Tag Archives: COVID

5 plague saints who spared nothing

By early July, the coronavirus pandemic claimed more than 507,000 people worldwide, with almost a quarter of the global fatalities occurring in the United States, where more than 125,000 people had died since February.

Pandemics are nothing new; humanity has been ravaged by them throughout history. In Christian Europe, the clergy, religious, and laity often responded to pandemic outbreaks with heartfelt prayer and acts of penance.

Five canonized saints are spotlighted here for their care of the sick and dying during plague times, at the risk of their own lives. Their responses, rooted in Jesus’ commands to care ‘for the least of these,’ show how they were willing to lay down their lives for their neighbors.

St. Charles Borromeo

Milan cardinal perdured with his stricken, abandoned flock

In 1576, St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), a leading figure of the Counter-Reformation, was serving as cardinal- archbishop of Milan when famine, and later a plague broke out.

In stunning similarity to recent events, the city’s economy collapsed and health conditions deteriorated; the local governor and many nobility even fled Milan. But not Archbishop Borromeo, who stayed behind to care for the affected and minister to the dying.

“I have sought outside priests, and not in vain, but we need still more,” Archbishop Borromeo said in a sermon wherein he asked for assistance from the religious superiors of monasteries and religious congregations in his diocese.

With civic officials abandoning their posts, Borromeo issued critical guidelines to control the plague’s outbreak and organized makeshift hospitals. He donated his clothes and tapestries, and spent his own money, even going into debt, to feed as many as 70,000 people daily.

The saintly archbishop also organized processions. Though he shuttered churches to prevent the plague from spreading in enclosed spaces, Borromeo ordered outdoor altar spaces to be built outside each church or chapel for the faithful’s spiritual needs.

Having never contracted the plague, the archbishop credited his good health to fasting and prayer. In his sermon to religious superiors, Archbishop Borromeo vowed to care for any of them if they became ill.

He was canonized in 1610.

St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli

Widowed mother created hospital refuges for sick, underprivileged, and destitute

A widow and mother of two young children by the time she was 20, St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli (1587-1651) spent most of her adult life doing charitable works and assisting the poor, sick, elderly, and abandoned in Genoa.

When her mother-in-law died in 1625, Virginia turned her home into a refuge for the poor, founding the Cento Signore della Misericordia Protettrici dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo (The Hundred Ladies of Mercy, Protectors of the Poor of Jesus Christ).

The house was overrun when plague and famine struck Genoa in 1629. To house the sick, Virginia rented the vacant convent of Monte Calvario and had extra housing constructed. By 1635, Virginia was caring for 300 patients. The local government officially recognized her institution as a hospital.

Virginia cared for the spiritual and temporal needs of the women in her houses, teaching them religion and how to earn a living. She had a church built in honor of Our Lady of Refuge, where the women who worked with her formed two congregations: the Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge in Mount Calvary, and the Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary

Though the plague in Genoa eventually ended, Virginia’s hospital continued caring for the sick. Virginia devoted her later years to serving the poor, mediating peace between noble families and working to reconcile civic and ecclesial authorities.

The most well-known quote attributed to Virginia is: “When God is the only goal, all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties overcome.” She was canonized in 2003. Her remains are still mostly incorrupt.

St. Jose Brochero

20th-century Argentinian priest befriended lepers, became one

Affectionately known during his lifetime as “the Gaucho priest” and the “cowboy priest,” St. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero (1840- 1914) could often be found riding through Argentina on a donkey, with a poncho over his shoulders, a sombrero, and a cigar in his mouth.

Father Jose, who traveled long distances in Argentina to serve the spiritual needs of his flock with his Mass kit, prayer book, and an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was well-known for his motto: “Woe if the Devil is going to rob a soul from me.”

He was particularly devoted to the poor and sick people of his huge parish. He cared for the ill during a cholera epidemic in 1867. He befriended a parishioner with leprosy, an affliction that Father Jose would himself contract.

