Heaven, or Earth?

Today I read [another] story on CNA that talked about the Holy Father’s thoughts about Coronavirus in a way that I found very disappointing and yet so characteristic of him that it isn’t even surprising anymore.

“At this time, when indications have been given to exit out of quarantine, we pray the Lord will grant to His people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to these indications, so that the pandemic does not return.”

I don’t say this disrespectfully but out of concern, and frankly out of my weariness of it all—the pope is too obsessively attentive to the physical order, to such an extent that he seems to be blind to higher realities.  But it’s a problem many in the Church have, including us in the laity, where we obsess over the higher order (“Heaven”) or the lower order (“Earth”) but fail to be balanced between the two.  Many of us fall into this trap.

Just for some clarification, I’m using “Heaven” and “Earth” metaphorically to represent the orders of grace, and nature, respectively. The words further represent the celestial order (or “higher realities” and the human order. While the Holy Father, and many others throughout the Church have an inordinate fixation on “Earth”, others in the Church have an equally imbalanced fixation on “Heaven”

“Earth”

The Holy Father spends too much time on “Earth”, and not enough time in “Heaven”.  Everything he treats is centered on nature, the environment, poverty and hunger, immigration and politics. In short, social justice, or issues of the human order.  All of these are realities with which we should all show some due concern.  But the Holy Father seems concerned about only these things, and not of higher things.  More accurately, he is concerned about social justice in a vacuum, which I believe is why, out of great concern for the feelings of Amazonian people, he didn’t see anything wrong with idol worship at the Vatican during the Amazon Synod.  In that moment he allowed an offense against God, out of reluctance to offend the Amazonian people. Too concerned about “Earth” and not about “Heaven”.  It’s also why he gives audience to all sorts of social progressives, yet he shuns or denigrates representatives of more traditional or conservative segments of the people of the Church—and those representatives include the Catholic laity, not just priests and cardinals. He’s too one-sided. He isn’t balanced.  It’s frustrating, and it’s foolish.

But he has plenty of company on both sides of the spectrum, as many Catholics are often focused “Heaven” or “Earth” and not on both.

“Heaven”

Many of us in the Church are so fixated on “Heaven” that we forget to be good stewards of the Gospel as it relates to the human order.  We’re on our knees in prayer, and we’re at mass every day, but we won’t greet the stranger, act with kindness or charity toward others, or lift a finger to help our neighbor.  We faithfully pray the rosary, and with those same lips and tongue we slander and gossip, tear reputations to shreds, degrade the dignity of others, because we feel they deserve it.  In more extreme cases we’re so “pious” that we throw threats of God’s justice around like confetti and tell people they’re going to hell if they aren’t acting as holy as the Blessed Mother.  We’re quick to judge and condemn, slow to treat with mercy and patience and compassion. We’re so obsessed with “Heaven” that we forget about “Earth”

Others are fixated on “Earth”—the human order, and social justice issues. They are so concerned about the environment that they practically elevate it to the status of a false god.  They are so attentive to the poor that they’ll promote contraception and abortion to “help” these “poor, starving” people to afford a higher standard of life.  They take every opportunity to talk about racism but never talk about the discrimination perpetrated against doctrine and truth. The only justice is social justice for them; God’s justice is satisfied by the cross…end of transaction.  Everybody is going to heaven, so let’s all grab our guitars and sit around a camp fire singing songs of praise to mother earth for all the good things she provides!

heaven-and-earth

Both of these fixations are ridiculous and unrealistic. By “unrealistic”, I mean they literally defy reality, because they ignore half of all reality.  Reality is both the natural and human order as well as the celestial order and the order of grace.  Reality is about both mercy and justice, about our care for the earth as one of God’s creations, and about the care of souls as God’s greatest creation.  Reality is being attentive to God and to our fellowman; about respecting God’s majesty and the dignity of human persons. It’s about understanding the journey, the lived experience, and the plight of others as well as correcting them when their actions are wrong (Judge the sin, love the sinner).  If you want to be a saint, have your right heel in Heaven, and your left toe on Earth—walking toward the former, but still present in the latter.

About the Pope’s Words

Going back to what the Holy Father said, I want to share a very brief thought.

