Bishops all over the world have introduced temporary protocols to address the risk of contagion. Some will be scandalized by the lack of faith. “Surely God will not permit infection via the sacraments!” Maybe they’re right. In the Church’s 2,000-year history, which has included episodes of plague, there are no proven cases of contagion via holy communion.
On the other hand, we Catholics believe in faith and reason. Both-and, not either-or. God typically works through the laws of His Creation, not despite them. Therefore, even a sacrament, where the Divine is present, doesn’t necessarily preclude the spread of germs. I think our bishops are exercising an abundance of caution.
Let’s talk about the Great Toilet Paper Panic.
Panic buying has generated a lot of memes and jokes on social media, but there’s a serious downside. There are people limited by financial means, or mobility, or both, who shop once a fortnight. Now they’re deprived of basic goods — toiletries, medicine, pasta — because the richer and more mobile have unnecessarily hoarded excess supply in their garage.
Commentators decry the decline of civility. Some blame politicians. Others blame Hollywood. I think it’s simpler than that. This is not a demonstration of “what we’ve become.” This is a demonstration of “who we are.” This is the fruit of Original Sin.
Fear is the chief activator of our faults. I say that a lot, because I think it’s important to remember. It’s true of the individual, and it’s true of the human race. Fear is the chief activator of our faults.
Fear leads to irrational and selfish behavior, and irrational and selfish behavior leads to empty supermarket shelves. I watch videos of panic buying, and I think, “That’s me!” But for the grace of God, there go you and I.
What’s the best spiritual response?
The best response to fear — any fear — is: Name it. Claim it. Tame it.
Take it to prayer. What are you, personally, afraid of? Is it getting sick? Dying? Maybe it’s someone else. An elderly relative. Or perhaps someone younger, who has a compromised immune system.
Whenever you’re distressed — whether its cause is coronavirus or something else — give it to the Lord. If possible, hasten to the Tabernacle at the first opportunity, and stay there until you’re at peace. Peace is God’s will for you! “Peace be with you,” he tells us. “My peace I give you. A peace the world cannot give, that is my gift to you.”
Nonetheless, God doesn’t work magic. Jesus chooses to work with us, not on us. So first we have to name, claim and tame. Our Lord, who is generous, provides powerful means:
- Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Any time before the Tabernacle is time well spent. It’s transformative.
- Meditation. Be it meditative reading of the Gospels, or praying the Rosary, or the way of the Cross, or the prayer of silence. Meditative prayer focuses our thoughts and calms our nerves.
- Frequent Confession. Frequent Communion. The sacraments. The greatest means of all. Christ himself.
People out there are fearful. Some of them are your friends and neighbours. You help them a lot, when you seek the Lord’s peace.
Fear and anxiety are the most contagious human affects. Science tells us that — and so does the scene of empty supermarket shelves. But you and I have the remedy. The grace of God. God Himself, in the sacraments.
The Lord calms us, and we calm others.