The leprosy eventually caused Father Jose to lose his sight and hearing in later years, and forced him to relinquish pastoral duties. He spent his last three frail years living with his sisters in Cordoba.

Before taking his last breath on Jan. 26, 1914, Father Jose’s last words were, “Now I have everything ready for the journey.”

A few days after his death, a Catholic newspaper in Cordoba wrote: “It is known that Father Brochero contracted the sickness that took him to his tomb, because he visited at length and embraced an abandoned leper of the area.” He was canonized in 2016. 

St. Sebastian

3rd-Century Roman army captain’s intercession still sought during plagues

The common image many have of St. Sebastian (AD 256 – 288) is of a young man tied to a post or tree, his body “full of arrows as an urchin” for his fidelity to Christ. 

According to tradition, Sebastian was born in Gaul, went to Rome, and joined the army of the emperor Marcus Aurelius Carinus. An excellent soldier, he became an army captain and a member of the Praetorian Guard to protect the emperor Diocletian, who was persecuting Christians. 

It is said that Sebastian, a Christian, joined the Roman army to protect Christians from the emperor’s persecutions. However, Diocletian ordered Sebastian to be executed after learning he was a Christian who had converted Roman soldiers. 

Tradition says Sebastian survived being shot with arrows and nursed back to health, only to later be clubbed to death upon returning to Diocletian and chastising him.

 In medieval Europe, Sebastian’s intercession was often sought during outbreaks of the plague. The image of the martyr shot with arrows, and surviving, may have been seen as a symbolic Christian response to the pagan deity Apollo, the archer-god who sometimes shot his enemies with plague-infested arrows.

In 680 AD, Sebastian was credited with defending Rome from a pestilence. As a patron of soldiers whose intercession was sought during plagues, Sebastian was a popular saint during the Middle Ages, and a favorite subject for Late Gothic and Renaissance artists. He is buried along the Appian Way in Rome.

St. Roch

Divested riches and adopted poverty, to be Christ-presence to poor and sick

Saint Roch (1295 – 1327) was a Third Order Franciscan who, having lost both parents when he was 20, inherited a sizeable fortune. But he chose to divest of his worldly possessions when he visited Italy as a mendicant pilgrim in the early 14th century.

During his Italian journey, a plague struck the northern Italian town of Acquapendente. Roch did not hurry away to preserve his life as others did, but offered himself in the service of his brethren in Christ. He tended to the sick in several hospitals throughout Italy, curing many people with the sign of the cross and the touch of his hand.

In Rome, according to tradition, he healed a cardinal by blessing the prelate’s forehead; the sign of the cross miraculously remained.

Roch was ministering to plague victims in Piacenza when he himself finally fell ill. He was expelled from the Italian town and sought refuge in the woods, where he recovered and is said to have performed several miraculous healings.

Upon returning to his French homeland, he was thrown into prison, where he spent five years. As he lay dying there, a tablet appeared upon the wall on which an angelic hand wrote in golden letters the name of Roch, and the prediction that all who invoke his intercession would be delivered from the plague.

Shortly after his death, miracles were reported through his intercession. He is still invoked against plague. He was later canonized by Pope Urban VIII.

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Summit West 2020: Mission Forward

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that at its root, the word “Church” means a convocation or an assembly (CCC 751). While this definition certainly does not capture the fullness of the Holy Catholic Church, I think it’s reasonable to say that the physical gathering of the People of God is an essential component of the Church. And as physical gatherings have become so rare over the last several months, I believe our upcoming Summit is more important and offers more value than ever.

Stephen Henley

In many ways, the 2020 Summit West will be the same first-class experience that members have come to expect from Legatus. We will be gathering at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, one of the most recognizable and celebrated hotels in the world with its distinctive blend of history, luxury, and genuine hospitality. Begin your Summit experience with a morning of exquisite golf and friendly competition on the Broadmoor’s award-winning West Course, complete with breathtaking views and demanding hazards. Our line-up of speakers promises to both encourage and challenge us with some of today’s most well-known Catholic names like Jennifer Fulwiler, Dr. Ralph Martin, Ana Samuel, and Deacon Larry Oney. And of course, each day concludes with an inspiring liturgy celebrated by one of our country’s top clergymen, followed by a themed evening with five-star cuisine and fellowship with members from across North America.