All the “prudence and obedience” in the world will not insulate us from subsequent plagues, should God permit them.  What we should all be doing is recognizing that God probably allowed this plague because of the great sinfulness of the world, and therefor we should be prudent about changing our lives, and have a renewed sense of obedience to His will.  I’m very disappointed that the Pope and many others leaders in the Church are still failing God’s people by not talking about this pandemic from a perspective of “Heaven”. To them it’s all about “Earth”. They’re blind, and they are leading the people off of a cliff. They are obsessed with “Earth” and seem to have forgotten “Heaven”. And for that, I believe, God has other chastisement in store.  Like Egypt, it will take more than one plague for some people to get the message.  God forgive us, and have mercy on us all!

My friends, please pray and keep watch.

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!!

Shroud of Turin Veneration Live Stream

From Rome Reports:

The cathedral of Turin will open the reliquary that contains the Shroud of Turin, to pray for the end of the pandemic.

This is the cloth that covered Jesus’ body. It is rarely shown to pilgrims.

The prayer begins at 5 p.m. Rome time.

The last time the relic was shown was two years ago, for the Synod of Bishops on Youth.

It will be shown again at the end of 2020, in December, during a world youth meeting organized by the Taizé Community.

Vigano Calls for Mass Exorcism

The original title of this post was going to be “Vigano Gets Real”. But since it’s better to have a title that’s more direct and clear, I didn’t use it.  But “getting real” is truly the heart of this post. Because while some in the Church are talking like characters in a storybook, others, like Vigano, are sounding real.

Vigano’s Message

Archbishop Carlo Vigano has called on priests throughout the world to perform a mass exorcism on Holy Saturday amid the coronavirus plague (In the interests of getting real I’m calling it what I truly believe it is, so I’m using “plague” instead of just “pandemic”).

From Vigano’s letter: “In these modern times of terrible tribulation, when the pandemic has deprived Catholics of Holy Mass and the Sacraments, the Evil One has gone into a frenzy and multiplied his attacks to tempt souls into sin…It’s These blessed days of Holy Week, which used to be the ideal time to go to Confession to prepare ourselves for our Easter Communion, now see us locked inside our houses, but they cannot stop us praying to Our Lord.”
-Taken from an article on Fox News

I want to say something about what the Archbishop is saying, but I also want to say something about the fact that he’s saying it. Since most people will be more interested in the former than the latter, I’ll start there.

Vigano is right, this plague has wrought hell (no pun intended) on the faithful, and it is happening quite peculiarly during the season of Lent; a season of prayer, penance, reflection, growing closer to God and growing in holiness.  Catholics are being kept away from the mass, and in many places being kept from churches entirely.  Confessions are not being heard, again peculiarly during a season when people are more inclined to go to confession—some for the first time in months, others for the first time in years.  If we rely on the grace of the mass, the sacraments and the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle to fight the spiritual war, this plague has left us largely exposed to the enemy’s assaults. (Exposed, but not entirely defenseless. Read: Coronapocolypse – What should Catholics be doing during this trial?)

I think the global Church needs to be doing something but I don’t think a mass exorcism hits the bullseye.  It will surly have some effect, and it surly has power. I think the Archbishop is trying to assist the faithful by diminishing the strength of the enemy, who has temporarily been tossed an ace for his hand.  A mass exorcism will weaken the demonic’s total force.  But I don’t believe it will save us from this plague, which I don’t think the Archbishop is suggesting anyway.

Let’s All Get Real

…it sounds like the clamor of the secular world; it does not stand out from the crowed of voices as the distinctive voice of Holy Mother Church.

What’s more interesting to me than what Vigano is saying is the fact that he’s saying it.  It’s nice to find a priest talking like a priest and not like a politician or an administrator.  As I watch interviews with influential clerics such as Cardinal Dolan of New York and others, they sound largely like everybody else on TV or in the news.  They’re talking about the temporal effects of this plague and not the potential fruits, or spiritual causes of it. They’re talking about the surface and not the depths.  They’re not sounding real! It’s as if the whole Church has become mute, because they aren’t actually saying anything of substance. When they do speak, it sounds like the clamor of the secular world; it does not stand out from the crowed of voices as the distinctive voice of Holy Mother Church.

I get it, these guys are being interviewed by secular media, and you’re not going to get a homily from them on a secular platform. It’s understandable.  But my problem is that they aren’t doing much better even in places where they’re free to be a Catholic as they can be; their parishes, Dioceses and Catholic media where many priests and bishops talk like high school social workers rather than like apostles—men who live in the world, but whose hearts and minds express themselves from the perspective of heaven. Again, they don’t sound real, and they sound as if they’re blind to reality.

