At the end of a recent telephone conversation with a priest friend, he said, “Many people say, ‘stay safe’, but I will say to you, ‘stay prayerful.’” He understands what is most important.
Over the last several months, people throughout the world have been focused on “staying safe” (i.e. safe from contracting the coronavirus). While no one wants to become sick, and it is prudent to take good care of one’s health, staying healthy cannot be the main goal of our lives. As Catholics, we know we have a much higher goal—eternal life with God in Heaven. Our lives also have a much greater purpose. “God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve Him, and so to come to paradise.” (Catechism, 1721). Our vocation is to be saints.
Instead of continually worrying about the safety of our bodies, we need to be even more concerned about the safety of our souls. We can stay spiritually safe by daily prayer, living virtuously, going to Mass often, receiving the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist frequently, doing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy (such as praying for people and donating food to a food pantry ), and avoiding the near occasions of sin (places, things, or people that can lead one into sin).
We also have a responsibility to protect ourselves by avoiding such things as television programs and websites that promote ideas contrary to Christianity. Instead, we can read the Bible; good Catholic books; and read, listen to, and watch Catholic media. We also need to be part of a community of other Catholics. In an effort to be physically safe, we must not isolate ourselves from others. It is important to spend time with Catholic friends who can support us in living our faith. We can try to keep our families and friends spiritually safe by praying for them every day, and warning them of spiritual dangers, just as we may warn them of physical dangers.
I am not discounting the danger of serious illness—from any cause—or the necessity of taking appropriate means to prevent it. But then, we must trust God to take care of us, continue with our mission of serving Him, and make that our priority. The secular culture can distract people from understanding their true calling. It emphasizes health, happiness, politics, wealth, and materialism which can influence people, including Catholics, to lose their way.
People are making many sacrifices to avoid getting the coronavirus. We need to make the same, or greater sacrifices for our spiritual health, such as spending more time in prayer and fasting from food or media. People need to be prepared spiritually, so they will be in a state of grace, free from mortal sin when they go to meet God. It would be wonderful if Catholics would have the same zeal for keeping people spiritually safe as many people have for keeping people physically safe.
Instead of living in fear, people can be strengthened by remembering that we always remain close to Jesus. As St. Paul wrote, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7-8).
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