What Would Mother Brunner do? (Part 2)
by Sr. Joyce Lehman
A recent blog spoke (Part 1) of how Mother Maria Anna Brunner might have responded to a pandemic in her own day, or today. Building on the natural isolation of her home in the Swiss countryside and knowing her contemplative penchant toward the end of her life, she would have found the pandemic and its “social distancing” not all that burdensome and in fact an opportunity to deepen her relationship with God.
But another aspect of Mother Brunner would have also been evident. She was a woman of action. Being married and raising her children did not keep her from being conscious of the spiritual and material needs of her neighbors. A story included in one of our Community history books tells of her children complaining that their mother would give the cream from the milk to the beggars who came to their door, leaving the “skim” milk for the family to drink. She was also attuned to spiritual needs having been asked to be the Godmother for as many as 20 children in the area. Taking her role seriously, she ensured that the children were raised in the faith and supported their parents in their own catechetical responsibilities.
Being “socially distanced” would not have kept her from looking in on her neighbors and making sure that the poor had enough to eat, the sick were cared for and the spiritually disconsolate were encouraged. Learning from Mother Brunner’s care for others, our Sisters during the 1918 influenza pandemic cared for children in the homes of parents who had been stricken with the flu. Today we have many more opportunities to be present to people while being far from them with our many means of communication: phones, email, social media and of course, the old-fashioned letter.
Social distancing is no excuse to turn inward, care only for our own and allow the fear and anxiety of the situation to keep us from turning outward to our neighbor and making a supportive community.In a way we are redeeming the phrase “drive by” from meaning gun violence to becoming a joyful and encouraging parade.How many other negative things that divide us can now be changed into positive thing to unite us. Reflect on Mother Brunner and allow the Spirit to help make us positively creative.