The Catholic Response to the Coronavirus

by John Tuttle, Benedictine College

+JMJ+

“Be not afraid,” St. John Paul II says. They echo now still, these words for the ages. They have been proclaimed by leaders and politicians down through the centuries. It’s a worn maxim. Yet, the fact cannot be overlooked that it provides purpose and direction.

As I’ve seen universities and businesses quake and reluctantly close their door amid the onslaught of COVID-19, I have been caught up in a dreamlike sensation. For me, it is not a nightmare, but certainly an unearthly landscape. Amid such developments, my dad texted me that famed line from JPII. I remarked how I also had just been pondering the saint’s evergreen words.

Be not afraid! Can a soldier fight effectively when enveloped in a looming shadow of fears? Not likely. And we, the soldiers for Christ, can fall into the same rut. Fear is natural. But when we allow it to dominate and diminish us, to limit the potential of our individual vocations in life, it becomes a hindrance – both physically and spiritually.

For many, the new coronavirus has become one such handicap. Not detracting from the severity of the disease, it should be noted that faith and reason, when coupled together, lend themselves toward peace of mind.

JPII also said, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” Here he presents the roles of faith and reason, and the two work hand in hand. This is the calling of every Catholic – to live in wisdom as it is found both in divine revelation and in the research on the part of man.

COVID-19 has shown us how desperately we need to conform to this calling. The solution is not only prayer as some believe; neither is the solution to be found in more Germ-X and cowering away into seclusion. Rather, the person of faith should subscribe to the health procedures suggested by qualified sources (such as the CDC) in addition to devotion to the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who is the Divine Physician.

When Vice President Mike Pence led the newly-formed coronavirus task force in prayer, he not only had the right to, but he should be lauded for taking the initiative. Pence’s Christian faith has informed his actions, and it is an example of what we ourselves are called to do.

While secularists and fear-mongers proceeded to lambaste Pence and many people of faith for such an initiative, it remains our uniquely Christian duty to be people of prayer and action. By devotion, we are tasked to seek healing, courage, and service. Meanwhile, we have no right to ignorance or to endangering the health of others.

For our part, this means we have an obligation to maintaining our health, especially out of concern for others. Selfishness has no place in the teachings of Christ, and neither does fear. I empathize with this creeping sense of dread. It is already close to home. My college has gone digital for the remainder of the term. In-person classes are compromised. There has been a confirmed case in my home county in Illinois, less than 48 hours before I returned. There a few places throughout the country that remain unscathed by the pandemic’s effects.

Despite all of it, the words of Jesus from Matthew come gushing out striving to console us. Not long after offering the Beatitudes, he tells his audience to dispense with fear. In chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says to not be anxious, and he says it at least three times. He puts terrific emphasis on this point. He ends by saying, 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. (Mt. 6: 34.)

The Christian is called to greatness, and it is in desperate moments that virtues are fostered and tranquility is tested. We are called to live life boldly, detached from both indifference and fear. And if we can do that, we can make a change for the better. Let us pray for the courage to live boldly now and always!

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