While this will be a true Summit experience, members will certainly notice some necessary adjustments and changes made to prioritize the safety of all attendees. The Broadmoor staff have all completed stringent employee training and implemented new health monitoring and PPE protocols. There will be increased spacing between couples or households at general sessions, Masses, and meals. This means fewer people per table and greater spacing between rows while maintaining the distinctive ambiance and feel proper to a Summit. Rest assured, this spacing will still allow for great fellowship between members while adhering to social distancing best practices. All meals will be individually plated and served to ensure maximum food safety standards. The meeting spaces will be thoroughly sanitized after each event and personal hand sanitizing stations have been added throughout the resort. And in the unlikely event that a guest would become ill, in-house medical teams, including paramedics and physicians, are ready to respond.

As I’ve watched so many things in life go virtual this year, it has only increased my conviction that there is no real substitute for in-person interaction. The conversations that are shared, the bonds that are formed, the lives that are changed – it all happens through the Church, the gathering of the People of God. Christ has chosen us to be leaders in our communities and in the Church for this particular time. Let us embrace our calling and face the unique challenges of today head-on, full of faith and trust in the One who has called us. I look forward to being together with many of you in Colorado Springs next month!

STEPHEN M. HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.

Doctor offers thoughts from the bedside amid the pandemic

As an infectious disease doctor who specializes in HIV, I never imagined that my entire medical world would be turned upside down. Due to the coincidence of being on call the last week of February, I took care of the first patient in our state with pneumonia caused by SARS-CoV-2. During the next eight weeks, standard medical care came to a halt as our entire group focused on caring for patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia. (Note: The novel coronavirus is named SARS-CoV-2, while COVID-19 refers to the disease the novel coronavirus causes.)

For our patients, the key to good medical care depended on the extraordinary dedication of our nurses. They suffered the same shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the doctors, but they went in to provide care at the bedside day in and day out. The care they provided was heroic. I’ve told many of my colleagues that I thought heaven would be full of nurses, and they “might” let the occasional doctor in as well.

We’ve learned a tremendous amount in the last few months. We did make mistakes early on. Initial guidelines recommended early intubation with the use of a ventilator until clinicians observed that patients did very well with very high flow supplemental oxygen and thereby often could avoid intubation. Randomized trials now indicate that the use of the antiviral medication Remdesivir and the use of anti-inflammatory steroids can be beneficial.

The most painful aspect of this epidemic has been that patients and those that are most vulnerable are forced to be alone. Families cannot sit with their loved ones in the hospital; chaplains often have very limited access; our elderly in our nursing homes are often deprived of family visits. As Christians, we are first and foremost a people of hope because Jesus is the light that overcame the darkness, Who conquered death and never leaves us alone. But it is easy for us to forget. By calling on the name of Jesus and by praying with our patients, we can rekindle that hope. There is no contradiction inherent in being both a doctor and a deacon. Both allow us to participate in the healing power of grace.

Anxiety and outright fear is a commonality in the midst of any new epidemic, whether it’s HIV in the 1980s, Ebola in West Africa, or this global pandemic. Caution and prudence is always warranted. But above and beyond that, anxiety and fear should be acknowledged, and we need to support one another as we venture into the unknown. Finger pointing, “blame-gaming,” and politicization of this epidemic is understandable, but often it is more destructive than constructive.

Poorer communities where many families often live closely together (without back yards) are being hit much harder. Many of our churches and inner-city Catholic schools that were struggling in the best of times will not be able to stay open without our help. Instead of retreating into our “safe bubble,” we need to reach out and offer assistance. Kindness and mutual support in the midst of this challenge is what we need.

DEACON TIMOTHY FLANIGAN, M.D., Boston Chapter Legate, is professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, RI. He also is a permanent deacon in the parishes of St. Theresa and St. Christopher in Tiverton, RI.

