Thoughts in a time of pandemic

God sometimes seems to ask the impossible, a sorrow, a cross. Oh! it would crush me! How can this be! How? Lord, I do not know, but You do. I will trust you always.

COMMENT: The world seems to be going through unprecedented times. If you think this is all hype, all I can say is please prepare and wait a few weeks until you see what happens when there is a big outbreak in your area. It appears that about 20% of confirmed cases require hospitalisation and 5% of cases require ventilation in intensive care. No country in the world can sustain the burden of a large outbreak of this disease. 

Many face possible illness, possible death and/or bereavement; almost certain restriction of our freedoms, and probable loss of access to the sacraments for some period of time. We all watched the sufferings of China, and Wuhan in particular. Now we see what has happened to Europe, and in particular to beautiful Italy. Now the crisis is just starting to bite elsewhere, including here in Ireland. 

What would Fr Doyle say to us if he were to speak to us today?

I think he would base his advice to us along the lines of his prayer above. Fr Doyle lived through an awful crisis of his own in World War 1. He lived with death day after day. He too had to go sometimes without the sacraments. Through it all he remained strong and peaceful. Soldiers flocked to him, as he was a source of reassurance. Whenever he wrote about troubles he always wrote about trusting in God, and abandoning ourselves into His loving arms. God is our loving Father, and we can trust in Him.

Some further quotes on this theme:

Take O Lord and receive my liberty, my health and strength, my limbs, my flesh, my blood, my very life. Do with me just as You wish, I embrace all lovingly – sufferings, wounds, death – if only it will glorify You one tiny bit.

 

“Let him act” much be your motto. Jesus will bring all things right in the end. The more I get to know God, the more inclined I feel to let Him work out things in His own way and time, and go on peacefully not troubling about anything.

To trust in God we must get to know God, and to do this we must pray. If we have spent more time preparing physically, by gathering food and supplies, than we have by preparing spiritually through prayer and “stockpiling” grace, we may need to reorient ourselves a little. 

I think Fr Doyle would also speak to us about the spiritual opportunities that this pandemic presents to us. In every crisis there are opportunities for holiness, for self-denial, for reparation, and perhaps in some cases for heroism. Fr Doyle often wrote about how the soldiers embraced their hardships with a spirit of faith and cheerfulness. We may even see martyrs of charity emerge from this pandemic. We may not be called to such heroism, but we are certainly called to embrace this period of self-denial and gain graces from it. 

There is a lot of other advice I could give that is beyond our scope here, except for this one, last crucial thing which I think Fr Doyle would give us: pray for priests. Pray that they may be protected. In Bergamo in Italy just this past week 6 priests have died from the virus and 20 more have been hospitalised. Given the age profile of priests, especially in Europe, we all may have much reduced access to the sacraments in the coming years if the virus is not stamped out. So please, pray for your priests and do not put them at unnecessary risk of infection. 

We will conclude today with Fr Doyle’s prayer for priests:

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar, “This is my Body, this is my Blood,” grant them to apply to themselves: “I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another.”

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.