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Coronavirus and the Incarnation

Dear Friends of the Portsmouth Institute,

My prayers are with you are your loved ones during these uncertain times. As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect so many of us at home and abroad, let us continue to pray that the Lord may cast his grace upon those who are ill and vulnerable.

In less than a week, on March 25, we will celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation and the Incarnation of Christ. As Catholics, we believe that the Incarnation is the ultimate revelation of God to His people. The Incarnation changes everything, including how we think about body and soul, life and death, birth and rebirth. The Incarnation even tells us something about how each of us might respond to this pandemic. 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that “‘the life of man upon earth is warfare,’ and as long as we do battle in this body ‘we are away from the Lord,’ away from the light.  For ‘God is light,’ and to the extent that a man is not with him, to that extent he is in darkness.” The reality of our fallen state is that we are separated from God. In our separation, we are tempted to choose anxiety, fear, and darkness. Especially given all the talk about the war against coronavirus, it is easy to dwell “in darkness.”

But as always, we have another option: we can choose the Light of Christ. Peace is the resolution of war, and in spiritual warfare there is only one peace: the peace which comes from Our Lord. We must choose Him, now and always. In the words of St. John Henry Newman, “holiness before peace.”

At the Annunciation, the Light became Incarnate in Mary’s womb. The archangel Gabriel spoke to the Virgin Mary, and the Word dwelt among us. The fullness of time came so that we might be redeemed, “no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:7)

The Feast of the Annunciation offers us a chance to celebrate the victory of the Incarnation: the power of Light over darkness, of hope over fear, of peace over anxiety. In these uncertain days, let us choose to live in the Incarnation.

To that end, allow me to offer some unsolicited advice for how we might spend the days, weeks, and perhaps months ahead growing spiritually even in our confinements and limitations:

· Commit to spiritual reading. Our friends at Cluny Media have published Lenten readings from some of the greatest teachers in the Church, including Pope Benedict XVI, Bede Jarrett, O.P., and more. 

· Form a virtual reading group. The coronavirus has made us all much more familiar with virtual meetings. Use Zoom, Google Hangouts, or other platforms to meet with friends for book discussions and shared spiritual readings. One blessing of modernity is that separation does not mean isolation.

· Keep a prayer journal. Limit the attention you pay to following the coronavirus. Chaos damages the soul, separating us from Christ’s peace. Focus your intellectual and spiritual energy by prayerful journaling, including intentions for the ill and vulnerable. You can combine your journaling with the practice of lectio divina by copying into your journal passages from Scripture and committing those to memory.

· Participate in daily Mass and Vespers at Portsmouth Abbey online. The monks offer us the incredible gift of Christ’s sacrifice. While we can’t attend in person, we can virtually. 

Let us all pray for one another as we seek to grow in communion with Christ during this long Lent.

Yours in Christ and St. Benedict,

Christopher Fisher
Executive Director

Refund Policy for Portsmouth Institute Summer Programs 

While we are closely monitoring the situation, the Portsmouth Institute has no plans to cancel the June Summer Conference (June 19-21) or the PIETAS Summer Seminar for Teachers (June 28-July 3). However, to give attendees flexibility and peace of mind as COVID-19 continues to impact our lives in unforeseen ways, the Portsmouth Institute will honor full refunds for anyone who registers for our summer events between now and May 1st, should you choose to cancel at a later date. And of course, if this largely unpredictable situation progresses in a way that inhibits our plans, we will issue a refund to all registrants. 

For questions regarding refunds please contact Jordan Saiz at or 401.643.1175. 

Stream the Mass and Vespers from Portsmouth Abbey

The monks of Portsmouth Abbey have made available video of their celebration daily Mass and Vespers. You can participate and learn more about the daily schedule at

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