I equate this issue to the difference between someone who is interested in the look/design of a new car, and someone who is focused on its engineering.  One is fixed on things like the color, shape, design of the body, the color and material of the interior, the accents of its design, the look of the wheels and rims. The other is more fixed on the type of engine that’s in it and how it operates, the transmission, its power conversion.  The first person will talks about what’s on the surface, and the other talks about what’s beneath the surface, which is more complex, more revealing, more substantial…more real!  

While the look, as well as the operation of a particular car compose the whole reality of that car, one would expect engineers to have more to say about its function than about its look.  In this analogy, the engineers are our priests; or at least an awful lot of them. They’re talking about the surface, not the substance.  They talk about COVID-19 not from a faith perspective, but merely from the perspective of a person who happens to be Catholic…or Cathol-ish.  To give an additional analogy, an architect and an interior designer may have some overlapping knowledge, but they don’t have overlapping expertise—a priest who is talking like an administrator instead of a shepherd  or an organizer of people rather than a pastor of souls has forgotten his calling, and is missing the point of his very existence during this plague. 

Who’s Keeping it Real?

Let me share with you another piece of that Fox News article that perfectly sums up what I’m personally observing:

“Pope Francis has continued to livestream from the Vatican. Local priests have offered drive-thru confessions and Panama’s Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa delivered the Palm Sunday blessing from a helicopter, noting that it is an unprecedented time.”

Let me add to that list something I read earlier today. Archbishop Gregory Almond of New Orleans, armed with holy water and the host, flew over his diocese to bless the population of New Orleans from an open-air cockpit of a WWII plane (Read about it here).  Which of these priests is not like the other?   Who is acting exceptionally during this exceptional time? Almond is blessing his people from a plane, some priests are liberating the souls of God’s people by responsibly/safely hearing confessions, Archbishop Domingo delivered a Palm Sunday blessing from a helicopter….and the pope is livestreaming the mass.  I don’t want to discount the value of the mass, or the importance and value of streaming it to the isolated faithful, but the pope is not doing anything extraordinary here.  The ones who are doing something extraordinary are the priests who finding creative ways to bring exceptional graces to God’s people at a time when we specifically need it most.  Benediction from the air, or confessions from a car are examples of priests being God’s holy warriors in a time of great crisis.  I”m sorry to say it but livestreaming the mass is just status quo, and these are not “status quo” times.  There is a raging inferno going on, and to deal with it some priests are traveling miles with big, heavy buckets of water while others are just trying to blow it out like birthday candles.  Vigano is talking about mass exorcisms, while the Holy Father is blaming this plague on man’s indifference to climate change.  Some priests are doing fly-over blessings and drive-by confessions, while others are issuing shallow and infertile spiritual messages that amount to little more than “You can watch the mass online. Hang in there everybody!”

There seem to be very few priests who are treating the whole of this plague—the physical/temporal nature of it, and the spiritual realities surrounding it.  I occasionally see/read them in Catholic media, on YouTube and so on. There are very few of them, but we must all thank God for them, and pray for them.  They have become the strangers in a strange land, within their own houses(!), the Catholic Church.

God forgive us all!  God have mercy on us all!  God help us all! Pray for this!!

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!

Is the COVID-19 Plague Just the Beginning?

Like everybody else, I am waiting and watching for the end of the “Coronapocolypse”. I’m waiting for the end of social distancing, waiting for a time when we can go to mass, go out to eat, go to the gym, go to a movie. We are all waiting for this to be over.  But it may be a mistake to presume that the end of the coronavirus pandemic/plague will restore our lives to normalcy.  The pandemic itself may not be an end in itself, but rather the start of a series of events that compose one great chastisement of man; not one plague, but the first of a series of plagues, of one sort or another. 

I believe this to be true, because I see this pandemic through the eyes of faith, not from a secular point of view, and realistically speaking I don’t see the world getting the message that God is sending; not with just one plague. I believe the world is so far off the rails that it will take multiple plagues to adequately chastise man enough for humanity to get the message. It has really come to that.

This pandemic isn’t some mere mishap, as many in the world, in and out of the Church, are seeing it. It is an “act” of God. I use “act” loosely because it is not something that God has done, but something that God has allowed to happen, for His higher purposes.  As an act of God, it has a point and purpose. It will not fail to bear fruit. It will not ultimately go unheeded. God does nothing pointlessly. But if we’re incapable of getting the message during the COVID-19 pandemic (as I observe we are), and God does nothing pointlessly, then the COVID-19 pandemic (plague) is not the end of God’s action, but a beginning.  As shocking as that may be, the truth is it isn’t unheard of; we have seen it in history already, as I’ll demonstrate in a moment. First, a foundation.

