How should Catholics—and all Christians—live out these days of the Coronavirus pandemic?
My dear brothers and sisters:
I bid you all, in our Lord Jesus Christ, peace! May God’s peace be with you and with your families.
I don’t generally start a blog post with such a seemingly pretentious greeting (I certainly don’t talk this way usually), but I start this one with a wish of peace to all of you for a very specific reason. In the tradition of St. Paul who often included a peace benediction in his letters, I wanted to open this post with a wish for peace to all of you, because I feel it’s something we all need to remember during this time.
Peace in Adversity
The shelves at many grocery stores are relatively empty. People are hoarding enough toilet paper to serve a small army. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes have become a rare and highly valuable commodity. We’ve suspended the offering of peace during mass, the distribution of the precious cup during communion, and, in many parishes, Catholics are being encouraged to receive communion only in their hands, or not at all (I’ve heard that some bishops are even encouraging people to make an act of spiritual communion instead of receiving sacramental communion). Some dioceses have even suspended public masses altogether or have excused Catholics from their Sunday mass obligation. All of these things signify a time of panic and fear. But panic and fear have no place in the Catholic experience.
So the first thing I want to say is don’t panic. There’s no need to panic. It’s prudent to be smart during this pandemic and to take reasonable precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones—especially elderly relatives. But panic isn’t prudent and much of the panic over coronavirus that we’re seeing is not proportionate to the facts of the virus. This is not the apocalypse, and it is not the Black Plague. Don’t panic. Just be smart. Be at peace. If you find yourself without peace during this pandemic, then you’re crossing (or have crossed) the threshold of panic. Remember that we belong to Christ and we have God as our Father. Have faith and trust in God. He’ll get us all through this, and he has only permitted this pandemic in order to teach us something. Are we learning?
Perhaps he wants to teach us how to reclaim a holy peace when temporal matters threaten to take it away from us. Perhaps he wants to teach us temperance in our lifestyles. Perhaps he wants to teach us to remember Him. Perhaps he wants to teach each of us, individually, something unique and necessary to each one of us personally. Perhaps he wants to reveal to you you that you have no faith at all! Whatever the case, remember that nothing happens without God’s approval. He doesn’t cause bad things, like virus pandemics, but he may sometimes allow them to happen. Why? Everything God permits is for some greater benefit that brings us closer to Himself, strengthens us in holiness, purges us of some of our sinfulness, and/or eventually culminates in our salvation. Have faith, and don’t worry
You of Little Faith, Why Do You Doubt?
Remember in the Gospel when Peter walked on water with Jesus:
During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward [the disciples] walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The coronavirus pandemic is a storm, and much of the world is in panic. As Christians we should not be frightened by how strong the winds appear to blow. We should look at the blowing wind and say to it “You are nothing. You are temporary. You answer to the Lord of creation, and that Lord is my own Heavenly Father. He will keep me safe. And so I do not fear you. You may make my life a little inconvenient for a little while, but you won’t scare me. “
Have faith. Don’t worry. Don’t doubt. Be at peace, and learn from this time and this experience. Take some time to be more prayerful, to simplify your lifestyle a little bit, to be in silence more and to listen to God’s prompting a little more. Take advantage of the gift of this trial because God’s gifts are rare pearls, not mass-produced items that you can just find and purchase whenever you wan it. God is offering us something unique in these times. Are we accepting it? He is teaching us something special. Are we learning it?
Is Coronavirus a Chastisement
I’ve heard it suggested that coronavirus may be a chastisement of some kind. I believe that’s possible, but what I think is more likely is that it may be a prelude to some coming chastisement, and perhaps God is giving us an opportunity now to “practice” during this pandemic before a more serious chastisement arrives, which humanity would otherwise be wholly unprepared for. In that light, perhaps this coronavirus pandemic is yet another act of mercy from God.
Maybe this is a chastisement. Maybe it’s practice. And maybe there is no chastisement coming. Either way, what we’re living through in these times is permitted by God for a reason. So take advantage of it, don’t panic, have faith and be at peace. Peace is not as simple as “the absence of strife”. Peace means living, and being in God’s love, come what may, even during strife and trial. Peace is having a constant awareness of God’s love for us, and a holy trust in his providential care for us. Stay close to God, and stay close to the Blessed Virgin, our mother. She is always close to her children when they feel threatened, so stay close to her.
May God’s peace be with you, brothers and sisters. Don’t worry, and don’t be afraid.
Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!