Many times, we have read about the Black Death (Plague) that swept through Europe and the Middle East killing huge percentages of the population. In particular, we remember the heroic men and women who tended to the infected at great risk to their own safety. Many saints contracted the Plague simply because they refused to leave their compassion unused at the doors of their existence. Death by the Plague was sudden, ugly and horrible.
There were no hospitals, no medicines, no alleviation. Infected were boarded up in their homes, their doors nailed shut on the outside. They died alone and uncared for, except by the saints who stood outside the mainstream of public opinion. Many of the great saints, like St. Aloysius Gonzaga, died in their youth because they took care of the victims of the Plague.
In dealing with pandemics (but not a plague, thank God!) like the one we are facing now, it is good to reflect on how science and medicine have made conditions easier to deal with. It is amazing to see how entire countries can work together to stem the tide of a sickness that could be lethal to many in the world. Hospitals are ready, plans are announced, vaccines are searched for, quarantines are imposed; and all try to work together, helped by the instant communication of modern computerized technology. In fact, ordinary people from around the world are lending their own computers to the researchers studying the virus by using a program that lets complex calculations be done over the Internet! How amazing! In the midst of the scary turns of the stock market, we need to see how peaceful cooperation is the dominant mode in dealing with this outbreak.
But this does not mean the Church stops ministering. Priests are still called upon to visit the sick and to provide spiritual succor to people. Working with the heroic examples of our medical profession, the Church’s ministers seek to provide that concern and care that make healing more possible and more likely.
Still, it is a good, but uncomfortable, thing to reflect on our vulnerability as creatures. Every day is a gift. We realize this only when, unfortunately, our future is in jeopardy. There is an inbuilt sloth factor that makes us get used to the wonder of being alive. It is akin to someone who just won a house in the south of France that has a beautiful view of the sea. On the first day, they look out to see the wonderful view, and the new owners are amazed at the beauty. But then, day after day, they get used to it; and before you know it, they hardly notice the beauty at all—till someone visiting points it out!
Every moment is a gift. The COVID-19 virus gives us a chance to thank God for all that we take for granted—like the wonder of a city that works well, with all the interlinking parts that make up what we offhandedly call our civilization! ‘Corona’ in Italian and Spanish means ‘crown’: we seldom notice that we live better than any of the royalty of the past!
But how slender are the supports that hold us together and provide for our welfare! Traditional supports like faith and family become even more important, for they are always there, especially faith.
Our faith tells us that we are created by God and placed a short space of time on earth so that we can freely accept the gift of God’s Love. In order to ensure our freedom, God steps back and allows us to build this world or destroy it, solve its problems or cause new ones. All leading to our ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
No matter how difficult things get with this pandemic, we mustn’t forget about the first principles of our existence: Faith and Love. No matter what happens, these are the things that give us strength and enable us to serve God who is the creator of all things and our final destination.
We live in the most secure country on earth. We have advantages that many countries can only dream about. But this security can be an illusion as well. We are still vulnerable creatures who are subject to invisible viruses that can even end our existence in this life. The primacy of the spiritual can be clearly seen in this. We depend on God every moment of our existence. He is our origin, our sustenance, and our final destination. Times like these are a wake-up call alerting us to value what is most important; because in the end, that is what is eternal.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!