WHAT little faith I ever had disappeared somewhere between Sunday School and First Communion. It has re-appeared fleetingly since, usually in times of crisis, but never hung around long enough to mean anything.

It’s not through choice. If I had choice in the matter, I would probably choose faith, which is surely preferable to the pointless emptiness of not believing in anything.

Maybe it’s because I went to a convent school, despite not being Catholic, (I just liked the uniform and thought it would be like Malory Towers), and always felt detached from the Hail Marys we recited in assembly, the formidable nuns who taught us, and the strange rituals at Mass. Maybe it’s because I have visited places in the world where priests are treated like rock stars, and Baby Jesus cigarette lighters are sold in gift shops, while the poor go hungry.

Or maybe it’s because when terrible things happen, I wonder how any God could just sit back and watch.

There are many harrowing stories arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, not least the poor souls who have lost loved ones, so quickly, so brutally, and can’t say goodbye at a funeral service. I have a friend who works for the NHS and her spirit is crushed. I can’t find any words for her, it just sounds feeble.

Sometimes this virus seems so close I go to bed wondering if I’ll wake up in the morning. I don’t know what I’m more afraid of: the virus itself or the economic and social catastrophe it leaves in its wake. But I have enough distractions to get me through the day, and a sense of humour in adversity, which I’m thankful for.

It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t cried yet. Is crying expected of us at times like this? Most people I know seem to be keeping their chin up, but surely they too must go to bed feeling a bit scared.

Then, this week, I wrote about a chap called Michael, who has dementia and cancer and is living alone, in self-isolation. Diagnosed with dementia in his 50s, forced to give up a job he loved, he later had surgery to remove two aggressive tumours on his bladder. He went through all that on his own. As if that wasn’t enough, Michael ended up confused in a shop, trying to count his money, something he has difficulty with, while pre-lockdown bulk-buyers pushed and shoved around him, “grabbing anything and everything on the shelves,” he said. Now he’s into 12-week isolation and, in a letter he can’t really make sense of, he’s told his cancer treatment is postponed, because of current NHS pressures. He is, he says, confused and trying not to panic.

I had a little weep about Michael. He’s just one person, caught up in a terrible global situation, but his story moved me more than any grim news reports have in recent weeks. It made me think of faith, and whether anyone is watching over Michael or any of us right now.

Maybe it’s a throwback to Sunday School or the parrot fashion Hail Marys, but if I feel anything about the Church, Easter is when I feel it most. I would quite like to visit a church right now, but they’re re all closed - like everything else, they’ve gone virtual.

So maybe I’ll find faith elsewhere - in the doorstep applause for the NHS frontline; the kind neighbours looking out for the elderly and vulnerable; those keeping our spirits up with songs and laughs online; and the over-stretched care workers reaching out to people like Michael on the ‘phone.

They are all keeping the faith, in their own way.