The year 2020 began as every other year. Daily familiar, comfortable, predictable routines. Cue February: The global pandemic reaches America. Our reality changed: We were sent to our rooms (homes) by “The Landlord.”
During Lent we give something up – a (small) way of offering that privation as penance to God and a time of preparation and opportunity to go deeper with Him through personal introspection. We did not expect to give up Mass for Lent, nor Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.
Our species endures a global pandemic every 100 years. In 1620 (ish), New England suffered an unknown epidemic killing 30-90 percent of the population. Latest research and classic explanations include yellow fever, bubonic plague, influenza, smallpox, chickenpox, typhus and varying types of hepatitis.
Around 1720 (ish), Massachusetts Bay Colony experienced 844 deaths due to smallpox; the Great Plague of Marseille experienced the last major outbreak of bubonic plague resulting in 100,000+ deaths. Unknown numbers in the 13 colonies lost their battle with measles.
In the 1820s the United States endured a yellow fever outbreak resulting in untold deaths. In the 1920s the world pandemic was called the Spanish Flu resulting in 17-100 million deaths. (Source: Wikipedia)
During those years, the faithful flocked to churches in droves. Those who were previously adrift on a sea of ecclesiastical possibilities found faith by the dire situation and witnessing the faithful.
But during the pandemic of 2020, there was a silence as profound as when the whale swallowed Jonah. We were unable to publicly attend Mass (inclusive of all religious verbiage denoting public worship). We kept the Sabbath holy via mass media; out of sight, and religion was deemed a “non-essential service.”
Religions of every faith have/are taking extraordinary precautions to ensure the safety of their faith families. We are calmed, comforted and consoled in our “non-essential” buildings. Quelling public panic is important, but to abandon your biggest resource? To put it in “Yoda-Speak: Counterproductive, it is.” (But I digress.)
The lucky navigated the turbulent waters of working from home; a new frontier for many. The unlucky lost their livelihoods, and businesses adapted their work model to stay operational. Heroes, those deemed “essential personnel,” daily placed themselves at risk to give us current news, health care services, groceries, trash removal, etc.
Something extraordinary was occurring as well: The world became quieter; terrible choking pollution in many skies around the globe disappeared where only a few weeks prior was a constant “curtain;” parents found greater respect for teachers of their children and families “rediscovered” each other.
It is said, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” but He sure does throw a mean fastball!
Slowly, normalcy returns but marching toward that goal is fraught with daily, sometimes hourly changes. But personal change and growth only come through hardship and struggle and a good swift “kick” in our complacency. If God gives us a challenge as a gift, does not politeness demand we do our best to meet that challenge?
Perhaps this is an opportunity to be greater than you think and nobler than you know. God knows your abilities for compassion and sacrifice even if you do not. Rise to the challenge and “Be not afraid, for I am with you” till the end of time. Isaiah 41:10
Valarie White is a parishioner and the administrative assistant at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. You can reach the church at 395-8424.