History and Purpose of Chastisement

A priest friend of mine once told me God historically acts through chastisements in order to correct and/or purify us: “…You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God” Jeremiah 31:18.  God chastises in order to bring us back when we’re lost, to punish/correct us for sin that has gotten out of control. Other examples can be seen throughout scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments;  Leviticus 26:38, 2 Samuel 7:14 Revelation 3:19, John 15:2, 1 Corinthians 11:32.

Mostly the scripture talks about chastisements of individual persons. Less frequently it mention widespread or global chastisements (such as what we’re seeing now), which are exceptional and more serious than individual ones.  Some examples of widespread chastisements are the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Deluge (the flood of Noah), and probably the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.  Outside of scripture, World War I and II and the Black Plague are seen as widespread chastisements of man.  But perhaps the most well known widespread chastisement was the ten plagues of Egypt in the book of Exodus.  And that is what brings me to my conclusion that the “plague” of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 is not an end, but a beginning of a series of events.

An Action has an Actor (and actors have purposes)

It’s rational as believers to see this pandemic as a chastisement of some kind.  So it follows that we have to believe that God is trying to correct us and/or to purify us by chastising us. But in order to be corrected or purified man must first acknowledge that this pandemic comes from God and not from natural coincidence.  Coincidences don’t have purposes. Actors do. Remove the actor, and you remove the purpose.  So if people don’t see God in this in the first place, they will not discern a purpose to it (chastisement) and will not act in response to it (conversion, faithfulness).  Instead they’ll simply see this pandemic as “some cosmic hell-of-a-thing”, and we’ll hide in our homes until it passes, at which point we’ll go on living our lives mostly the way we lived them before the pandemic. We’ll have learned little or nothing, and changed little or nothing, rendering this single chastisement almost pointless. But God doesn’t do anything pointlessly. So perhaps this pandemic isn’t the chastisement at all, and is only the beginning of events that, as a whole, and combined, compose a larger chastisement that will not be ignored; one in which God and his will are no longer deniable.

Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes, Hardened Hearts

The trouble is, in my opinion modern humanity is blind and deaf and foolish.  Most of us, even many of us who are practicing Catholics, are missing the message because we have overlooked the presence of a messenger.  In the Church many of us don’t acknowledge that this is a chastisement because we do not acknowledge that God chastises at all, let alone that he chastises because of sin. We don’t see God behind the pandemic, and therefor we can’t see chastisement behind its effects, or sin behind its cause.  If Catholics are this ignorant, how much more blind and foolish are those in the secular world—those who habitually never see anything through the eyes of faith?  And if the world—believer and unbeliever alike—will largely miss the whole message, then this chastisement was pointless, perhaps even mean-spirited, unless it is actually a part of a whole rather than an end in and of itself. And, as I said earlier, we have seen this before! We saw it in Egypt during the Exodus of the Jews.

Egypt and the Ten Plagues

Because Pharaoh refused to set the Israelites free, and in order to demonstrate his power and majesty to the non-believing pagans, God sent ten plagues to punish Egypt, each one more serious than the one preceding it.  Pharaoh and his officers and magicians dismissed the plagues at first. They did not recognize that the hand of God was against Egypt.  As they dismissed one plague, another more serious plague struck.  Gradually, but slowly, they moved from disbelief, to doubt, to resistance, to resignation with each successive plague.  At the start of the plagues, the Egyptians didn’t believe. By the middle, they believed but doubted. Toward the end, they acknowledged but resisted.  Resignation didn’t happen until the final, most devastating plague—the death of the firstborn of Egypt.  It took ten plagues, not just one, to get the Egyptians where God wanted them. Can we honestly believe that modern man, just as proud, hardened and disbelieving as those ancient pagans, will require anything less before we are resigned to His will?

A critic may say “The only reason it took ten plagues instead of one was because God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” but while the literature of scripture does say that, I think it’s theologically more accurate to understand that God permitted the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. God illuminates the reason, he doesn’t darken it. We darken it by sinning. In this case Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by pride, and pride comes from the devil. God allowed this, again, for his greater purpose, which is why it can fairly be said that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”.  Egypt, therefor, is not off the hook. They were chastised by ten plagues not because of God, but because of the Egyptians.

