Protesters participate in a demonstration in Queen's Park, Toronto. Michael Swan

Speaking Out: Reflections on a year of turmoil

By  Paula Ducepec, Youth Speak News
  • June 17, 2020

With so much going on around the world, I am feeling pretty overwhelmed.

We are just halfway through the year 2020, but the world has already experienced misfortune on an unprecedented scale. We have seen destructive wildfires in Australia destroying livelihoods, a COVID-19 pandemic upending modern society and police brutality, resulting in death and sparking racial discrimination protests.

I cannot help but ruminate upon our world at this moment. What is happening? This process of meditation led me to realize a couple of things. 

First, a common thread is evident: the involvement of breath. Oxygen thins as fire and smoke choke the air. The novel coronavirus primarily attacks the lungs, making breathing excruciatingly painful. George Floyd died by being brutally choked. And it is this form of death that became the catalyst for the modern-day cry for worldwide social, political and cultural change.

Furthermore, Mother Earth called our attention to the significant restoration of the ozone layer when humans temporarily stopped from their unnecessary production. The Earth can now breathe even for a bit. Why is breath a common link?

My second observation: Amidst the clamour for justice, peace and unity, there is something that squarely stares us in the face — moral inconsistency. I’ve seen some people claim to be supporting democracy, but also dissuading the freedoms to expression and assembly.

I’ve seen advocates for the right to life turn a blind eye to the needs of our elderly by desiring a relaunch of society too soon. I’ve observed people who openly support the pro-life cause also defend dubious acts from police officers. Many who care for the environment and their pets are pro-abortion. Why these inconsistencies?

As a Catholic, I believe in God. But where is He? Thanks to the writings of Jesuit priest Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), I am reminded that God is in all these events.

Events in life are God’s invitations for us to come closer to Him. These are our opportunities to change so that we will become holy like His Son in the end. Only when we practise the art of genuine love can we live in Heaven on Earth.

However, we are not alone in the process. God sends help. The breath that the world is experiencing today, I believe, is not the breath of death. Instead, it is the breath of the Holy Spirit. It is the breath of life that helps us re-create ourselves and the world.

The Holy Spirit is breathing into us His gifts of wisdom to know the truth, of humility to accept it, of courage to fight for it and of sense of awe to be able to kneel before the truth — God. 

As the Catholic churches in Canada start to open again, may we become sensitive to the Holy Spirit. May we let it permeate all areas of our lives to make them consistent with His will. Here is our unprecedented chance!

(Ducepec, 22, is a student at the University of Toronto studying anthropology.)

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