Recently, our lives suddenly and unexpectedly changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, we are unable to go to Mass and are supposed to stay far away from other people. The increased isolation and the terrible news stories of people around the world suffering and dying from this virus has led to fear and anxiety among many people. They worry about such things as contracting the virus, losing their jobs, and not having enough food if quarantined.
It is normal to be afraid and worry at times. However, as Catholics, we know that there is no reason to fear. God loves us and is always with us. In the Gospels, Jesus frequently told His disciples not to be afraid. He also told them not to worry. He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.” (Luke 12:22). Saint Paul continued this teaching, writing: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Jesus and Saint Paul provide us with a way to cope with the difficulties caused by the coronavirus and any other situation that causes anxiety or fear. We must first seek the Kingdom of God, which we do by prayer and the works of mercy, and trust that God will take care of us. We should also bring our concerns to God, ask Him to help us, and thank Him for His many blessings. Every day, there are many reasons to be grateful to God, especially for His love for us and the gift of our faith. Thanking God for all of His goodness to us—including our families, friends, homes, jobs—will remind us of His constant care of us and decrease any tendency to worry.
We can live in hope. Jesus has redeemed us and given us eternal life. It is perhaps not coincidental that the coronavirus pandemic was occuring during Lent. This season is a time of increased prayer, repentance, sacrifice, and conversion. In addition to the sacrifices Catholics chose to do for Lent, we also have additional ones, which are more difficult, such as not being able to participate at Mass or visit family and friends in nursing homes. Although we can’t attend Mass, we are still able to watch the Mass on television (it is on EWTN three times each day) and on the internet on many parish and diocesan websites, as well as the EWTN website. We can also listen to Mass on Catholic radio. We can also spend more time with God in prayer, which will enable us to grow closer to Him and experience great joy this Easter Season. Some churches may be open for prayer, and we can go and visit Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament.
Can anything good come from the problems the world is experiencing because of the virus? Saint Paul teaches, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We can pray people will turn to God at this time; that everyone will come to believe in God; that people will avoid sin; that Christians will also experience conversion; and have increased faith, trust, hope, and love for God.
It is important that we don’t let social distancing lead to social isolation for our neighbors. We need to especially reach out to anyone we know living in a nursing home. It is very difficult for them not to spend time with their family and friends. We can “visit” them by phone calls, sending cards, and (if they use a computer) sending them emails. We can also offer to buy groceries for older people or people with health problems who need to avoid going to stores.
We can also practice mercy by our prayers. Priests continue to offer Mass each day, which is giving everyone many graces. On March 19, Saint Joseph’s Day, Catholics throughout the world prayed the Rosary at the same time, with Pope Francis for Mary’s intercession in ending the coronavirus pandemic and healing those who are sick. We also all prayed the Our Father together on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. We can pray for many conversions, for an end to the virus, for protection for people from the virus, for healing of the sick, for a holy death for the dying, and for the souls of people who have died. We can also ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, and of some of the many saints who helped the sick in their lifetimes. One example is Saint Giuseppe Moscati, 1880-1927, an Italian doctor who took care of his patients’ spiritual as well as physical needs. In 1911, he cared for the sick during a cholera epidemic in Naples, conducted scientific research, and submitted proposals to stop the disease, which were followed. He is credited with helping to end the epidemic.
Instead of constantly watching the news and checking websites, which can only lead to worry, let us stay close to Jesus and trust Him to take care of us in this and every circumstance in life. Saint John Paul II, whose first message to the Church after being chosen as Pope was, “Be not afraid,” explained we should not fear “because man has been redeemed by God… The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 219)