Coronavirus: praying and caring for each other
Earlier last week I sent a newsletter to the diocese announcing some measures to be taken in every parish regarding the “coronavirus”. We are not aware of any positive case in our diocese (which covers the whole of the Kingdom of Eswatini) but I believe it is a good opportunity to be pro-active and to be in communion with all the affected countries. When we are in trouble, we wish the world would remember us. Now it is our opportunity to feel with and for the world.
In the diocesan newsletter I basically indicated three things to be done during the celebration of the Mass:
- we will not have the peace greeting
- communion will be given only on the hand
- we will say a prayer at every Mass for those that are sick, those who care for the sick and those working towards finding a cure
On Sunday I watched Pope Francis delivered the Angelus from the Papal Library for the very first time since he became the bishop of Rome nearly seven years’ ago. From Monday I believe his daily Masses can be followed via streaming as no people are present. I find all this a very good message to the world as Pope Francis prays and at the same time makes sure people are protected.
I was honestly surprised when, on social media, some (hopefully few!) felt he should be doing the opposite: go out, celebrate public Masses, give communion in the mouth, do processions… They seem to see whatever he is doing as lack of faith. It could be someone feels the same about the decisions being taken in the last few weeks by me or by any of the SACBC bishops.
I am surprised because I do not recall our Church doing exactly the opposite of what is needed to protect each other. It would be a first if we believed that it is only by praying and ignoring the best medical advise that we should go through what could easily become a pandemic.
It was in the 90’s when our part of the world faced the HIV/Aids pandemic. What did we do then? We prayed and we prayed hard as we buried (mostly) young people every single week. I still recall that in the year 2001, just in my parish, exactly 50% of those who died were younger than me. I was 40 years’ old at that time.
In most of the areas where I served, one third of the population was HIV positive. I still recall a local mayor asking us to look to our right and left during a meeting adding: “You are three. One of you is positive”.
We did not just pray though. We worked hard teaching every possible way to protect ourselves and each other from getting sick. “Education for life” programs were run among the youth in most of our dioceses. Workshops were held for adults and families. Teaching about HIV/Aids became part of our catechesis…
Why will it be different now? Why would it be lack of faith not to protect each other? Don’t we do the same at home when someone gets sick and it could be contagious? Don’t we try to follow the doctor’s advice when we get sick?
For some reason some would like to treat this virus differently from any other sickness. The experience of South Korea regarding the spread of this virus is not something to be ignored.Social media is a gift. It helps us share so much! At the same time we need to be aware that not everything we read might be the best advice.
Let us therefore come together in prayer and love one another as Jesus loved us.