Coronavirus has made its way from China to the United States – let the panic begin. Before you turn on the TV, scroll through your social media feed, or Google information about how to protect yourself from getting the virus (if you have not already done so) let me say this: Stop the panic. Stop listening to the media.
In a battle, one must know the enemy in order to defeat the enemy. We may not know everything there is about this virus, including how to stop it, but Christians should learn from history. Our history will tell us how to counter attack this virus and, thus, stop it.
First, let’s take a brief look at what this COVID-19 (coronavirus) is exactly and where it came from. The coronavirus is not new. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), coronaviruses regularly circulate among humans and cause mild illnesses such as common cold. But, the novel coronavirus is different. The virus, called COVID-19, is not the same and is deadlier. COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China and appears to be linked to a live animal market in China. It spreads from human to human easily and can be spread by infected individuals even if they do not know at the time they are infected.
Let’s put something to rest. Buying and wearing a face mask will NOT keep you from getting it. So stop the facemask idea. Facemasks are useful if an individual actually has the virus and it helps keep it from spreading to another individual. According to the CDC, “you should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms.” Thoroughly washing your hands is a good barrier and proactive move to protect yourself.
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s address how we should respond. (Spoiler: It’s not with facemasks and hand sanitizer). As Christians we have a powerful weapon. The weapon we hold is stronger than other measure of protection. We have the ear of the Creator of the Universe, the Great Physician, Almighty One, and Great Healer. We have the ear of God.
“If then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
God gives us the instructions on how to address this epidemic. He says we are to:
- Humble ourselves
- Seek his face
- Turn from evil ways
Humble Ourselves: We humble ourselves when we attend Mass. When we attend Mass we come face to face with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We receive him body, blood, soul and divinity. He is there and we genuflect to show that truth. When we do not attend Mass and choose other things we are telling God we do not need him. We are telling him “thanks for the invitation but no thanks”.
Prayer: We must first fix our eyes on Christ. If we look at the problem more than the solution then we will never actually see the solution. Jesus Christ is our solution. Battling this epidemic must be rooted in prayer. It must be focused on God. Let’s take, for example, the woman who had been bleeding and had a severe illness for 12 years. She could not even get close enough to touch the body of Jesus, but she touched the edge of his clothes in Matthew 9:20-22 and when she did, she was healed.
A few verses down, in Matthew 9:35, we see that Jesus went to “every town and village” and he “healed every kind of disease and sickness.” If Jesus is the antidote then we need to apply it. If Jesus is the cure then we need to tap into that resource. But, Jesus healed those in the Bible who were already sick. What about those who are not sick and do not want to get it? Once again, let’s learn from the great saints and our history. Let’s leave the Holy Lands and Biblical times for a minute and return to the United States of America.
In the late 1800s, the Jesuits founded a parish in St. Louis, Missouri that held mainly German immigrants. Soon after founding the parish, they made plans to build a church. In addition to eventually becoming the site of the only authenticated miracle in the Midwest where an injured worker was healed, it holds a significance we can learn from regarding our current virus situation.
In 1866 there was an outbreak of cholera in St. Louis that caused the church to lose countless members to death, at times reaching up to 20 burials a day at St. Joseph’s parish. Cholera was very contagious and there was not a known cure to combat it. As the greatest of medical minds struggled to find a cure and stop the deaths, St. Joseph’s continued suffering death daily. At the height of the epidemic, the pastor, Father Joseph Weber, called his parishioners together to seek the intercession of St. Joseph. They all made a solemn vow that if St. Joseph would intercede for them and protect them from suffering any more deaths at the parish then they would build a monument to him as a thanksgiving tribute. From that day, not a single person who signed the vow, or their family members, died because of the disease.
Are we relying on science, medicine, facemasks, and hand sanitizer to protect us or can we be found in desperate prayer?
St. Roch and St. Rosalie also battled plagues and won. They did not win through anything other than looking to Jesus. St. Rosalie appeared to a hunter in 1625 in Italy as the area was suffering from the plague. She told the hunter where to find her remains and instructed him to bring her remains into the city. The hunter did as he was told and they processed around the city three times with her relics and the plague miraculously ended. St. Roch helped provide aid to victims of the plague in Italian cities in 1315. He miraculously cured people by using the sign of the cross.
Seek his face: There are many ways we can seek the face of God. Mass, prayer, spending time reading the Bible and writings of saints, adoration, the sacraments (particularly those of the anointing of the sick and reconciliation), and serving others are all ways we can seek the face of God. We should be using the sacraments now more than ever. We should be reading the Bible daily.
Confession: God commands us in Chronicles to “turn from their evil ways.” We turn from our sins and our “evil ways” through confession. We “turn from our evil ways” through attending Mass as regularly and as often as possible. We “turn from our evil ways” by receiving the Eucharist.
If we want to see a defeat of COVID-19 and we want to protect ourselves, our parishes, our communities, and our world then we must come together under the sacraments and the “cloud of witnesses” of the saints. (Hebrews 12:1) We must seek intercession, pray, and devote ourselves to the Sacraments. It is only then that you will see, just as the residents in Missouri and so many others saw, that the greatest of viruses and plagues will be defeated.