Rome, March 14., 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are experiencing a state of health in the world. The Coronavirus Pandemic (Covid -19) confronted us with a reality none of us could have ever imagined. We probably feel great discouragement.

Allow me to reflect with you, share my feelings with you during this difficult time as a brother among brothers and sisters.
The first is not to downplay the problem. The situation is profoundly serious. Even if we find it difficult to accept this and we tend to attach little importance to this topic. Let us not fall into this mistake. The pandemic is progressing relentlessly, contaminating continents and nations, and leaving behind a world of illness and death. We are facing a global emergency. Therefore, a humble attitude is essential. First of all, humility. From here we can assume the fragility of our condition and the relativity of human security: humanity is not omnipotent, but vulnerable. The harsh reality in which we live must focus on the Lord and trust us in His mercy.

Only with a humble heart will we be able to analyze this sign and give the necessary answer as Augustinians and Christians. As was rightly suggested, this answer must be nurtured through four pillars: prayer, serenity, prevention, and responsibility.

"We should not turn to God only with words, but with the feelings that we have in our hearts and with the direction of our thoughts, together with pure love and sincere affection" (Augustine, About the Sermon on the Mount 2, 3, 13 ). I thank the Institute for Augustinian Spirituality for making the entire order a day of prayer on March 20, the third Friday of Lent, that we will celebrate with the other two Augustinian orders closest to us: the Augustinian Recollects and the Discalced Augustinians. I hope that all men and women religious and lay people will pray together, especially on this day, as a call to the heart of the entire Augustinian family (see Augustine, commentary on Psalm 118, 29, 1). We will remember the sick, the healthcare workers, the volunteers, and let us also pray for the dead. Let us ask the Lord of Life to deliver us from evil.

May the Holy Spirit give us the necessary serenity. The Christian answer does not come from fear, excitement or pain that destroys, but from the power faith gives us, which is the encounter and experience of Christ. " Lord, save us!" And we hear his defiant answer: " Fear not " (cf. Mt 8,25-26; 14,30-31). That is how it should be. Each of us should trust our hands and in these moments of great difficulties ask for the intercession of the Saints of the Order.

At the same time, the need for adequate prevention urges us to take part decisively in the measures adopted by the governments. Several bishops and episcopal conferences have also spoken in this regard. Even if they may seem drastic to us, we must implement the measures taken loyally and responsibly. Our careful and determined cooperation, the cooperation of everyone, the cooperation of all is essential.

But we should be careful that social isolation or other measures that can be taken do not result in isolation of the soul. It is time to strengthen solidarity. We care about the health of those who work with us, the people who are in our care and trust our responsibility. Selfishness must not prevail over justice and cohesion.

And I also ask you not to neglect pastoral care. During this challenging time, many believers may doubt and feel the uncertainty. Nobody should feel alone, abandoned, or disoriented during this crisis. The unity of souls and hearts opens us to our brother, to those who suffer, to those who are afraid. They need us. We cannot deny the spiritual support and comfort of Christ whose tools and signs we are. We make God's mercy visible. Let us offer creative options. We Augustinians (including the contemplative nuns) live in the world, and we also share their sadness and sorrow. Surely there is nothing truly human that has no echo in our hearts (cf. Gaudium et spes 1). Here is where our communities live. May the answer be a firm testimony of love and of love. "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God and God in him." (1 John 4,16)

Dear brothers and sisters, with God's help, we will overcome the current situation and survive it cleansed. Based on that, let us firmly in faith and large-scale in charity, new hope in our hearts.
We recommend our lives to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Help and ask her to protect us from all evil.

Alejandro Moral Anton, OSA

Prior General