God was sending a message to Egypt. He was making a distinction between His people and Pharaoh’s people. He was chastising Egypt. It took ten plagues for Egypt to get the message, because they did not believe, their hearts were hardened, they were proud and stubborn. They loved the comfort and [unjust] prosperity that slave labor provides.  How are we any different?  We do not believe, or we believe wrongly.  Our hearts are hardened by pride, and by love of pleasures.  As the Egyptians worshiped gods that did not exist, we today worship false gods—the gods of pleasure, sex, money, material goods, worldiness.  Just as Egypt turned to their false gods for deliverance from the plagues, so do we turn to our false gods to deliver us from this pandemic by distracting our minds and hearts away from it, and away from God.  Just as the Egyptians were too blind, deaf, foolish, and ignorant to “get the message” of the first plague, I feel we are, also. One plague wasn’t enough for them. I fear one will not be enough for us.  Even the Holy Father is attributing this plague to nature’s response to our ambivalence to climate change…yes, “Pharoah’s” heart is hardened.  When even the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Church seems to be missing the message, surely one plague will not be enough for mankind to get the message God is sending. 

What Is the Message?

I believe the messages we are supposed to get are both universal, and personal.  I think the universal message that the whole world is supposed to get is that all mankind needs to remember God, abandon our sinful lifestyles, repent of our sins, commit ourselves to God’s will (the commandments, and the Gospel).  I know that man has never been perfect, but the sins of man today are unlike any other period in human history. Yet as wicked as we are, it has all become “normal”.  Abortion, the distortion of marriage and of the family, pornography, blasphemy—these types of sins have always infected human beings in some way or other, but they have never been global, and they were never seen as acceptable, normal, even virtuous.  

I believe the personal message each of us is supposed to get uniquely is…well I don’t know. It’s a personal message. Only you know what that message is for you. But I do firmly believe each of us is called to hear God’s voice and to receive a message/lesson he has for each of us uniquely and individually in this pandemic.  Maybe it’s to be more caring of your family, to be more patient with them and with others, to busy yourself less with frivolity and more with substance and goodness, to spend less attention on the world, and more attention on Him (God), to value the good things he has given you and thereby recognize his love and care for you. To respond to His love by loving him back, not just with your emotions but with the way you live the life he has given you.  Maybe it’s to value our very existence and the lives of others.  Maybe his message to you personally is that you’re not working hard enough to change your life, or that you’ve gotten lazy in the spiritual journey toward holiness.  Whatever it is, he has something to say to each of us, personally.  So listen for it.  Pray and keep watch.  Pray for his mercy, pray for deliverance, pray for protection, and pray that the world, and you get the message he’s sending, sooner than later.

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!

Keep Watch, and Pray

“…’My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me’. When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said ‘So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?… Watch and pray…’ Then he returned again and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open’ (Segments from Matthew 26:38-43)

That was 2000 years ago at the garden of Gethsemane, the night before Our Lord was crucified, as he waited, and prayed, in a state of immeasurable anxiety before his arrest and execution.

For me it accurately reflects the state of the world and our culture during this trial (or chastisement) of the COVID-19 pandemic.  With most of the world shut in due to the Coronavirus, Our Lord asks us to keep watch, and pray. But how many of us are are sound asleep?

Are we “awake”? Are we keeping watch, faithfully and frequently in prayer?  I’m finding that for so many of us it can be said that “They could not keep their eyes open”, as if we really are asleep during a time when we should be awake, alert, and keeping watch.  The Lord comes and chastises us for our habitual and systemic state of slumber, he tells us to wake up, to keep watch, to pray, and yet still we fall asleep and take our rest again. He scolds us again as we hide out in our homes and indulge in our pleasures like the people in Edgar Allan Poe’s Mask of the Red Death.  To a degree I’m guilty of this, too! We remain spiritually and intellectually sound asleep. I can almost hear the Lord saying “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?”

An Hour, or Wasted Time?

An “hour”, in biblical terms often wasn’t referring to the passage of 60 minutes.  “The Hour” generically referred to some significant moment.  Jesus referred to, or mentioned “an hour”, “the hour”, or “my hour” all the time, referring to different significant moments (See John 2:4, Matthew 26:45 for 2 examples)

I am discovering that so many Catholics are scared or worried. So many are talking about the politics surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, they’re talking about China, the economy, they’re stocking up on pleasure and comfort items. They’re asleep. They don’t see this “hour” for what it is and so they aren’t “keeping watch” as they should be—that is to say they aren’t living this “hour” as they should.

