Responding to the Coronavirus with Grace

The panic around COVID-19 has increased dramatically over the last few weeks as it suddenly got a lot closer to home. I think most people never expected the coronavirus to be more than a news story, never expected it to have much of an effect on their personal lives. It’s safe to say that at this point, nearly everyone in the world has been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the pandemic.

Last Friday, March 13, we were notified that our diocese had canceled all public Masses until further notice. I was absolutely stunned. I was prepared for the closing of schools but not for this. The following Sunday, we watched a live-streamed Mass. While I’m very grateful for the modern technology that allowed us to watch the Mass that day, I missed being present in church, missed worshiping in community, and most of all, I desperately missed receiving the Eucharist.

Then I read Meg’s Instagram post and that helped put things in perspective:

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I'm meditating on this today, as my life (like yours) starts to shift and reform in the midst of this outbreak. I suffer so badly. I complain and I criticize and I lament the misery of my perfectly comfortable life. Meanwhile, I'm researching all these Saints who kissed the wounds of lepers and stood up to oppressive governments and smiled through decades of agony. But last night I wrote about Saints who were afraid. (It'll go live tomorrow.) And I've loved the Saints long enough to see those who were heartbroken, devastated by grief, exhausted by their pain, frustrated by failure, annoyed, curmudgeonly. So I'm not looking at these allegedly-immaculate creatures as condemnation anymore. I'm going to see them as an invitation, a reminder that I *can* suffer well–and a reminder that it's okay if sometimes I don't. If you still get to go to Mass, please realize what an enormous grace that is. Millions and millions of people have been informed this week that they've given up the Eucharist for Lent. And if you're one of those millions, stand in solidarity with the people of Amazonia, who so often go months without seeing a priest. With persecuted people around the world who may have no idea when they'll see a priest again after their last was kidnapped. With so many of the Saints of Korea, who spent most of their lives with no Mass and no confession, some of whom may have died without ever receiving Jesus. With the nameless hidden Christians of Japan who survived in secret for centuries, passing down the faith with no hope of ever seeing a priest. There is grace poured out in abundance on those who (not choosing to suffer) choose to suffer well. A fervent spiritual communion, shored up by all the sacrifices you're making right now for the good of the world, might just be what makes you a Saint. Praying for you all, friends. May the suffering of this moment transform you and make you more like him.

A post shared by Meg Hunter-Kilmer (@mhunterkilmer) on

I think the most important thing to remember right now is that WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. It will not last forever, and God is walking right alongside us (or sitting at home right alongside us?). Our suffering–and we’re all surely experiencing suffering in some form or another–can not only sanctify us but also be offered up for the sanctification of the whole Church. If you’re feeling lost or afraid, or even if you’re just wondering what you’re going to do with all this newfound free time, here are some suggestions, ideas, and resources that I hope will make this trying time a little easier.

Pray, hope, and don’t worry.

Padre Pio

“Help! I’m so bored…”

Boredom can be good sometimes. This is the perfect opportunity to spend more time on your hobbies or even start a new hobby. Learn to crochet. Bake some delicious treats for yourself and your family. Spend some time drawing or painting. Read that book that’s been sitting on your shelf for months. Make something useful or fun. Write in a journal. Play games with family members. Watch your favorite, most heartwarming movies. And stay in touch with your friends! Call them, text them, FaceTime them, or even write real letters to send in the mail.

An Act of Spiritual Communion

This is a great prayer if you, like many Catholics, are not able to attend Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament right now:

“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”

Reject the Hysteria

The widespread panic is understandable. These are scary times. But often the facts about what’s really going on get lost in all the fear. Some people thrive on information, but if reading the news is starting to make you feel anxious, you might want to disconnect and just check the official CDC page and your county’s public health page for updates. We do not have to live in fear. All we can do is take the necessary precautions and put all our trust in God.

Find a New Friend in Heaven

There are so many amazing saints whose intercession we can ask in this crisis! Our Lady is, of course, our most powerful intercessor. Since “corona” means crown, her titles Queen of Heaven, Queen of Peace, etc. are especially suited to the situation. March is the month of St. Joseph, so it’s the perfect time to ask for the intercession of Our Lord’s foster father. And it turns out there is actually a St. Corona, who was a 2nd Century martyr, and is a patron against epidemics in Austria and Bavaria; her feast day is May 14. St. Rosalia was a 12th Century hermit whose intercession is credited with stopping the spread of the plague in Palermo, Italy. Another patron against epidemics is St. Edmund the Martyr.

Above all, remember that however isolated you may feel, you are not alone. We have a God who tells us, “I am with you always.” We have countless saints in Heaven praying for us ceaselessly. And we are all lifted up by the prayers of the Universal Church. Trust that in His infinite mercy, Christ can use this time to help us grow in holiness and draw us ever closer to His Sacred Heart. Peace be with you, brothers and sisters.

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