Before I was ordained a priest, I worked as a nurse, and I know what it means to be in the frontline. Healthcare workers are always directly involved with the task of caring for the sick, not only in times of crisis but also in times of our celebrations. Many may not realize it, but healthcare workers skip important festivities to be with their families to care for our loved ones in hospitals or nursing homes. This is while we are welcoming and celebrating holidays, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year, or July 4th.
In this time of unprecedented crisis brought about by the Corona Virus, our healthcare workers are in the frontline in a more difficult and arduous task of protecting our communities and society. They are like our soldiers on the battlefield who risk their lives to protect us and our freedom and liberty. We should arm them with ammunitions like PPE, or we are just like sending them to war with a pair of sneakers and a shirt. We should support them by weakening our enemies’ territories or by isolating them. We should follow the guidelines set by our authorities. Otherwise, our healthcare workers and our entire healthcare system will become exhausted and overwhelmed. This scenario will be a defeat for everybody.
As a healthcare worker myself, it perturbs me to see people who are defying the call for safety. I am also disheartened to see drive-thru penance and communion. I say this with utmost respect. There is no question that these spiritual acts, dear to us all, provide solace to believers especially in most difficult times. However, it actually defies the call of solidarity from our authorities and from those who sacrifice their lives and safety to protect us. I am not a virologist like Dr. Fauci. But, the spiritual acts may fail to observe both or either of the two crucial tenets of prevention of the unprecedented spread of the novel Coronavirus: Encouraging people to stay at home (or safe offices or places) and keeping social distancing (I prefer to use the term physical distancing).
It may be wise for the faithful not to push or encourage our priests to make decisions of making the Sacraments available to them by citing the long lines at supermarkets as a license to defy guidelines. We should raise the way we see what is right and what is wrong by following the highest standards. Our morality calls us to follow what is right. Our faith calls us to be informed also with reason.
With all honesty, celebrating Mass with empty pews, and not being able to celebrate the Sacraments with the faithful is also difficult for priests whose life is centered on the life of the Church. But recognizing the common good helps us in understanding why we embark on a painful, but a caring decision.
Our situation is serious. The order to lock down businesses, sending workers home, and closing our churches are done with difficulties, with the utmost consideration for the protection and safety of all. We are called to cooperate in any measure. We are in this together to defeat a seemingly invincible enemy. The time will come that we will go back to normalcy and celebrate once again our fellowship and the Sacraments with new vigor and perspective. Let us be patient.
This is the time to explore what is important in life. This is the time to explore the richness of our Faith and Tradition. Pope Francis offers us comforting words, saying, “If you cannot go to confession, take your sorrow to God.” The Pope also said to unite with one another in this difficult time in the spiritual communion of the Holy Eucharist. These are practices that are highly recommended when it is not possible to receive the Sacraments.
It is a great act of charity to follow the call of our authorities and protect and support each other and our already exhausted healthcare workers and front liners.
I say, we stay at Church to celebrate Mass for you and respond to spiritual emergencies, bring comfort to the sick and support our healthcare workers. Please stay home and pray for us and for each other.