Making Sense of the Senseless

Here we are, about nine months into the COVID pandemic, experiencing a resurgence of the spread of the virus because, according to some health experts, of the omission on the part of many people to follow the basic guidelines for being safe: masks and social distancing. This second round of it was also predicted by the experts and now we are seeing exactly how right they were. Why do adult people refuse to collaborate in eradicating the virus as soon as possible? Why do the increasing number of deaths including of young adults do not touch the hearts of those of have not lost family members, and lack empathy for those who have? Considering that the number of people who have been infected is also rising, why do some public figures continue to say that the virus is on its way out; it is diminishing, and we are moving around the corner?

My list of “whys” is very long as I think about the continued disregard of black lives and the recent killing in Waukegan. It continues to grow when I see so many people in the west losing everything they have due to the fires and the people in the east due to the hurricanes, and yet some say that climate change is a hoax. This is not the first time that these facts have haunted me and caused me to seek answers. Recently attending a ZOOM conference, the participants of which I was one, prayed with a copy of a poem titled, “Making Sense” by Carrie Newcomer. She is a Quaker by religion, an American singer, songwriter and author. She has produced 16 solo CDs and has received numerous awards for her music and related charitable activities. She has done numerous collaborations with authors, academics, philosophers and musicians. 

I hope that you appreciate this poem. Carrie sees so much in nature and as a Franciscan I see what God reveals to us through nature. I still don’t have all the answers nor can I make sense out of everything, but I know that God is with us and that makes all the difference.

“Making Sense”  by Carrie Newcomer 2020

Finding what makes sense

In senseless times 

Takes grounding

Sometimes quite literally

In the two inches of humus

Faithful recreating itself

Every hundred years.

It takes steadying oneself

Upon shale and clay and solid rock

Swearing allegiance to an ageless aquifer

Betting on all the still hidden springs.

You can believe in a tree,

With its broad-leafed perspective,

Dedicated to breathing in, and then out,

Reaching down, and then up,

Drinking in goodness above and below

It’s splayed and mossy feet.

You can trust a tree’s careful

And drawn out way of speaking.

One thoughtful sentence, covering the span of many seasons.

A tree doesn’t hurry, it doesn’t lie,

It knows how to stand true to itself

Unselfconscious of its beauty and scars,

And all the physical signs of where and when

It needed to bend,

Rather than break.

A tree stands solitary and yet in deepest communion,

For in the gathering of the many,

There is comfort and courage,

Perseverance and protection,

From the storms that howl down from predictable

Or unexplainable directions.

In a senseless time

Hold close to what never stopped

Making sense.

Like love,

Like trees

Like how a seed becomes a branch

And compost becomes seedlings again,

Like the scent at the very top of an infant’s head

Because there is nothing more right than that.


It is all still happening

Even now.

Even now.

Sister Nancy is a Franciscan of the Sacred Heart and Formation Director for the Joliet Diocese Missions.

Now we invite your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below. And while you’re here, continue on a virtual mission by reading more of our stories and reflections as we discover together how “We are Mission”.

3 thoughts on “Making Sense of the Senseless

  1. Dear Sister Nancy:

    I applaud your concern and passion for those in distress.
    Reasonable people can present differing arguments, however, and I wish to do so.

    First, I do not see people disregarding precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Indeed the society has sacrificed to an unprecedented degree to solve this problem.

    Second, the actions being promoted to prevent the spread are not conducted in a vacuum. The restrictions themselves are causing significant suffering among the elderly, the poor, children trying to get an education and virtually every member of the human race.

    Third, there is a question of rule of law. I am not a lawyer but my understanding is that the widespread powers given to governors expire after 30 days and we are well past that now. Is the very fabric and intent of government power being misused? Given the disparate treatment being given to churches, it certainly appears to be the case.

    Finally, an increasing number of scientists (e.g. Dr. Jay Bhattachara of Stanford) make the case that current restrictions are not based on good science. Preventing the spread of the disease is not the same as providing long term solutions. So long as immunity, either natural or induced, does not exist, spread will occur and cannot be stopped. Remember that the original intention of the lock downs and precautions was to flatten the curve, not prevent the spread or even the fatality rate.

    Michael Kerner


    1. Dear Mr. Kerner,
      Thank you for sharing your comments with me. I certainly would not disagree with your opinions but I stand firmly by my many “Why” questions. They also are part of today’s reality and need to be embraced as we seek, as a people, to discover solutions for our current challenges.
      Blessings of wisdom for all,
      Sr. Nancy Schramm


  2. Dear Sister Nancy:
    I’m delighted to continue this conversation: conversations being rare in the Internet age.
    Your Why questions are very intriguing. At the risk of digressing, these very questions have haunted humanity since the days of Job. I suggest that even if we knew Why, without faith in Jesus, the answers would not satisfy.
    Regarding your specific questions, quite good questions at that, I’ve not wisdom to provide any answers but can suggest some ideas.
    “Why are the young people not interested in preventing the spread?”
    • Perhaps your experience differs from mine, but I see nearly universal adherence to masking, keeping respectful distance and use of hand sanitizing. I admit I don’t see how high school / college students approach the situation; I just see people in stores, on the streets and in churches.
    • To the extent that young people do not accept the restrictions, this could be attributed to the tendency of the young to consider themselves invulnerable. This is a phase of life that they, hopefully, get through without permanent damage.
    • I suggest there is also a legitimate science based question on whether the restrictions are even useful. Preventing the spread of this, or any infectious diseases, is not the same as a cure or prevention of the illness. So far as we are aware, only immunity, either acquired or through vaccination, will be the final solution.
    Your other Why question is why people don’t care about the deaths of people who have succumbed to this illness.
    • I suggest that without special spiritual gifts, gifts that I don’t possess, it is difficult to know what is in the heart and mind of any person. Padre Pio was an example of one who possessed such graces.
    • Speaking for myself, I do care about the suffering and death of people. I have many friends and family who are in the vulnerable part of the population and would suffer as they would suffer if infected. I also know, however, that physical death is 100% certain. We can take reasonable precautions to protect people but irrespective of our precautions, death will occur.
    • I finally suggest there is significant evidence that the quarantines and restrictions currently in place are causing more suffering and more damage to the culture than they are preventing. Those who set public policy are in the unenviable position of having to judge among multiple priorities, knowing that suffering and death will result from whatever they choose to do or not do.
    Let us continue this exchange of ideas.
    Best regards.


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