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Saint Sebastian interceding for victims of the plague.
For many weeks now, the World seems to have fallen into madness, a madness caused by the Chinese Plague (also known as SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, or "Coronavirus"). As I speak, the economy seems fatally wounded and headed for a deep recession, many Countries are imposing what amounts to Martial Law, all churches are closed in the Province of Quebec and all Masses have been cancelled, and the Media are bombarding the population with truths... or rumors... or fear-inducing propaganda... well, I'm not sure.
So on this 4th Sunday of Lent 2020-March-22, here is my attempt at producing a few rational thoughts on the topic, mostly to try to understand what is happening around me.
Pontius Pilate washing his hands.
To begin, a few legal disclaimers:
2.1) A cure or protection against COVID-19? I'm sorry, I have no cure for COVID-19, and no magic trick to avoid getting sick. So if that's what you're looking for, stop reading now.
2.2) Who am I to speak out about this? I'm neither a medical doctor, nor a world-renown virologist, nor even any kind of health professional. How would I know anything about COVID-19?
2.3) I'm still breathing. It's easy to blather away while you can still breath. Anybody can have their own opinions on COVID-19, while they are not drowning in their own pulmonary secretions.
So, how is that supposed to help you? Well, I might actually be helping you more than you think. When was the last time you heard a politician or a journalist begin his public statement with such disclaimers?
The first step in combating this virus is to avoid the intellectual equivalent of licking toilet seats in China: believing everything we hear without questioning. No matter how bad things are, we can always make them worse by adding more bad decisions. Let's not infect our decision-making process with bad information.
I seem to remember reading an article somewhere about a person driving a car, and suddenly a bee appeared inside. The driver panicked, and while trying to avoid being stung by the bee, crashed his car and died. In other words, it's not because you concentrate on one threat, that no other threats exist, and that those other threats are less dangerous.
What "perspective" can we give to this Chinese Plague?
3.1) You probably don't want to hear this... but eventually we are all going to die. Whether it's the Chinese Plague, or a heart attack, or cancer, or falling in our bathtub and hitting our head, or getting a rare and horrible neuro-degenerative disease, etc., something is going to get us, and probably much sooner than we think.
3.2) This isn't the first plague in the history of Mankind. Mankind is still here, despite far worse disasters having occured. And if Mankind survives this Chinese Plague (as I assume it will), I bet more disasters will occur soon after...
3.3) If we're going to count dead bodies, let's do it right. The CBC should, every day, announce not just the number of COVID-19 deaths, but also other numbers: how many people have died so far this year of other causes (Type-II Diabetes, the common flu which kills many people every year, tobacco smoking, abortion, etc.), how many COVID-19 deaths had another serious illness, etc.
In addition to suchlike numbers, we should also insist on getting the uncertainty associated with each number. As far as I know, real scientists rarely talk about naked numbers. Their numbers usually have some clothes on, like «confidence intervals», «underlying assumptions», etc. Bad journalists like nakedness, because it sells more.
3.4) Spiritual diseases are far worse than any virus. Yes, you know this already, but now is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of this very important truth. No matter how horrible it must be to die drowning in your own pulmonary secretions, it's still infinitely better, INFINITELY BETTER, than burning in Hell forever. "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Hell". [Mt 10:28] If you are washing your hands often, and putting on an N95 surgical mask to do your groceries, and maintaining "social distancing", while also remaining mired in your atheism and your sins, you'll avoid neither the bee sting, nor the car crash...
Wow, a real Bishop? Polish Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga. 2020-March-21.
Today, I felt like buying a bag of potato chips (yes, it's Lent, but Sundays are always Feast days, with no fasting). So I walked over to the local grocery store, basking in the beautiful Sun, watching all the other people walking and enjoying the nice weather, and purchased what I wanted. Then I started saying my Rosary and walked over to the local "catholic" church, which was firmly locked, since all Sunday Masses have been cancelled in the whole Province...
Did the Government shut down grocery stores and hospitals? No, even though there are plenty of germs there. But Quebec "catholic" Bishops don't consider Masses to be essential. Sacraments for them are like drinking beer or going to the movies: accessories we can do without.
It gets worse: think about a medical doctor or a nurse that has to take care of a patient. They must come close to the patient, and probably also touch the patient, maybe even take samples of what the patient is spitting out, or clean the patient of his excrements because he can't go to the bathroom anymore, etc. And as Polish Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga here above reminds us, these medical professionals courageously risk their lives to take care of their patients!
But a Priest can hand out all his spiritual medications from either far away, or very far away. He can yank staples holding the cables of a church loudspeaker and put it outside the building, then say Mass from inside the open window of his Sacristy. All parishioners can then go to Mass from the parking lot (each one of them the legal 6 feet away from his or her closest neighbor). A Priest can also walk calmly down the sidwalk in the hot Sun (and ultraviolet rays apparently kill viruses), while giving Confessions (they do that every year during the Christendom Pilgrimage). And even this whole silly kerfuffle about forbidding Communion on the tongue doesn't make sense: medical doctors just put on gloves and do what they have to do, then throw their gloves away, wash their hands, and move on to the next patient. If the problem really was the Chinese Plague and not the Quebec Plague, then there wouldn't be a problem...
Saint John of God saving the sick from a fire at the Royal Hospital in 1549.
First, I repeat myself: how would I know? Second, some actions seem always recommendable:
5.1) Pray for the suffering, the dead, and their families. The Media will probably not encourage you to do this, because of its strident Atheism. Note that it's "pray", not "think about", which is useless.
5.2) Even a false fire alarm can be useful. Will I die of this Chinese Plague in the next few days? Maybe. Maybe it's just a false alarm and I'll be all right. But I know someday there will be a real alarm, my last alarm. So we might as well take this opportunity to practice:
- learning by heart your
Act of Contrition;
- making a good Confession;
- writing your Testament if it's still not done yet;
- throwing out of your appartment (and your life) all that useless junk you'll never use again (make someone else happy!);
- etc., etc.
5.3) Write down the numbers of the nasty players. In ice hockey, there is a old saying about not retaliating when a player from the opposing team does something nasty (like slash your ankles with his hockey stick, etc.): "Don't retaliate! You'll get a penalty! Just memorize his jersey number!" Remember which politicians are most eager to destroy your civil liberties in the name of "Fighting against the virus!" It's easy, since often these are the same politicians who were doing everything they could to eliminate your national borders, and to import as many migrants as possible, especially if they are incompatible with the laws of your Country and with Christianity in general. Not to mention piling more debt onto your grandchildren, so as to bribe the voters to re-elect them...
5.4) Don't say this whole situation caught you unprepared. We all know disasters happen, and every normal adult should be reasonably prepared for disasters (earthquakes, ice storms, financial crisis, pandemics, etc.). Either you were prepared for this Chinese Plague, or you had decided freely and consciously not to prepare. Don't let this happen again. Promise to yourself, in writing, that as soon as this crisis is over (God willing), you will never again be caught with your pants down.
5.5) Go help somebody worse off than yourself. It might not be actually going to see them physically (to avoid giving them your germs if you have them), but you can go pick up the bag on their doorknob with their shopping list and their money, and go run their errands. Or stay in contact to make them feel safe ("Somebody is thinking of me! I'm not alone!"). Or if you are dying in a hospital bed, drowning in your own pulmonary secretions, offer up your sufferings so that somehow, somewhere, somebody who most needs it will obtain the Graces they need to do their duty.
Spiritually, I would re-read paragraphs 302-305 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on Divine Providence. Politically, I would at least try to avoid sticking my head in the sand.
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