It’s often said that with God, there are no mere coincidences. So the overlap of the explosion of the global COVID-19 pandemic with this year’s Holy Week celebrations should give cause for Catholics to engage in some serious reflection about what this unanticipated juxtaposition signifies.
Understandably, the initial response of Catholics in the U.S. has been shaped by the deluge of disturbing coronavirus images from other countries that have dominated news and social media for weeks. This frightening imagery now is combined with firsthand experiences of cases of infection here at home, empty shelves at supermarkets, and an ever-growing range of shutdowns of public events and workplaces — including cancellations of public Masses in most parts of the nation — that are being imposed in order to slow the disease’s spread.
The picture of Pope Francis standing above a deserted St. Peter’s Square, which is featured on the front page of this issue of the Register, might be viewed as an especially evocative example of how disheartening the situation has become.
But while Pope Francis’ Angelus blessing over the city of Rome without a soul in sight was chilling, it was also strangely comforting. Prayer goes on. God is with us.
Our Christian hope always rests in God — yet as we recall throughout Holy Week, this hope did not arise in the context of comfort and security. It arose from Jesus Christ’s victory over sin and death, purchased for us through the excruciating sufferings of his passion and death on the cross at Golgotha, abandoned and almost entirely alone. But out of that seeming disaster was born the resurrection of Easter, the reason for our hope both here and in the hereafter.
This hope can never be shaken by any physical disease, not even one so serious as the coronavirus. And as believers, it’s our particular responsibility to manifest this hope to the many others in our secularized contemporary society who, lacking faith, might be drawn toward despair by the advance of the coronavirus.
But since hope is only one of the three Christian theological virtues, Catholic clergy and lay faithful are called equally to serve as beacons of charity and faith in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Indeed, such a witness has been modeled countless times previously over the 2,000-year life of the Church, through the compelling example of Catholics like St. Charles Borromeo who, in the face of a deadly plague besetting his own 16th-century Archdiocese of Milan, refused to follow the lead of civil authorities in fleeing the city. Instead, Cardinal Borromeo courageously remained in place to shepherd his flock, both spiritually and materially.
Read more at National Catholic Register