COVID vaccines raise worry over life and liberty protection

As Independence Day arrives in this year of the coronavirus, we begin to taste again the basic freedom of personal interaction with friends, family, colleagues, and with our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. Yet as public health restrictions are cautiously eased, a question of life and liberty looms on the horizon: the COVID-19 vaccination.

We should certainly welcome rapid and widespread access to an adequately tested, safe, and effective vaccine, but it is easier said than done. Some major ethical concerns include the use of abortion-derived human fetal cell lines in development, restrictions on proper consent, and disproportionate government intervention.

Abortion-derived human fetal cell lines should not be used in the production of any vaccine. The Catholic Church affirmed this in the instruction Dignitas Personae. Only a handful of the COVID-19 vaccines in development make use of these lines, so there is a hope that a morally sound candidate will be successful. Regardless, we are called to give witness to the dignity of human life by demanding that new vaccines have no ties to abortion.

At the same time, Dignitas personae clarifies that end users are permitted to seek and receive immunizations of immoral origin when there are gravely proportionate reasons — including serious risks to personal or public health — with no better alternative available. Some may refuse vaccination to give special witness to the dignity of unborn children, while others at high risk might opt to safeguard personal and community health by pursuing vaccination.

Origins aside, vaccination decisions demand consideration of the facts to make an informed judgment. With any treatment, a person has the right to know the expected benefits and burdens. Will the vaccine have an effectiveness rate of 80 percent or 25 percent? How extensive was the testing to rule out adverse side effects? Population health benefits do not automatically create obligations for individuals. The decisions remain personal, accounting for circumstances. Risks, including possible adverse side effects, must not be obscured.

A concern with fast-tracked vaccines is the reliability of information concerning effectiveness and risks, the very facts essential to informed consent. Experimental vaccines for coronaviruses in years past have never been approved; a COVID-19 vaccine would be a first for this whole family of viruses. Efforts by health care professionals, pharmaceutical companies, government, and media to push the vaccine by ignoring or vilifying those with reasonable misgivings will weaken an already-waning public trust in vaccination practices. Integrity and transparency about the methods, quality, and conclusions of the research are crucial. This includes clear admissions of what we simply do not know, identification of expected benefits and risks, discussion of the certitude of expectations, and respect for individual judgments.

Government overreach is another major ethical issue. The principle of subsidiarity is a fundamental precept of Catholic social teaching: matters should be handled at the most local level possible, with higher levels offering supportive intervention only when truly necessary. Given the varied ways COVID-19 impacts different regions, a vaccine mandate from federal or state governments would be too blunt an instrument. This would feed a lack of public trust. In a similar vein, proposals for contact tracing or vaccination “chips” raise profound privacy concerns, further erode public trust, and can even sow mistrust within communities.

Government has a rightful interest in protecting the public from widespread and serious illness. Yet when it comes to concrete vaccination decisions, human dignity demands witness to the value of life, provision of adequate and reliable information, freedom of conscience, protection of privacy, and prioritization of more local government over higher levels. Anything less jeopardizes life and liberty.

JOHN A. DiCAMILLO, PH.D., B e.L., is a staff ethicist at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. He earned his graduate degrees at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. He lives in Lancaster County, PA, with his lovely wife Serena and their children.

Nod to pandemic advances modern Christian persecution

On May 8, 2020, a document titled Appeal for the Church and the World: to Catholics and all people of good will was published [which this author signed]. Its initial signatories included, among others, three cardinals, nine bishops, 11 doctors, 22 journalists, and 13 lawyers. It is astonishing to see how representatives of the ecclesiastical as well as political and media establishment have, in obeisance to the prevailing uniform thinking, unanimously sought to discredit the concerns expressed in the Appeal and squelch any further discussion with the “knock-out argument” that it is mere “conspiracy theory.” I remember a similar form of reaction and language under the Soviet dictatorship, when dissenters and critics of the prevailing ideology and politics were accused of being complicit in the “conspiracy theory” disseminated by the capitalist West.

