Matt C. Abbott
Invoke Saint Corona, writes priest
By Matt C. Abbott
March 15, 2020
In response to my March 13 column
, "Coronavirus and divine chastisement," Father John P. Trigilio Jr
., Ph.D., Th.D., director of pastoral formation at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., wrote in an email to me (lightly edited):
Is the coronavirus (COVID-19) a divine chastisement?
The Black Death (bubonic plague) was not a punishment from God for the sins committed during the Middle Ages. Neither is typhoid nor other diseases. Recall that during the time Christ was on earth, Leprosy was not only a scourge, but many erroneously believed the victims were being treated with divine retribution. St. Damien of Molokai thought otherwise and ministered to the lepers since they were as much children of God as he was.
Chastisement is a penalty for an offense. Penance is a symbolic act of self-denial in remorse for past sins. Mortification, on the other hand, is an act of self-denial to train the will to say no and to be more successful in the future against temptation.
The coronavirus, like any disease or ailment, can be a real suffering. First, for those infected and physically in distress, like the elderly and those compromised due to respiratory conditions or immune deficiencies, diabetes and so on. These people are suffering in their bodies, but also emotionally. Second, their caregivers suffer from the burden and possible fatigue of long hours. Third, healthcare workers, from nurses and doctors on down, suffer grueling hours and stress. Fourth, many people are suffering from economic distress due to stores and businesses closing, which results in loss of income.
Rather than see this as a chastisement, we should see it through the eyes of faith. The first hospitals were established by people of faith. Religious men and women – brothers, sisters and clergy – created healthcare centers as a means of practicing the corporal work of mercy to tend to the sick.
Fallen human nature suffers pain and misery thanks to original sin. Human evil, however, can be prevented. Why is our modern media obsessed with COVID-19, but conspicuously silent on regular influenza, which kills more people exponentially? The millions murdered by abortion are never mentioned. Where is the public outcry?
God smote the Egyptians with ten plagues. Pestilence, however, is not per se a direct punishment, but sin does create its own suffering. There are consequences when we violate God's law. Natura non operata frustra. Nature does not operate in vain. Bad behavior has bad consequences. Yet, it is fallacious to assume all calamities are retribution, or that all victims are guilty. Bad things happen to good people. It rains on the good and the bad. Our job is to help those in need. God gave us reason so we can use prudence and employ preventative medicine – like washing your hands frequently during the day.
The Church has always maintained that serious illness automatically dispenses someone from their Sunday Mass obligation. Being the primary caregiver of someone seriously ill may also dispense. Severe inclement weather does as well. It is sad, however, that some places have chosen to close churches or cancel Masses. Now more than ever, the healthy Catholic needs the sacraments and needs the opportunity to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
If you're ill, stay home. If your parish is open and having Mass and if you show no symptoms, go to church. If you can't, watch the televised Mass on EWTN. Make a Spiritual Communion. Avoiding Mass just because of unfounded fear is not acceptable. And don't forget to support your parish. When there is no weekend Mass or when parishioners are unable to attend, the bills must still be paid. The utilities, salaries, insurance and other non-discretionary expenses are due every month without delay. Whether it's electronic giving or mailing in your weekly donation, your parish needs your support so it can continue after this crisis.
Saint Corona lived in the second century and was martyred during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the year 165 A.D. in Damascus. She is the patroness of victims of plague and epidemics. Let us invoke her intercession.
© Matt C. Abbott
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