Often there’s a naive trust in divinity to protect them, that lies behind the rage they express to government and health authorities for limiting their “freedom.”
I’ve yet to actually see a pandemic halo, but I’m looking. I’m aware of auras. I’ve experienced auras. We all have an energy field that surrounds us. Check it out with a friend. Simply stand facing each other with your palms toward the other, but not touching. Wait till you feel it. Sometimes you can even feel the pulsing and push the other back with your aura. Some say the aura has colors. I don’t know about that. But I do know I had a massage once in India for a body in pain, where the masseuse never touched me. He simply worked on my energy field, my aura, and told me he manipulated my energy field back into place. It was amazing to me (miraculous really), how good I felt afterward.
As the pandemic continues, there’s a tendency to see things we haven’t seen for a long time, or perhaps never. We have fireflies in our garden. That’s new for us here in Brookings. We’ve enjoyed watching and getting to know two new young doves, siblings with sibling behaviors. Then there are the five starling children that have to go everyplace together. One strayed once, but it wasn’t long before the lost was found and they all flew in their usual noisy cloud.
They’ve been here all along, but I’m only seeing our trees now that we have a pandemic. Each has character all its own. Each has an aura. Each is making a contribution to the breeze we feel late in the afternoon in the back yard and the song of the wind when it blows strong through the garden.
As the pandemic days continue to merge into each other; as Mother Earth and the Creator seem to be working at a great cleansing; perhaps we humans will discern the writing on the wall, see the halos and auras of the age, watch the invisible hand at work telling us to slow down and look. Observe the holiness. Observe the humility of the saints. Observe the Creation. Observe the pandemic halos. Try to be holy!