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Report from Milan: Finding spiritual peace amid the pandemic

From the Christian Science Sentinel - May 7, 2020


I live in Milan, the largest city in the region of Italy most affected by the global pandemic. We quickly went into almost total lockdown. As I write this in late April, we are still inside. Like so many, we have been told to remain at home unless buying food at a nearby market or taking a walk around the block. Even the church bells, a familiar sound in Italy, have stopped ringing. 

It hasn’t been easy. The staggering statistics of suffering, the mounting anxiety about the future, and now the looming economic disaster paint a bleak scene. Yet the creativity and joy my fellow countrymen and women have exhibited through it all have been truly inspiring. From applauding health workers to singing on balconies and rooftops to raise one another’s spirits, their response has shown that goodness cannot be stifled or extinguished.

When the lockdown started, having family and friends all over the world, I was swamped by requests for details about the situation and how we were doing. Feeling the need to pray and find peace, I decided to reread the chapter “Creation” in Mary Baker Eddy’s primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Especially at this time, I have been deeply grateful for this book and the author’s other writings on spirituality and Christian healing. Through them, as well as the Bible, on which the teachings of Christian Science are based, humanity has been given the spiritual tools to uplift thought to a more spiritual view of life—of our families, friends, colleagues, and nations—to help all feel the peace and comfort they are seeking in the face of every challenge. And most importantly, to know that all things are possible with God, including the healing of any disease—even one thought to be caused by a virus. 

As I was reading this chapter, I found a couple of sentences that brought me the peace and comfort I needed and helped establish a spiritual starting point for my prayers: “Divine Mind is the only cause or Principle of existence. Cause does not exist in matter, in mortal mind, or in physical forms” (p. 262). And Science and Health prefaces this by saying that to start from this premise is “to begin rightly,” which enables us to “end rightly,” or come to the right conclusions about life and health. The chapter goes on to explain that we begin rightly when we acknowledge that man—everyone—is God’s creation, the spiritual, perfect reflection of God’s being; also, that matter cannot originate, or create, anything, either good or bad, because God is the only creator and creates only that which is spiritual and harmless. 

The church bells may not be ringing again for some time in Italy, but nothing can silence this still, small voice of Truth.

A study of this chapter enabled me to recognize more consistently that any disruptive picture the material senses present to us is ultimately not our reality. The spiritual reality is always God, and His creation held in His arms, loved and protected, filled with love and joy and happiness. No material state of belief, including the common conviction of the need to fear a virus, can enter this spiritual man, and this truth gives us the strength to stand calmly and fearlessly in the face of all claims of a polluted environment, a sick body, or distressed thoughts. 

As a result of this study, I was able to feel the peace of God, and in turn radiate this peace whenever I had the opportunity to share with others these spiritual truths, which can break down the palpable wall of anxiety about the future of our nation’s health and economy.

Although I have overcome many fears regarding the pandemic, last week I found myself being put to the test once again. While in line to enter the supermarket, I started to panic once I saw the guard at the door taking each customer’s temperature before allowing us in one at a time. I had been in line for some time, enjoying a warm spring sun, and I thought: “What if the thermometer indicates my temperature is above what it should be? Would I be turned away? Could I appear to have a fever simply because I felt warm from being in the sun?” 

In just a few seconds I had a flood of negative thoughts. Realizing I should not ignore them, I immediately recalled the aforementioned passage in Science and Health and realized that I was asking the wrong questions, and therefore, thinking from the wrong premise. So, I began to reason rightly: I am not a vulnerable mortal, but a spiritual idea, the image and likeness of God, reflecting the beautiful, pure thoughts of divine Mind, manifested in health, joy, and fearlessness. This universal truth that applies to everyone quickly dispelled the river of fear and silenced my questions and speculations. I was back on track, got the groceries I needed without a problem, and went home. 

This experience brought to my attention the importance of being spiritually alert—of keeping thought aligned with God and seeing only His perfect creation whenever its opposite appears. In this way we are defending ourselves against the suggestion of sickness and preventing the possibility of suffering from it. Mrs. Eddy writes in the Manual of The Mother Church, “It shall be the duty of every member of this Church to defend himself daily against aggressive mental suggestion …” (p. 42). 

Recent events have also given Christian Scientists here in Italy a unique opportunity to think about church in new ways and demonstrate the continuity and indestructibility of the spiritual concept of Church, defined in Science and Health, in part, as “the structure of Truth and Love;…” (p. 583). Since we can’t meet in our physical structures for services, we are finding different ways to “meet” virtually and stay connected with one another. As a result, I have felt a wonderful sense of unity with my fellow Christian Scientists in praying for mankind so that all may see the diminishment of fear and disease, or the “signs following” the word of God, divine Truth (Mark 16:20). 

The church bells may not be ringing again for some time in Italy, but nothing can silence the still, small voice of Truth. It is reaching receptive hearts in every corner of the earth and freeing humanity from the chains of fear and mortality.

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