“With the Church bowing to government to shut down in the face of over-blown fear of a Chinese Communist created virus, could this be the end?” This question is popping up in some circles on social media and it needs to be addressed. We can be absolutely certain this is NOT the Apocalypse, nor is it even approaching apocalyptic, precisely because there have been no serious restrictions on the Catholic Church or on Catholic liturgy.
Think about this historically. We are not under anything like the kind of persecution the early Church faced as bishops were led off to be sport for the wild beasts in the amphitheaters. In England, during the Protestant Reformation, Masses actually DID cease as priests were killed. In Japan, during the closing of the country between 1633 and 1853, priests were actively hunted down, tortured and killed, with literally no surviving priests in that country for over two centuries. The hidden Catholics in Japan had only the sacraments of baptism and marriage, nothing else, for that whole period. The historical examples could be multiplied.
Right now, no one is hunting down and killing priests, there has been absolutely no reduction in the number of Masses being offered, nor has there been any restriction on priests to keep them from celebrating Mass. Not anywhere.
All that has happened is, there is a restriction on YOU being present and participating. That’s all. The restriction is not absurd or driven by anger or hatred. It is logical, reasonable, and driven by Christian love for safeguarding each other.
Think about this as a bishop would, as a Catholic should. Coronavirus strikes the elderly and infirm the hardest. At least a plurality of priests, and arguably a majority of priests in many countries, are older. Many priests are not in great health. The bishops are cancelling Masses not just to protect laity from infecting and killing laity, but to keep laity from infecting and killing priests. Our staying home from the liturgy is not just an act of charity towards each other, it is an act of charity and protection towards our priests, the only men who can offer the sacrifice of the Mass.
They offer Mass for you whether you are there or not, but these self-same priests will also be called to the ICU beds of the severely ill and the dying to administer Anointing of the Sick, give the Apostolic Blessing (essentially, a plenary indulgence for the dying), and provide Viaticum. When – not if, but when – they, too, become infected, they won’t know it for days, nor will anyone else. This infection is spread by air droplets. So, if Mass is offered publicly, as they distribute the Eucharist at Mass, you certainly may put them within an aerosol of your exhaled coronavirus particles, but they might also do the same to you. Is it right that a priest distribute Eternal Life with his hands, but physical death with each breath? If you, as a parishioner, are excused from Mass when sick, how much more necessary that the priest, who distributes Jesus to the whole congregation, be afforded the same consideration?
The sacrifice of the Mass is being offered as freely right now as it has ever been, and much more freely than it has been at many, many points and places in the history of the world. By cancelling public Masses, the bishops protect both the shepherds and the sheep, they give both sheep and shepherds an opportunity to show charity towards the other. You shelter your priest by avoiding public gatherings that might put his health, as well as the health of others, at risk. Think on that. Do you honestly think the graces of the Mass he continues to privately offer on the world’s behalf, on your behalf, will not flow to you?
Catholics cry out for the apocalypse because devout Catholics often want to be martyrs. They are always upset when they can’t find anyone to murder them. The coronavirus is not the apocalypse, not by any stretch. We are important enough for Jesus to save us, but what makes us important enough to be part of the final apocalypse? Nothing.
It is Lent. Make a spiritual sacrifice of yourself. Self-isolate. Save the world by saving the health workers, both medical personnel and priests. Shelter your priests by obeying your bishop, who is trying to save you both. Then, perhaps, when we meet our own, personal apocalypse, we might finally be worthy of it.