Corona Virus – A call for Solidarity
Corona Virus (COVID-19) – A call for Solidarity in and through the Church.
From the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic till now, everything about humanity has utterly changed. Various thoughts have come into our minds and with the eyes of faith we look forward to the end of the pandemic. Having been living in the reality of the whole situation daily in Rome inside the walls of the Pontifical Irish College, Via Dei Santi Quattro 1, it is vividly obvious that COVID-19 is not just a health emergency, but a crisis that involves and concerns many, if not all, aspects and dimensions of social life. It is a global health, social, and religious issue. Using the expression from Durkheim, it is a “total social fact”, that is a social phenomenon that touches all social institutions. It is therefore clear to us that the Church as part of society is dramatically involved and greatly affected by this deadly virus. It is in this light that we want to bring out some points of reflections on the ongoing emergency, and especially what may happen after the coronavirus pandemic to our different social institutions, Christian communities, parishes and dioceses, etc. We wish to also encourage each and every one to keep calm and observe all directives given by public health authorities to contain the virus as soon as possible and above all to encourage one another on a daily basis to stay strong and safe. For in all this the Lord is with us. ”Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”Deuteronomy 31:6
”It is in the face of death that the enigma of the human condition reaches its peak” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 18). Mutatis mutandis, it is also in the face of the pandemic which is leading many to death that human vulnerability is most felt. Faced with all these deaths, every day a little more, what can I say? ”Even the prophet, even the priest, does not understand” (Jer 14,18). All we know is that we must not let the pandemic claim the last word. God will always have the last word! For now, the virus is disrupting our thinking system, our way of life. But paradoxically it leads to a new way of thinking, of living. It deconstructs but it is also reconstructing by this very fact. Our living together in society and our community faith life are put to the test: ”confinement but not separation”, ”distance but not distrust”, the need to go out for work but the imperative of ”stay at home”. In any case, we are learning to live differently our profession, our relationships, our faith: telework, digital communication, virtual meetings, evangelization, socialization by the web, etc… Clearly, the virtual has aspects of reality. While we have often spoken of the world as a ”new digital continent”, of a global village, very quickly we realized more clearly that the world is ”our common home” and that in this world ”everything is linked ”(Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 16) according to the consecrated expression of Pope Francis. From Asia to Europe to Africa and so on, China to Finland, via France and Italy, ”everything is linked”, in an inextricable way, like the good grain and the tares until the harvest (Mt 13,24-30). The damaging consequences of global warming that have spread everywhere have proven it; today, in turn, the pandemic in record time makes the same point more forcefully.
The coronavirus outbreak has greatly exposed our human fragility, vulnerability and inferiority in relation to that hidden mystery of life known only to the Creator. The way the virus is spreading is a great sign and a rapid reminder to us of our common humanity, of our oneness in nature, strength and capabilities. It is therefore clear that we are brothers and sisters and, indeed, a common human family. From the perspective of the Church’s teaching, this continues to be the central message which reminds us that we are all one family under God’s providential care. The Trinity does not and cannot abandon us. Man is not on his own in such situation. No, man is not an accident in history either. He is not ALONE. He always has this often invisible but ever present and active companion: God. Nor is it, as some like to imply, by chance. Man was wanted by God in whose eyes he has an inestimable price: ”You have a price in my eyes, and I love you … Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (cf. Is 43, 1 -12). In these difficult times, each and every one of us is invited to let ourselves be convinced by this ”declaration of love” from our Lord which can neither be wrong nor deceive us. God made us out of love so that we can know him, love, and serve him. It is therefore unchristian to think that those affected directly by the virus, be they individuals or entire nations, deserve it because they have abandoned God. On the contrary, God is calling our attention to serve him now more than ever before in the affected people and nations as well as in every circumstance of our lives. God will not abandon us; he is always with us (“Emmanuel”) even in this precarious situation of trial and testing, it is good to remember these words of scripture “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Friends, it is important for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that will save us in Jesus Christ his son. Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and neighbor. Let us draw closer to one another in our love for each and every one and rediscover the things that truly matter in our lives. For “what we are is God’s gift to us [and] what we become is our gift to God.” (Eleanor Powell).Following the instructions of our Holy Father Pope Francis, the greatest gift we will offer each other now and the entire society is our sincere and unstringed SOLIDARITY.
Solidarity is about valuing our fellow human beings and respecting who they are as individuals (Pope Francis General Audience 25/03/2020) “The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice, are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity. New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fueling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless” “ In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do Ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish” Pope Francis” (Pope Francis’s Message for the World Day of Peace, 01/01/2014).