The critics of the Appeal refuse to consider the evidence, such as the official mortality rate (for the same time period) of the 2017–2018 flu season, as compared with the current COVID-19 epidemic in Germany. The mortality rate of the latter is much lower. There are countries with moderate coronavirus security and prevention measures that, due to their implementation, do not have a higher mortality rate. If the mere acknowledgment of the facts, and discussion about them, is labeled as “conspiracy theory,” then anyone who still thinks independently has good reason to be concerned about the possibility that subtle forms of dictatorship exist in our society. As is well known, eliminating or discrediting societal debate and dissenting voices is a chief characteristic of a totalitarian regime, whose main weapon against dissidents are not factual arguments, but rather demagogic and popular rhetoric. Only dictatorships fear objective debate when there are differing opinions.

The Appeal does not deny the existence of an epidemic and the need to fight it. However, some of the security and prevention measures involve imposing forms of complete surveillance over people. Under the pretext of an epidemic, such measures violate fundamental civil liberties and the democratic order of the State. Proposals regarding compulsory vaccination, with no alternative to the state-approved vaccine, and which would inevitably restrict personal liberties, are also very dangerous. Such measures and proposals are accustoming citizens to forms of technocratic and centrally directed tyranny — and civic courage, independent thinking, and, above all, any resistance, are being severely paralyzed.

One aspect of the security and prevention measures that have been similarly implemented in almost all countries is the drastic ban on public worship. Such bans have existed only in times of systematic Christian persecution. The absolute novelty, however, is that in some places, State authorities are even prescribing liturgical norms to the Church, such as the manner of distributing Holy Communion. This is a clear interference in matters that pertain to the immediate authority of the Church. History will one day lament the “regime-clerics” of our time who subserviently accepted such interference by the State. History has always lamented that, in times of great crisis, the majority remained silent, and dissenting voices were stifled. Therefore, the Appeal for the Church and the World should at least be given a fair chance to initiate an honest debate, without fear of social and moral reprisals, as befits a democratic society

May 13, 2020 + Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan This piece, written by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, appeared originally in the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost in May 2020.

Individual liberty during a crisis – a salute to federalism

Two recent crises have tested the mettle of our nation, revealing much about our citizens and government. The emergence of the coronavirus challenged our public health response. Experts recommended measures to slow transmission and avoid overwhelming our critical care capacity. Government officials deftly responded with restrictions that also disrupted economic and social life, including cherished liberties.

Another crisis emerged from the protest movement centered on concerns about racial bias from police. Violence associated with these protests has caused death, injury, and destruction in communities already suffering from coronavirus restrictions. But protestors and government responses to their actions are also raising important questions that cause us to reflect upon the health of our civil society.

In both crises, state and local governments exercised primary responsibility. Our constitutional system embraces federalism, which ensures that states retain “police powers” for the purposes of protecting the health, safety, and morals of the people. Constitutional limits on those powers entail a balance of individual rights against other social goods. As the Supreme Court explained in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), “the rights of the individual … may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.”

States possess wide discretion in choosing measures to thwart disease, and political accountability is the primary constraint on those measures. Public officials routinely claim their policies are rooted in science, but political preferences often dominate. Notably, religious gatherings have been restricted as “nonessential” activities in order to inhibit contagion. Some churches and synagogues have challenged those restrictions as unfairly targeting religion. Public-interest law firms have done important work in advancing their claims against officials who abuse their powers, with mixed success.

Public officials have attempted to constrain the impact of violence associated with the protest movement, but they have willingly subsumed restrictions on public gatherings to facilitate the airing of grievances. Ironically, the protest movement has unwittingly raised other important questions apart from its questions about racial injustice. Is a protest assembly more “essential” than attending church? Is identity politics a new and preferred form of religion? Does this (quasi) religion embrace mercy and forgiveness, or just condemnation and smiting? Are protestors more committed than traditional religious people content to stay home from church?