I can imagine Jesus making a surprise, momentary appearance, saying “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Are you still asleep and taking your rest?  Too busy watching Netflix? Too busy on your smartphone?  Even when I send such a blunt sign as this pandemic that has gripped the entire world, you just can’t keep your eyes open?  Keep watch and pray!”

The Hour Has Come

This pandemic is “an hour”—a significant moment.  Life has literally come to an abrupt stop in most of the world as people are shut up in their homes. Many churches are closed and masses are closed to the public, and that by itself is significant.  Schools are closed. Economies are being rocked. Stores and businesses are closing down or are temporarily closed.  We are all being told to stay separated from one another. These are all serious things that signify the gravity and seriousness of this “hour” and they signify the reality that this is not just an ordinary inconvenience in the human order, it’s something much more significant.

This is “an hour”; a significant moment.  It’s the hour of God’s justice. It’s the hour of God’s special mercy.  The hour when God shook the world and commanded us all to wake up, to change, to renew our faith.  It’s an hour when God is demanding the attention of all every person in the world—all humanity—at the same time, in a direct, personal, and unambiguous way.  Such things only happen by God’s permission and he only permits it when the world needs a serious wake-up call.  Are we all awake yet, or are we going to roll over and go back to sleep?  What each and all of us do during this trial will define us.

Keep Watch

During this hour, we should all keep watch and pray.  I don’t know what we should be watching for, to be fair and honest with you. But I know we should be watching for something.  We should be spiritually and intellectually alert rather than dulled and numbed by our comforts and pleasure. The Lord is trying to teach us something. He is trying to reveal something. Some thing that he wants us to learn, individually and universally.  Some thing that he wants us to take from this.  Keep watch.

…And Pray

We should be praying. A lot.  Pray for God’s protection. Pray for deliverance from this pandemic.  Pray for the recovery of those who are infected. Pray for God to have mercy on us—on all mankind—for all the sins we have committed that have resulted in what I sincerely believe to be a world-wide chastisement.

Don’t squander this hour.  May God help us all to stay awake and to live through this hour the way he intends.

Recall, pray and reflect on Psalm 88:

O Lord, my God, I call for help by day; I cry out in the night before you. Let my prayer come before you, incline your ear to my cry…I am shut in so that I cannot escape. My eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!

The Coronapocolypse

The Coronavirus pandemic is playing out more like an apocalypse than a virus pandemic.  It’s the Coronapocolypse! Many people are treating it like the end of the world. Perhaps in many ways it is the end of “the world” (more on that later) but not in the way that most people think. What should we, as faithful Catholics be doing during this time?

Many dioceses have canceled public masses, retreats, religious education programs or have otherwise caused the faithful in their territories to scatter and keep from being exposed to one another.  So what is a faithful Catholic to do when the nature of our lived-faith involves coming together in prayerful community but the tribulation of our times is preventing us from doing that?

I believe this pandemic is a gift and a test from God.  But it only has value insofar as we take advantage of it, and suffer through this reasonably mild tribulation with courage, and prayerfulness.

I say it’s a reasonably mild tribulation because the faithful throughout time, and throughout the globe in our own time, have suffered through much worse than this. As much as people are feeling the pinch of social separation and isolation, it isn’t as bad as having to ride out the Black Plague, or hiding from persecutors who want to kill us. Suffering through this should be relatively easy, even if a bit challenging. Here’s how I suggest we suffer well:

Daily Mass Readings

In addition to being prayerful, take some time to read the scriptures. Reading the scriptures (Lectio Divina, or “divine reading” in Latin) is something most Catholics rarely have time for—or rarely make time for. Now is a good opportunity to do it, since our lives are necessarily being made more simple and quiet during this pandemic.  If you don’t know where to start in the Bible, begin with the daily mass readings. Refer to the guide for the mass readings for each day at the USCCB’s website here.  Read the day’s mass readings on their website, or use it as a guide to find the readings (which books, chapters and verses are being used) for that day, and then do the actual reading of the text from a bible of your choice. That’s what I do, because I prefer my bible to the translation on the USCCB’s site, which isn’t bad, but I like mine better. Yes, your spiritual life can be that personalized!

