Rarely if ever has there been a more confounding condition, or syndrome, or phenomenon than this spooky “virus” that has hounded — haunted — and continues to haunt the world, impossible for anyone to get one’s arms totally around, at once ephemeral and synthetic, as well as natural, a contagion of mind and spirit as well as anatomy.
The peculiarities it has spawned, the havoc it has wreaked — while relatively limited so far in death tallies (by historic standards: a minor pandemic) — have extended as we all know too well to the Church itself, and included in the strangeness is the again confounding way that the return to daily and Sunday Mass has been at once joyous and tinged at moments with an inexplicable sadness.
Why did we see one woman rush from Mass on Monday in tears? Why at both churches we have attended since they reopened last weekend was there harbored, at least initially, a maudlin atmosphere?
Is it simply the smaller attendance, and the sense of being constrained even during the liturgy: separated from one another by pew markers and wearing face masks which, though not during the rest of the Mass, when his voice has to be heard, the priest also dons as he says “the Body of Christ” in a muffled tone and places Communion only in the hand.
Will that become permanent in some parishes?
Will they henceforth dispense — that is, permanently, at some churches — with the Precious Blood? And will attendance be what it was before the pandemic — before the world was swept by the ghoul called COVID-19 (or coronavirus, or SARS-cov-2; several names for this fallen archangel!)?
Many questions. Thus far, few answers. What have parishioners and deacons and priests learned during the weeks we have been afforded for introspection? Is there still going to be as much pride? Is there going to be the same legalism? Will homilies drone on? Will there still be disputes for the sake of disputes? Do we now have to return to pettiness? Will politics continue to contaminate Catholicism? Have we learned to hunger for the Eucharist — or have we become used to laxity in attendance?
This is an evil and glorious time — glorious because we can prove the mettle of Christ’s spirituality if we rise above and defeat that darkness.
Another peculiarity: Why, during this time of struggle — real warfare with evil — are we deprived one of the weapons of the trade, namely Holy Water? Does the virus really transmit through water? From what we can see, it does not. And if it does, how is it that the font is any more precarious than bottles of sanitizer at the door that are handled by any number of people? There have been inconsistencies across the board throughout society with this confounding contagion.
Oh huge irony: that when we most need healing, they had to close Lourdes in France.
There is no or little Confession — another potent weapon against the evil invader.
Peculiarities right and left, peculiarities with those who have died.
How is it that an Uber driver who called the corona crisis a “hoax” and “fake” and said he would rely on the Lord instead of taking precautions found himself and his wife in ICU soon after (the last we heard, his wife on a ventilator and close to death)?
We are not to fear, nor to acquiesce to suspect agendas, but neither are we to be imprudent. Another pastor “wasn’t worried about coronavirus when he went to New Orleans to preach during Mardi Gras,” says a news article. “A month later he was dead.”
How is it that a preacher in Cameroon who laid hands on corona victims and proclaimed their healing himself is now also dead from it?
How is it that at least a couple other evangelists — along with members of their flocks — have succumbed in the U.S. after defying lockdowns?
Is it that hubris and disobedience to lawful authority and refusal to deploy the common sense and rationality God has given us open a loophole, a point of entry, for the COVID ghoul?
Is it strange that a hail storm in Montemorales, Mexico [caution, tabloid] produced huge hailstones shaped — at least to the eyes of spooked residents — like the virus?
Probably, not. But who knows.
Who knows much?
That is the biggest lesson so far: how months into this thing, we could know so little.
[Footnote: snippets from our archives four years ago:
“…The messages, allegedly granted by the Virgin Mary to a woman named Gladys Herminia Quiroga de Motta 145 miles northwest of Buenos Aires at San Nicolas, are among the strongest ever approved by the official Church and exhort the faithful to spread word of judgment.
“It is your duty to teach the Almighty’s justice, and blessed is he who learns it,” say the messages, which we present here as composites. “You must be warned, children, the plague is big. At these moments all humanity is hanging by a thread. My children, the senseless person is dead, even if alive, because he does not fear the justice of God, nor fears not fulfilling of His commandments. He wants to ignore the fact that the Lord’s day and His judgment will arrive. Blessed are those who fear God’s judgment.”
These are the hours, say the messages, when prayer and visits to the Blessed Sacrament must be especially ‘fervent.’ Humanity is living, say the messages, in ‘very dramatic moments.’…”