The protest movement also reveals the selective nature of the claimed preference for scientific truth among the political class. Available data casts doubt on the movement’s claim that police routinely and unfairly target minority suspects with violence. Nevertheless, political leaders routinely embrace this false narrative, which may mollify some protestors but does nothing to solve genuine problems in our communities including disparate impacts from crime. Unfairly casting aspersion on police likely increases violent targeting against police and reduces police effectiveness, with the greatest adverse impacts likely felt in minority communities, further damaging the health of our civic bonds. We can do better.

Our federal system allows local responses that reflect varying conditions and values. Citizens choose their local government and live with the results – for better or worse. They can hold their leaders accountable in the next election, and we can all watch and learn from these different outcomes.

Our government reflects the reality of our fallenness, and the state of our spiritual commitments. Growing a culture of ordered liberty that fosters human thriving requires commitment from vigilant citizens who believe that the common good must be informed by deeper enduring truths, and who are willing to act on those beliefs. Perhaps more than ever, the content of the common good needs nurturing – in some places more than others.

EDWARD A. MORSE is a law professor and member of the board of directors of the Thomas More Society (ThomasMoreSociety.org), a national public interest law firm based in Chicago and Omaha devoted to restoring respect in law for life, the family, and religious liberty

Restoring sense of the sacred at the heavenly banquet of Mass

WIDESPREAD LITURGICAL REVIVAL LIFTS UP THE FAITHFUL IN DISTRESSING TIMES

If Hell is where the doors of Heaven (and even Purgatory) are closed, what word should be used to describe where the doors of churches have been closed?

“Hell” might be an exaggeration for some, but “Purgatory” is not. American Catholics had been prevented, since mid-March, from participating as fully in the liturgy as they would have liked. The heavenly banquet of the Mass became very sparsely populated due to concern over spreading the most recent of the coronaviruses, COVID-19

Where They Always Stay Six Feet Away

Despite what more people are seeing as an overreaction, many positives have come from the unusual situation— positives that have perhaps helped purify souls for Heaven.

For example, this year Lent went from being “outdated” to mandated. People who in February thought of deliberately toning things down as useless or even ridiculous, were forced to accept such practices. Closings of baseball stadiums, concert halls, and restaurants coincided with shortages of basic goods that had always been there. Even if the motives were not supernatural, the material realities were suddenly the same for everyone. Simplicity ruled the day, and there was more time to ponder the meaning of suffering and the ultimate end of life.

The word “quarantine” was commonly used, and it was said that it comes from the Italian quarantina for “40 days.” That amount of time – the length of Lent – was impressed upon many.

“Social distancing” has also become popular, as citizens have been instructed to stay six feet apart. This has brought cemeteries to mind, where bodies underground always respect the six-foot boundary.

Girms on Your Hands

Concern over stopping the spread of germs got some people to thinking more about spreading the GIRM—that is, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, a document providing guidelines for the celebration of the Mass. While it has gone through official changes over the years, the GIRM has also been through unofficial ones when individuals or communities decide to do things their own way.

For example, shaking hands during the sign of peace has become widespread, despite not being recommended, or even mentioned, in the GIRM. Routine distribution of the Precious Blood by extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion has also become widespread, despite no endorsement of the practice. In fact, there is even explicit rejection of it in documents such as Inaestimabile Donum and On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest.

Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre has been pondering these types of points for years. The Portland, Oregon-based choir director’s liturgical interest grew into organizing the first Sacred Liturgy Conference in 2012. It started with the purpose of sharing the sublime teachings on the Mass from Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors, in the context of chanted Traditional Latin Masses. Its first installment hosted 75 people, and it has grown in subsequent years to over 400.

Dr. Pitre has a keen interest not in only in sharing accurate information about the Mass, but in ensuring that the very delivery itself is worthy of God’s temple. She explained it like this: “The highest calling upon our lives is to be holy as He is holy, to abide in His Presence and to live in His perfect will. To this end the Lord and His apostles have given to the Church the Eucharistic liturgy, which contains all that is necessary for us to contemplate God. Through beholding His glory in the Eucharist, we are changed into His likeness.”

