The coronavirus. People’s attitudes are all over the place on it. From unconcern to fear to near panic. It’s important to take the right perspective. To put things in order. Which means, as always, a primary focus on God.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
Probably the biggest issue on people’s minds today is the rapid, scary spread of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Steve Skojec at OnePeterFive wrote an informative article about people’s attitudes in terms of their concern (or not) over the virus, decisions to forgo attendance at the holy sacrifice of the Mass (or not), bishops’ decisions to dispense parishioners from having to attend (or not), and even deciding to stop all public celebrations of the Mass until further notice, as is the case in Colorado with all three of its dioceses where I live.
As a deacon, it’s beyond strange to think about no Mass until further notice. No Sunday Mass. No weekday Mass. No Eucharist. No kissing the altar. No preaching. It’s bizarre. When my bishop first announced that Mass would not be celebrated, I wondered if his decision was appropriate. Were things really that serious? Well … let’s just say I’m not wondering anymore.
People’s attitudes are all over the place on this. From unconcern to fear to near panic. My wife and I recently did some traveling. Some people at the airport wore germ protection in the form of face masks. Most didn’t. Some are placing all their hope in science and doctors and a possible vaccination against the coronavirus that might become available in a few months—which entails its own set of problems because vaccines are known to be in many cases a serious health risk. Don’t get me wrong, doctors are important. I greatly appreciate what nurses are doing. I respect the diligent efforts of all healthcare professionals. However, they can’t solve every problem.
We need have the right perspective, which leads into this question: How often do we first turn to God, as we should? How often do we place the initial emphasis on his grace and unrestricted power? Just what level of trust do we have in the Creator and Savior?
Although I think we will soon see a big change in people’s attitudes (suffering and fear have their way of clarifying things), many are missing this foundational point: It’s in God’s hands. Primarily seeing it that way is the Christian way of seeing things. It’s essential that we take that view and accept that fact—something that is extremely comforting and freeing. If I contract the virus, it will be because God has allowed it. If it kills me, it will be because God allowed that too. And if I come through this unscathed (as most will), that, too, will be due to God’s providential care.
If God wishes to save or heal or insulate anyone from coronavirus, not only can he do it but he will do it. God’s loving care is everything. Everything. There have been plenty of times in my life when our Lord Jesus has saved me from calamities. The more I grow as a Catholic, the more deeply I enter into the mystery of God, the more confident I become in the Lord—whatever happens.
The main thing is this: we need to do our utmost to remain in God’s friendship each and every day that if we should die, we do so in a state of grace. Repentance needs to be on our mind and in our hearts. In that is found a peaceful death. Working toward dying that kind of death has to be the priority each moment. And that, too, is the Christian attitude.
That’s not to say I’m advocating recklessness and imprudence or discarding science. We should take precautions. Limit exposure. Take lots of vitamin C and cod liver oil. Exercise. Stay away from sugars, processed foods, and unhealthy eating and other things that can compromise the immune system. Pay attention to what health care experts are saying. God has gifted us with knowledgeable experts. They’re truly gifts. We should use them—prudently. In all things, exercise prudence.
That’s also not to say I’m unconcerned about people’s health and lives. I am concerned. I’m concerned about my mom and my mother-in-law, especially since some are reporting fatality rates has high as 15% among the elderly. I’m concerned about elderly parishioners. I’m concerned about my family and my children, especially my youngest son who has a propensity for developing severe coughs whenever he contracts the flue. I’m concerned about my daughter who is pregnant with her fourth child.
When news first broke about the coronavirus, the media, as usual, went into hyper-reporting mode. One must be first to break the story and, if not, the first to ratchet up the shock factor. It seemed fairly clear the media was intent on sensationalizing things before they had adequate information in terms of its dangers. Patrick Coffin reported exaggerated headlines like “Infections Increase 50%,” which, as he noted, could mean an increase from two to three. We all know the numbers weren’t actually two to three (and Coffin wasn’t claiming they were), but you get the point. The kind of reporting we’re all too familiar with today is anything but helpful.
Mr. Skojec notes that we need to stop referring to the coronavirus as “the flu.” I agree. While it does bear many similarities, there are significant differences. It appears to be much more contagious. It can be spread through proximity to infected persons, as in within about six feet. Its incubation period is much longer, some say up to 4 weeks, which means a person can be infected and show no symptoms for an extended period. A coronavirus-positive person can go about his daily routine unawares, attend Mass on Sunday or socialize with others while unwittingly spreading a dangerous virus that attacks the lungs, rendering some people incapable of getting needed oxygen required for the body.
OnePeterFive shared this message from Dr. Daniele Macchini, a doctor at Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital Bergamo, in Italy. He writes:
The situation is now nothing short of dramatic. No other words come to mind. The war has literally exploded and the battles are uninterrupted day and night. One after the other the unfortunate poor people come to the emergency room. They have far from the complications of a flu. Let’s stop saying it’s a bad flu. In these 2 years I have learned that the people of Bergamo do not come to the emergency room at all. They did well this time too. They followed all the indications given: a week or ten days at home with a fever without going out and risking contagion, but now they can’t take it anymore. They don’t breathe enough, they need oxygen.”
I just heard the national guard is being placed on alert. The danger is rioting. When people can’t get the supplies of food they need, they often try to take them from others forcibly. In the “I’m entitled” age where all too few people know where to shut off the water to their house, can’t imagine going without everyday foods, or can’t seem to fathom that they don’t have a right to everything they wish, things can get out of hand quickly. Nevertheless, we’re not to that point yet. Not yet.
There’s much more that can be said. Be prudent. Be charitable. Be Christian. Get right with God. And remember:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”Rom 8:28-30
And here’s one of my all time favorites:
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”Matthew 6:34
Photo attribution: https://www.scientificanimations.com / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.