Solidarity in Prayer, solidarity in thoughts and solidarity in Action is what we need in the midst of this crisis. Let our actions, our words, and our thoughts be in total communion with the whole world in crisis and in particular the affected. The Church teaches us that solidarity has no limits within the Christian outlook and orientation. To be precise, Catholic social teaching’s principle of Solidarity is about recognizing others as our brothers and sisters and actively working for their good. In our connected humanity, we are invited to build relationships and to understand what life is like for others who are different from us. There is no room therefore for discriminatory behavior but instead we need to create a space for promoting the values of social harmony, civic-mindedness, and togetherness in seeing through this stressful time together by constantly seeking the wellbeing of everyone, and having concern for one another. All we need now is to work together in a well-coordinated manner, cooperating and collaborating in such a way that we can achieve collectively the defeat of the coronavirus pandemic.
The spread of COVID-19 has and will have a very strong influence and impact on our society and in our relationships with one another in particular. Things will definitely not be same: the crisis is already visibly changing perceptions and worldviews. Our commonality is already greatly affected. Our financial life is and will be affected greatly whether we consider employment, the world of jobs/work business or development in general. Health and educational systems have had to and will continue to change. Despite all that will happen to us, things will only be the way they will be depending on our understanding and appreciation of them. Being positive is what holds us together, let us therefore remember that we need and will continue to need each other in the fight against the effects and after effects, and in the task of rebuilding humanity. This reconstruction will be a reality and an obvious work to be done by all for the common good of all.
This virus is taking away lives. No one should deceive us or convince us of anything else. We have recorded an alarming death toll since the outbreak of the malignant and repugnant virulence in many nations and especially in Italy where I am presently living through the daily reality. It is tragic and saddening! Although there are many sides to reality, we must understand that the spiritual outlook has a particular priority, for every other perspective no matter how pragmatic must have spiritual underpinnings.
The coronavirus and its consequences are not God’s will and will never be His will no matter what. We must pray more earnestly today than ever imploring God’s mercies and intervention. Follow the common sense prescriptions for precautions and be spiritually alert and alive by heartfelt and consistent prayers, for this is the surest way to remain immune not just to COVID-19 but also to other afflictions and infirmities. Solidarity in prayer is what will save us from this and protect humanity. Keep calm, respect instructions, follow guidelines prescribed by public professionals; pray, pray, pray and God will save us. In the final analysis, those who don’t have respect for humanity and human life, or even for their own communities, may well learn some serious lessons in this season and period of crisis. The outbreak is not “their thing or his/her thing”, an Italian thing, a European thing, a Chinse thing… NO! it is our thing. As Christians and as human persons we must be in solidarity to support one another during and after the pandemic. Ask yourself this question: as a Christian what am I doing in solidarity with the world in this crisis?
“We are all one family in the world. Building a community that empowers everyone to attain their full potential through each of us respecting each other’s dignity, rights and responsibilities makes the world a better place to live” Sollicitudo Rei Socialis ‘On Social Concern’ (1987). God is not visible in the dramas but in the understanding of men to resolve the dramas. We welcome the combined efforts of people of good will; nurses and doctors, researchers and scientists. We thank them, congratulate them and encourage them that God is using them to heal us. And we pray because health is a gift from God. “Yes, we must do everything to overcome suffering, but to eliminate it completely from the world is not within our possibilities – simply because we cannot extricate ourselves from our finitude and because none of us are able to eliminate the power of evil, of fault, which – as we see – is continually a source of suffering. God alone can and will realize it. We know that this God exists and therefore that this power which “removes sin from the world” (Jn 1,29) is present in the world (Spe Salvi, 36).Despite everything, we have reason to hope for a better world, ”where there is no more mourning, no tears, no pain” simply because Christ who conquers [evil] is the foundation of our hope. Coronavirus, the virus, is not loaded with meaning because it is, but because it leads to something that is not yet, something we hope against all hope.
Let us pray in solidarity for our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are sick and who are directly affected by the coronavirus, and for those who have died since the outbreak Let us pray for those who have lost loved ones to this virus. May God console them and grant them peace. We pray also for doctors, nurses, and caregivers, for public health officials and all civic leaders. May God grant them courage and prudence as they seek to respond to this emergency with compassion and in service to the common good. In this time of need, let us seek together the maternal intercession of Our Blessed Mother in this prayer….
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession,
was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.
(Attributed to St Bernard of Clairvaux)
Fr. Leonard Wobilla Shwei
Rome March 25, 2020
Feast of the Annunciation