They have been rebuilding, but construction has been on hold during Italy’s lockdown, Nivakoff said, noting that it may, God willing, be able to start back up in a few weeks.
“The earthquake taught us many things and maybe one of the more relevant lessons for today is to resist the temptation that everything should go back exactly as it was,” he said.
“We thought after the earthquake, ‘well the answer is [to rebuild] everything as good if not better than before.’”
“But at the root of that is a fallacy, that this is a world, and we are men touched by original sin, who will only really have happiness and completion and real restoration in heaven,” the prior said.
He noted, “we can and do and need to work to improve things and to bring order where there is chaos and disorder but not at the risk of making this world into the destination and the goal,” because “it isn’t; it’s our temporary place so that we might get to heaven.”
“The earthquake really helped us to see that in a visible form, because the ground was literally shaking beneath our feet,” he said, “and the buildings we had called home to us and to our neighbors, our families, our friends, all the people here in Italy that we know, in central Italy, as all that fell apart.”
He said this “has called for trust and faith that is hard to muster in these days when the faith is so minimal.”
According to Nivakoff, “there are so many” lessons from monastic life that could help people quarantined in their homes right now, but he emphasized “two principle challenges to solitude.”
The first is for those who are in quarantine with others. As for monks who live with other monks, charity is very important when living in the midst of many people, he said.
“This really calls for lots and lots of patience, [and] to remember that patience with others always begins with patience with ourselves,” he explained. “Accepting our sins, accepting our faults, accepting that God is patient with us, and being patient with ourselves, helps us to be more patient with others.”
He added that silence can be a really useful tool in these circumstances: “Not speaking, not responding to the irritating or difficult or perhaps provocative things … people we live with say.”
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“Especially under quarantine, the people we live with are probably going to still be with us in a few hours and maybe our passions will have calmed down by then” to respond in a better way, he said.
The second principle he drew on is for those who are living alone, such as the elderly or the young.
“For them, the quarantine really means an eremitical lifestyle. And for them the hardest temptations are sadness, acedia,” Nivakoff said.
“Sadness, which can be good because it can help us to lament our sins, lament not being with God, but at the same time can be a very inward looking and very self-pitying emotion, that stems from expectations not fulfilled.”
He recommended lots of humility and accepting that you are not in charge, not placing hope in things one does not have any control over.
“We have a lot more control over whether we say our prayers at noon than whether the government stops the lockdown in one week,” he pointed out. “The ways to combat sadness are this: to make goals that depend on me, and to put our trust and hope in God.”