Lectio Divina, whether it’s the daily readings, or any other personal reading of scripture, involves five steps, but you needn’t go through every step in order to make it fruitful. The five steps of Lectio Divina are

  • Read a passage slowly and carefully within the bible.
  • Prayer. Having a loving conversation with God about what you read. Keep it casual but reverent!
  • Meditation. Thinking deeply or swelling upon a spiritual reality within a text.
  • Contemplation. Resting in Gods presence.
  • Action. Go and do likewise.

The most important steps, especially for beginners, are steps 1, 2, and 5, but the other steps are very beneficial and I suggest you practice those steps a little every day, at least 15 minutes a day.

Make an Act Spiritual Communion Daily

When you can’t receive communion sacramentally, many saints have suggested making acts of spiritual communion instead.  An act of Spiritual Communion provides many powerful graces, though not as much as sacramental communion.  It’s ideal for those who wish to receive communion, but are unable to because they are not in a state of grace, or because they’re not able to go to mass.

One of the great things about an act of spiritual communion is that, unlike sacramental communion, you can do it as frequently as you want, whereas you can only receive sacramental communion once a day. So there are a lot of graces on the table waiting for you to just pick them up.

There are a couple of acts (prayers) of spiritual communion but the most popular one was composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori.  Say this prayer with reverence and pause in silent reflection for a few moments after you say it:

“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire you with all my heart. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already in my heart and unite myself to you completely. Please do not let me ever by separated from you.”

Now if you’re one of those particularly inquisitive Catholics and want to dig deeper and learn more about the history and theology behind spiritual communion, the Diocese of Little Rock has a great writeup here.

Pray…With Purpose

Don’t just recite words. It’s lifeless and boring and will get you nowhere in the spiritual life. Pray well! Pray as though God Himself were in the room with you…because He is. Don’t just recite the words, say the words, as if they’re coming from your heart, not just your memory.

Pray a little more than usual. It’s lent, and we should be doing that anyway. But in addition to being the traditional season of repentance this is also a time of tribulation and trial in the world, and that’s historically when Catholics hunker down and get more prayerful.

Most importantly in my opinion, pray that God has mercy on us during these times, pray that he protects you and your family, and everybody else from contracting the Coronavirus, and pray that he rescues us from this pandemic.  Pray also that humanity can benefit from whatever God’s purpose is in allowing this Coronavirus pandemic. He has a purpose. He’s allowing it for a reason. Pray that humanity—not just Catholics—benefits from this trial as He intends for us to benefit from it. God’s will be done, all ways!  Unite this intention to the recitation of the holy Rosary particularly.  If you’re not saying a Rosary? This is a good time to get into the habit of saying the Rosary.

Live the [Whole] Gospel

Live the whole Gospel in faith, love, charity and hope. Live a life of charity, gentleness, patience goodness and love. Love your family a little more. Love them with your actions not with your sentiments (that’s what love is from God’s perspective). Love God a little more. Love your neighbor a little more.  Again, with your actions, not with your good intentions. Be more patient. Be more generous. Be more compassionate. Be more charitable.

Be calm, and confident and have faith in God’s good care.  Peace, and the call to be at peace isn’t some spiritual tranquilizer meant to keep you from panic. Peace is at the heart of the Gospel. The first words Our Lord said to his apostles after His resurrection was “Peace be with you”. At the Last Supper He wished them, and all of us throughout time, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27).   God wants us to be at peace, because the life of God himself is in peace. We should maintain our peace even in times of trial and discord, like now.  Don’t let coronavirus rob you of your peace. I wrote a little something about that the other day if you’d like to have a look.

In many ways the coronapocolypse may be the end of something. Not the end of the world, but the end of a world; a world of excessive comfort and and sense of disordered ease that makes us love the world, or its natural goods and pleasures more than we love God. Many people who are treating this as a sort of apocalypse are not running to churches or falling to their knees in prayer. They’re stocking up on beer, soda (I saw this just today!), toilet paper and binge-watching on Netflix. They run to their pleasures, not to God; the God who made us, the God who saves us, and the God who will rescue us from this darkness.  If it’s the end of the world, people are sure going about it the wrong way.  Please don’t do likewise. Stay close to God and to His Holy Mother.  We’ll not only be okay, we’ll gradually be elevated to something a little better than how we were before the coronavirus broke out of its Chinese prison.  Have faith, have hope, and be at peace.

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!