Within just a few more weeks, our country and our community, in particular, will be experiencing the effects of the global pandemic.  As Catholics, we enjoy the richness of a two thousand year long history and the perspective that history gives us.  Plagues are nothing new.  They are alluded to frequently in the pages of the Bible.  At various points over the millenia different plagues had a huge impact on the social, economic, and religious life of our ancestors.  In the late 1340s, the Black Death arrived in Europe along the Silk Road from Asia killing nearly half of the European population within just a few years.  In various areas of Europe, especially southern Europe, the fatalities in certain areas reached 80%.  All historical accounts indicate a rate of mortality significantly higher among the priests due to their heroic response in the face of contagion while administering to the sick and dying.  Though the most notable, this is just one of many other plagues occurring down through the centuries.

How should we as Catholics enter to this upcoming time of great suffering and death?

  • PRAYER—–Obviously, we feel instinctively a greater call to prayer, prayer for everyone, those who will be impacted by this pandemic, for those lost to it, for their families, and for our health care workers, courageously, generously, heroically overwrought and daily on the front lines.  We can also see these upcoming weeks, months? as a time to retreat, to enter into deepen our relationship with God.  We are in a sense called for a time to now live monastically, to give up many other things, to fast.  Time itself is God’s creation.  This same upcoming time in our lives can be seen, can be experienced as a great challenge, disruption, and inconvenience or a tremendous, memorable time of opening to God and for others in prayer.  “Be still and know that I am God.” (Proverbs 46:10)  Choose well in how to see this time.  It can be seen and experienced as just a burden, or it can be a transformative opening to God

  • FASTING—–We should evaluate all our daily actions in such a manner as is necessary to augment the health and life of the community.  St. Thomas Aquinas notes the human being is a social being.  We are in our very nature wired for a relationship with God and for one with each other, toward both the Supreme Good and the Common Good.  During this time we have to think differently though.  We are now not called to be so overtly social as to act in every way we can for the social good of our community.  Every action that puts us in proximity with anyone should be seriously weighed toward not doing it, as much as is reasonably possible.  We should fast from any unnecessary daily actions that would put us into unnecessary contact with others.  We begin Lent each year hearing how Our Lord prepared for the rigors of His public ministry by going out into the wilderness of the desert for 40 days and nights to fast and pray.  Go there now to strengthen the soul for what may come.  We are called now to be much more alone, but not like the world understands that.  We are being called to be alone in the stillness with God.  Fast to all the other stuff.

  • ALMSGIVING—–There are ways of doing good works.  We can be aware of the needs of those living alone.  The phone can be a sacrament in times like these.  A gentle knock at the door, and without entering, an inquiry as to any needs.  A call to the parish could be made as to how one can help with the needs within the parish and within the community, needs we are already aware of or that will certainly, even unexpectedly, emerge during the experience of this pandemic.

This pandemic to anyone can be seen as something to merely get oneself and one’s family through.  To the believer, though, it should be a deeper experience of what’s really important, ultimate, and how we model that to others in joy even, especially, amidst suffering and loss.  We are not made for this world.  We are not home yet.  Holy Mother Church put ashes on our head weeks back to remind us of everything we will be leaving behind here, as we move from and out of this world on our journey with Christ, through His passion and death, to our only final and eternal home, that of the life of the world to come.  Illnesses await us all.  They pass.  Down here nothing lasts.  Put your eyes on the lasting prize of heaven.  Live to get there, and God will be with you all the way.