Friday 2 April 2021

Seeing the Pandemic with Eyes of Faith - Father Ivano Millico - Seven Prophets for Our Time

Seeing the Pandemic with Eyes of Faith: 
Seven Prophets for Our Time
Father Ivano Millico
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784696542
eISBN 9781784696733
CTS Booklet PA63

Over the last several years, I have read over 175 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society, the CTS. I have read books from many series. And many authors. I have read several books that are part of the CTS Devotions and Prayer Series. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. This however is the second by Father Ivano Millico that I have read. But it will not be the last. The description of the booklet is:

“So much has been said and written about the Covid Pandemic which has generated more heat than light, criticising the government or the Church and dividing people into believers or deniers.

Fr Ivano Millico looks at the events of the last year through a prophetic lens enlisting the help of Saints who have lived through moments of great personal or societal crisis. St Therese of Lisieux, Job, St Charles Borromeo are just some of our guides as we search together for what God is saying to the Church and the world through the ongoing Pandemic. These words of hope and warning aim to ensure that this time brings each one of us closer to God and neighbour.” 

Father Ivan states in the introduction that:

“What was needed in the sixth century and is still needed today are medici cordis – physicians of the heart – men and women who can see, name and heal the deeper, and often hidden, spiritual wounds of Covid and post-Covid. With the help of these men and women the Church becomes “prophetic”, that is, able to go beyond descriptive new words.”

And further on:

“In this small booklet, I will turn to different “eyes”: to eyes that remained open in the midst of terrible sufferings and illnesses; to the eyes of a pastor for his afflicted sheep; to the eyes of sentinels who whilst in the dark have “not sinned against the light”;2 to weak and sick eyes, still able to read souls and guide them; to the inner eyes of discernment; to eyes whose wisdom has been purified by suffering; and to merciful eyes. I will borrow the eyes of Thérèse of Lisieux and Charles Borromeo, John Henry Newman and Ignatius of Loyola, the Abbé Huvelin, Job and the Virgin Mary.”

And he does an amazing job of that. I was familiar with all of the ‘eyes that he uses except Abbé Huvelin. The chapters are:

Preface: “Eyes” and “Backs”
Introduction: “Son of Man, what do you see?”
The Eyes of Thérèse
Sheep Dogs and Hunting Dogs
No 6 Rue de Laborde
The Cannonball which Transforms Souls
A Strange Providence
Fear and the Gift of Sight
Mater Misericordiae, Pray for us

This is a new volume published in February of 2021. The physical booklet and the eBook released at the same time. This book was so good I read it twice on consecutive days. I did not highlight anything my first read through but highlighted 23 passages my second time. A sampling of those are:

“The future of humanity is something the Lord Jesus is calling the Church, both priests and people, to build up with eyes of faith: faith in the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. We call this the Paschal Mystery: the descent of Jesus into darkness, the underworld, his death, his rising, his victory and the gift of his life-giving Spirit.”

“The transition between the night of this pandemic and the dawn of a new day is not so much a chronological one, Covid and post-Covid – no; it has to do with whether or not we are able to discern the presence of God and his action in the present. This is why we need prophets, to help us to decipher God’s calligraphy in our history and so lead us out of darkness into a “new day”, and not a post-Covid day only.”

“When many of his brother bishops, including the pope, begged him not to put his life at danger and urged him to use all possible caution, Borromeo answered: “From the beginning, I resolved to place myself entirely in God’s hands, without however despising ordinary remedies…a sponge soaked in vinegar and a few aromatic herbs in the mouth!””

“For himself, he acted as if he was actually infected, allowing no one to come near him, keeping (in his days) to a “rule of eight” in his household. Walking in the city, he made sure that “social distancing” was kept: he was accompanied by a servant waving a stick to make sure no one would get close to touch his robe or beg for a blessing. He would give alms only by placing coins in jars of vinegar, he often changed his vestments, sanitised everything with vinegar and fire, and carried with him a sponge soaked with vinegar and herbs which was regarded as disinfectant. How familiar all of this is!”

“We too, priests and bishops of Covid and thereafter, are to meditate upon to the words spoken by the plague’s bishop, St Charles Borromeo. We need to have open eyes and a hunting nose. We are shepherds, it is true, called to defend and nourish the sheep afflicted by the wounds of the pandemic and its consequences, but we are hunting dogs too, called to smell out the scent of spiritual dangers and temptations, to name the fears oppressing our people and help deliver them. This is what allows us to discern between prophets and spectators, between good shepherds and hired men.”

“On his bed sick, in lockdown, Ignatius was undergoing a deep spiritual journey: from thoughts to the awareness of them, from pondering to focused reflection, from learning from one’s experience to understanding it, from seeing the movements of one’s heart to the discernment of the spirits.”

I hope those few excerpts will give you a sample of what this wonderful volume contains. And challenge you to pick it up and give it a read. It will open your eyes, as we look at the world through the 6 sets of eyes Father Ivano uses. This book will be of value now and for us going forward. And Like job one of the examples presented was changed and moved forward with God in a different way after. So too will we be changed. We are being changed by the pandemic, lockdowns, social distancing, masks and more. But this little book will help us process some of that. Return to some spiritual exercise and practices to help us. And It will help us each day. 

Another excellent resource from the Catholic Truth Society. I highly recommend it! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Fr Ivano Millico:
The Door of Mercy
The Meaning of Lent
7 Words on Marriage
Seeing the Pandemic with Eyes of Faith

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