I’m no expert on disease control. I suspect the virus doesn’t warrant Chicken Little, nor do I suspect it is of trivial importance. I could, however, be wrong. So as far as what to do to prevent it, just be wise about washing your hands, getting your sleep, and staying home if you are vulnerable/contagious. Remember that prayer has a record of repelling plagues in the past too.
Beyond that, let us take a moment to evaluate how the shut-downs might actually be beneficial to what is most important to a civilization. After all, God can bring forth good from evil: manmade or natural. So don’t let a crisis go to waste in your vocation to holiness.
One of the common grievances I hear from parents these days is how busy they are with everything they have to get their kids to and from in the week. This is, of course, combined with their own work schedules, community involvement, and marital issues makes for minimal time of rest and renewal. Many of these “busy” events are being canceled now. So, you’re probably going to have some more free time with the family in the home. What to do?Learn a new board game. Watch an old movie. Pray a rosary or a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Explain the family tree as best as you can. This crisis could give time for stretched families to reconnect on what is most important, if we but recognize the opportunity. Do the kids really need to be in all these activities? What are they in these for in the first place, and is it more important than what we’d have in the home? Do they need to continue, or continue to the extent they have been?
Many schools and places of employment are going to “home-work” models for the time being. I’m not an expert in economics, but doesn’t this just seem a bit over-due anyways? I’m not saying all jobs can do this, but can’t a great deal of the work out there be done with a home office, and high-speed wifi? I have to be present for much of what I do as a priest, but I’ve also been conducting spiritual direction over the net for several years now. I can meet with student leaders during the summer months, listen to a homily from an Arizona parish, and ask an Australian canonist for an opinion, all from my kitchen table in Bannister, Michigan. Many of the professionals my age claim they could easily get half their work done from home and would be far happier doing it that way. This virus could give the economy a wake-up to this reality, but it likely will for many individuals. As you work from home, likely close to your loved ones, perhaps it’s time to ask if this is something you can do more permanently, or if you really need to work as much as you do. Take inventory on how much you’re spending on your commute, and other expenses you have to simply work somewhere else. It might surprise you how little of a net gain you make, and question if it’s really worth it.
I’m glad I’m not the one who has to decide if public worship continues. I’m glad to put myself at risk to bring folks Scripture and Sacrament, but use your prudential judgment on if you should be in attendance. If the answer is no, or even if you don’t have the option, God will still bring about goodness in your home, if you but allow him. This is a good time to reclaim your home as the domestic Church. While you can’t offer Mass, you can take time to read the Scriptures as a family. You can take time to offer psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as a family. You can reclaim Sunday as a sabbath in the home. Not a sabbath whereby you need to “fit in Mass somewhere,” but truly making Sunday the Lord’s Day. Make it a day of rest and relaxation, free of worry from the too many obligations of the world around you. Then take from the sabbath, and apply it to the other days. Let there be a “sabbath time” each day as a family to give to the Lord.
I pray this virus is defeated by God’s grace coupled with human effort. I pray that panic not rule our hearts, but patience. But if it is simply about waiting out this time so we can return to our earthly endeavors with the same fervor as before, are we not squandering a gift amidst a tragedy? Are we not those in Amos 8:5 who anxiously await for the sabbath to end, so that they may return to the pursuit of wealth with no regard for God, or others? Maybe that grows income, but does it grow culture or love?
It’s an odd time for sure, but one where we get to reevaluate just for what we are living. Are we pursuing academic degrees, and personal income just for those ends in themselves, or are those ends in service to family, and God firstly? What are we sacrificing for what? Do we have it backward, and can a viral scare make us brave in reversing that backwardness? I pray Christ sends forth his Holy Spirit on humanity to give us the wisdom we need to evaluate our lives. I pray it begins with me.