Will the current outbreak of what they’re calling “coronavirus” turn out to be an issue overplayed in the news, or the real thing? All we know at this point is that one day a pandemic will sweep to the corners of the world, as in the past — a global epidemic. From biblical times to our own, there always has been the next plague. (Prayer need here; shoo it away; there is time.)
Few remember or even know that the last time there was a truly monumental flu pandemic (an epidemic that goes globally) was between 1918 and 1920. It infected five hundred million, including denizens of remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, killing fifty to a hundred million (three to five percent of the earth’ populace, which in proportion would come out to 375 million today, more than the entire current U.S. population).
Among the victims were Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three seers at Fatíma, Portugal, who died at nine and ten years of age (respectively) in the outbreak.
In October 1918, Jacinta told the third seer, older cousin Lucia dos Santos, that Mary had appeared to her and promised to take them to Heaven soon. Both children, utterly unafraid, lingered for months, walking to church to make Eucharistic devotions and prostrating themselves to pray for hours, their heads on the ground as they knelt per the instructions of the angel who had appeared to them.
Francisco succumbed in 1919. His younger sister followed soon afterward. On 19 February 1920, Jacinta asked the hospital chaplain who heard her Confession to give her Holy Communion and administer Extreme Unction because, she insisted, she was going to die “the next night” (despite her doctor’s assurances that as yet her condition was not that serious).
The next day, Jacinta was dead, dying alone, as she also said she would.
Tied with the pandemic, it raised many questions that exactly a century later remain without answers. Was the great Spanish Flu, as it was known, part of what Our Lady was indicating by way of world chastisements (with these two children as willing martyrs)? Is this what might recur in a run of similar prophetic events? Note that the 1918-1920 pandemic came between world wars and at the onset of the Roaring Twenties, just before the Great Depression and fascism.
And medical issues. Chief among these: where did the Spanish flu virus, so devastating, originate?
At this point, there is no indication of a pandemic. But with a virus that already has been reported several nations in Asia, Europe, Canada, the United States, and Australia, the seeds may be sown. The U.S. State Department on Monday warned against visiting China and said Americans should not travel to the Hubei province, given that the province’s city of Wuhan is ground zero for a new deadly coronavirus.
A scientist at Johns Hopkins last year modeled what would happen if a deadly coronavirus reached a pandemic scale. His simulated scenario predicted that 65 million people could die within eighteen months.
Might this also have a military origin?
Already are the claims the virus was bio-engineered, either escaping from a Chinese lab or planted in the economically important Wuhan region by covert foreign operatives (no reason whatsoever, as yet, to believe the latter). Radio Free Asia this week rebroadcast a local Wuhan television report from 2015 showing China’s most advanced virus research laboratory known as the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The laboratory is the only declared site in China capable of working with deadly viruses. Swine flu and others have also been suspected of being biowarfare agents.
If coronavirus is as sly and virulent as many fear, it could indeed erupt as another major sign or “chastisement” — one that few think about, but perhaps the most likely candidate — a pandemic — for major future disasters.