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Blog Post #26: Best of Times...Worst of Times 

Charles Dickens | A Tale of Two Cities | Choices | COVID | Cross | Suffering

March 23, 2020 by Carol Kurivial

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...” Many of you are familiar with those famous words by Charles Dickens from his historical novel “A Tale of Two Cities.” (1859) But how many of you are familiar with the rest of that particular piece? It goes on to say, “...it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...” Gosh, so many choices!


And your choice? Go ahead and meditate on these words for a moment and see what thoughts arise. If you’re game for a little journey, I’d like to share what came to my mind. My first thought was how interesting it is that COVID-19 is happening during the season of Lent...a season often associated with suffering and the acceptance of suffering...being willing to carry our little “sliver of the cross” as Fr. Jim Halleron puts it. Perhaps it is no coincidence. Perhaps it is an opportunity to practice what we Catholics call the Cardinal Virtues. There are four of them: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.


When’s the last time you used most of those words in a sentence? Worry not! Prudence simply means wisdom, justice (I think we’ve got that one, but we’re basically talking about being fair), fortitude means courage, and temperance is using moderation and self-control.


Talk about four virtues that will serve us well in these times! I’m thinking that a prudent thing to do in this season of atypical living would be to pause at the end of each day and ask yourself in what ways you displayed these four virtues...maybe even journal your thoughts.


Thinking about these Cardinal Virtues then made me think of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude (a.k.a. courage), knowledge, piety (or reverence) and fear of the Lord, (also known as wonder and awe). Wow! Those could sure come in handy about right now!! But you have to meet Him at the gate with a little desire, interest, and an open heart. More choices.


Did anyone notice that “courage” is both a Cardinal Virtue AND one of the seven gifts? That must mean that it’s really important. In this “best of times, worst of times” reality I’m wondering just how much of it I have and how much I’ll be needing to get through til I’m on the other side. After some thought, I’ve decided I can be a fairly courageous person at times, and other times, not so much. I’m thinking now would be a good time to up the game. After all, practice makes perfect!


Three ladies who surely practiced courage when put to the test (and with a vigor rarely seen) were Mary, Mother of God, Mary Magdalene, and Joan of Arc. They’ve always been three of my favorite saints, and I even wear their medals around my neck or wrist to remind me to be more like them. Who could argue that their focus on Jesus under unfathomable torment of mind, body and spirit was tremendously inspirational?


My next thought? I need to be more focused on Jesus. And imitating these three role-models could go a long way in helping me to keep the main thing the main thing.


Yep, “The Tale of Two Cities” ~ and its famous “best of times, worst of times” verbiage offers a choice. If you choose the “best of times” you’ll be wanting to do yourself a favor and listen to Bishop Robert Barron’s YouTube video “Bishop Barron on the Coronavirus Quarantine.” I found it to be profound and definitely led me into “best of times” space. So, that’s one suggestion. Another is to meditate on those Cardinal Virtues and those seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.


A final suggestion would be to keep your sense of humor. I spent much of yesterday laughing as my husband entertained me throughout the day by wearing different hats. Each hat represented a different person. He wanted me to feel like I was getting to meet and greet lots of different folks, thus, helping to keep my socialization skills on lockdown! (Yikes!) Did I really say that? Ahhh, but we are being offered yet another choice...a poor word option or a humorous pun? You choose. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...”

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