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 | By Bach H. Nguyen, Institute for Leadership in Ministry Class of ‘19

Grace From Covid

As a person filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, my mom knew how to nurture hope. Growing up, I never saw my mom complain about anything. If she personified hope, then my dad would be joy. Dad was always filled with the joy of the New Year, Tết. His smile could light up the whole world. Whenever my dad was home, we were feted by listening to my dad’s many stories, our entranced silence often broken by peals of laughter.

That was my mom and dad. They knew how to pour hope and joy into my young heart. Even more important was their legacy of faith. They did not discuss their faith so much as they lived their faith. Their examples carved into my heart and mind the way to be constant and faithful to God, no matter what.

My faith was tested in the darkest days in the spring of 2020 when the COVID epidemic rose like a tidal wave from the Red Sea, trying to sweep away the world. People around me were getting sick. Some survived. Some did not make it, including one of my close friends, Annie, a fellow parishioner at St. Lucy.

At the beginning of COVID, during March 2020, when COVID tests and vaccines did not yet exist, the virus became a new leprosy that divided the world between the ‘unclean’ and the ‘clean.’ If you even suspected you were infected, you were to quarantine at home. This was true for me when I thought I had contracted COVID. I had a debilitating, flu-like illness. Alone at home, I had no appetite, and merely shuffling from my bed to my bedroom door was a Herculean task.

The Vietnamese have a proverb about dying: "Being born is precious but dying is coming home (Sinh quí tử qui).” I felt like I was dying, but miraculously, through grace, I was not afraid but filled with peace. I prayed to God and told him I was ready to go home. I was unworried about anything worldly, even my three beloved children. Through grace, I could accept that if my time was up, I would obey.

Thankfully, I recovered, and the same grace that had given me peace also allowed me to see God’s hidden blessings throughout COVID. When churches all over the world were shutting their doors, when hospitals ran out of beds, funeral homes were out of coffins, markets out of food, and my pantry was close to empty, I still found grace in my prayers, in my belief in God who is Love, and Mercy.

The first gift I perceived was time, which came like a silver lining around the sorrows of the pandemic. For the first time in my adult life, I had oodles of times! At first, I binged Netflix shows and played Mahjong online. However, I could soon see that the pandemic was going to be around much longer than I could ever imagine.

To not squander this gift but to treasure it, I decided to commit time to nurturing my faith. I started to read the bible more each day, at first alone but then over the phone with a friend. I also started to pray the rosary each day, over the phone, with another friend. Over two years later, we still continue with this practice.

The second and highest grace I received from COVID was the longing to receive the Body of Christ again. After my illness, my appetite did not return, but my craving for the body of Christ intensified. I went from attending mass online to parking lot Mass where I could finally receive the Eucharist through the car window.

In early fall, I was able to attend my first in-person mass in Saint Maria Goretti Parish’s courtyard; it was in Vietnamese. Sitting in my lawn chair, which I brought from home, at that mass, in that garden, I felt God's eternal and endless grace; I felt the grace of thanksgiving. Six feet apart, but we were One – One church.

That day, standing under the shades of the trees, when the breeze stirred the grass, I felt as if it was the breath of God, of the Holy Spirit, touching my soul. My father's New Year Tết joy was back. I am again filled with my mother’s hope. It is time now for me to put my hands together again, praying for peace in the world and giving gratitude to God on high for blessing me with His grace from a long season of sorrows.