The Sacred Liturgy Conference, which moved from various Oregon locations to Spokane, Washington in 2019, has featured speakers such as former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest juridical authority in the Church) Cardinal Raymond Burke. This year’s installment was set to feature Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, former Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, but social distancing had the final say. However, there are already plans to hold the event in Spokane June 1-4, 2021, to cap off that diocese’s “Year of the Eucharist.”

Conference Calls

There are other liturgically oriented groups who have made the call (or had the call made for them) to continue, postpone, move online, or cancel altogether. The Saint Gregory Institute of Sacred Music’s Master Class in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – featuring the primary organist of St. Peter’s Basilica – took place in virtual this past spring.

The Institute’s founder, Nicholas Will, actually started the 2019- 2020 school year in Italy, but returned home to Pittsburgh in March as COVID-19 became a crisis in that country. While there have been literal casualties and other challenges in these odd times, Will has also seen positives. The Franciscan University of Steubenville professor said that, since Gregorian chant can be done without instrumental accompaniment or congregational participation, it is ideal for televised Masses in which only a few people are physically present.

Of the televised Masses that have become popular recently, Will said: “This may be some Catholics’ first exposure to chant, and it comes at a time when everything we take for granted concerning the sacraments is being challenged. My hope is that after this era of social distancing, many Catholics will find themselves more open to chant [which should be given pride of place in liturgical services, according to Vatican II] and other forms of sacred music, such as Renaissance polyphony.”

Booking Your Place at Mass

While online liturgical services have become very popular for those unable to be physically present in church, so have low-tech options. Missals, Bibles, Catechisms, Gospel commentaries, and other printed books have become more relevant than ever.

Mother of Our Savior and Refuge of Sinners Publishing has seen a sharp increase in sales of such items. General manager Rose Michna said, for example, that “We have a booklet called Holy Mass for the Absent that is doing very well due to church services being canceled.” She also said that ten-packs of holy cards with a Spiritual Communion prayer are selling better than usual, along with [Venerable Martin Von] Cochem’s Explanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, an eye-opening book on the perfect offering found in the Catholic liturgy

Genuinely Christocentric liturgy is also a high priority of other publishers, including Ignatius Press (which prints then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy), Roman Catholic Books (which prints Father Robert Hayburn’s Papal Legislation on Sacred Music), and Preserving Christian Publications (which prints Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise’s updated Holy Communion).

One point addressed in Holy Communion was how some saints made fewer sacramental receptions of Holy Communion but attained an apparently higher sanctity than weekly or even daily communicants display now. This gives hope to those unable to physically receive the Eucharist in their mouths, but always able to do so spiritually in their hearts.

As the faithful are finally able to receive the Eucharist again sacramentally, it is likely being done with much more humility, attentiveness, and appreciation than if things had gone on as planned. Indeed, all things, including this purgatorial experience, work together unto the good for those who love God.

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer

Catholics need the Real Presence

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10: 11-12).

In the past several months, the Mass and other Church activity – not only here, but across the globe – had been largely inaccessible to the faithful. Masses had not been available publicly, and in some places, no sacraments at all. Live streaming of Mass wasn’t the same physically or spiritually as being in the Real Presence of Christ, and being in union with Him through the Eucharist.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

The possibility of a scenario like this had been unimaginable throughout the 2,000-year history of the Church. But early this year, cardinals and bishops worldwide had to grapple with a widespread health risk.

The faithful greatly missed being in the Real Presence of the Lord at the Sacrifice of the Mass, and in communal presence with each other

In our state, though the governor exempted religious institutions from the stay-at-home order from the start, public Masses were nevertheless suspended.

Our continued access to the Sacrament of Confession at several local churches, however, felt like a rare privilege. People stood silently in long, spread-out lines, to bring Christ their anguish and brokenness, and ultimately hear those relieving words of Absolution from the priest – in persona Christi – “I absolve you from your sins … .” More people were coming, their mood pensive, their focus resolute. Those of all ages and backgrounds filed in, some wearing makeshift masks, during the daily Confession hour. Because suddenly there was time – but an unspoken sense of urgency.

We asked a few local priests if we might attend their private Masses. Only one replied. We had been able to slip into the church a few days per week while he said Mass in Latin. At most, there were three to five others in the huge, empty church. There was no distribution of the Eucharist; it was not yet allowed. But Christ was there, and we came.

This same priest notified parishioners he’d be doing a mobile Exposition of the Eucharist on a mid-May Sunday through several townships. Some 175 parish families signed up for the drive-by – during which he’d bless their families and their homes. Father arranged an altar with flowers adorning the monstrance (and himself, in spectacular red and gold vestments) in the flatbed of a pickup truck. The entire route mapping, email notifications, and logistics were facilitated by a fellow parishioner (a Bucks County Chapter Legate) – who drove the truck.

People dropped to their knees in front lawns as Father slowly faced them with The Real Presence in the gold monstrance, while chant music played. Some had signs saying “Welcome Jesus”; others cried in joy and disbelief. At an intersection, a self-identified Jewish woman opened her car window to thank Father for what he was doing. The clouds broke and Father picked up a blazing sunburn, devoting a 10-hour Sunday to bringing Christ out to His heartsick flock.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Amid global pandemic, take encouragement from St. Paul

Saint Paul’s Letters to the Philippians and to the Romans can be of immense practical and spiritual assistance for us all, especially during this time of our world’s great need for the Word of God.

Blessed James Alberione, priest, publisher, and founder of the Pauline family, received a revelation from the Divine Master while praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Since then, every Pauline chapel throughout the world has the following words inscribed at the altar: “Do not be afraid. I am with you. From here I want to enlighten. Be sorry for sin.” May we draw great strength and courage in Christ’s eternal love for us, knowing that we need not be afraid. May our actions, service, and joy for one another sing like a song of light in our present darkness.

“Do everything without grumbling or quarreling, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-16). Saint Paul’s letter encourages action, suggesting that we should serve one another by offering hope and light versus emptiness and darkness in an uncertain world. This action seeks to proclaim the Word of Life, which is to be shared with one another, as opposed to the Word of Life becoming dormant and stagnant within oneself.

Saint Paul’s labor imitates Christ’s labor. He offers the gift of self for the service of others with joy for the community. Saint Paul encourages us to do the same. Our actions should strive toward sharing in the communal joy of the faith through service for one another.

The words of Saint Paul can provide great strength for health care professionals during the present COVID-19 pandemic; we are called to shine like lights in our world today. Health care professionals are called to share their knowledge, their skill, and their faith while caring for the battle against an invisible pathology, striving to prevent harm to others, advocating for primary and secondary prevention strategy implementation, disseminating both individual and public health protection strategies, and assisting in the physical, psychological, and spiritual care of those who become ill. This remains our professional and moral calling for our communities.

We are called to imitate Christ in both thought and action, as he is our moral model of living. Jesus emulates obedience to his calling through the selfless service of obedience to the will of God the Father. “Jesus willingly emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). Christ’s humble obedience illuminates the way in which we are called to live our earthly vocations.

Doctors, nurses, and health care professionals have implicit contracts with society to care for those in need, whether in the form of education, mobilization of scarce resources, remote telehealth consultation, or direct care at the bedside. Health care professionals serve the community in need; meanwhile, the community is called to action as well by seeking the protection and prevention of harm to one another.

Saint Paul calls for a universal zeal and fervent service in spirit, urging us to “rejoice in hope, endure in afflictions, and persevere in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). May we all pray for the grace of God’s wisdom to give us strength and courage as we continue to pray for the health of the sick, the protection for those who care for the sick, and for the salvation of souls. May Jesus our Divine Master help us live his way, truth, and light.

DIANN ECRET, PH.D., M.S.N., R.N. joined the National Catholic Bioethics Center as the nurse planner and adjunct lecturer ethicist during the summer of 2016. She has 30 years of combined nursing experience in pediatric and adult critical care and in nursing education. She also is a full-time faculty member at Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson College of Nursing in Philadelphia