On this Feast of St. Benedict, His Eminence, Raymond Leo Burke, has issued a very beautiful and timely message about the current chastisement. Read the entire message here. A few excerpts:
…In considering what is needed to live, we must not forget that our first consideration is our relationship with God. We recall the words of Our Lord in the Gospel according to John: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we come to him and make our home with him” (14, 23). Christ is the Lord of nature and of history. He is not distant and disinterested in us and the world. He has promised us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28, 20). In combatting the evil of the coronavirus, our most effective weapon is, therefore, our relationship with Christ through prayer and penance, and devotions and sacred worship. We turn to Christ to deliver us from pestilence and from all harm, and He never fails to respond with pure and selfless love. That is why it is essential for us, at all times and above all in times of crisis, to have access to our churches and chapels, to the Sacraments, and to public devotions and prayers.
Just as we are able to purchase food and medicine, while taking care not to spread the coronavirus in the process, so also we must be able to pray in our churches and chapels, receive the Sacraments, and engage in acts of public prayer and devotion, so that we know God’s closeness to us and remain close to Him, fittingly calling upon His help. Without the help of God, we are indeed lost. Historically, in times of pestilence, the faithful gathered in fervent prayer and took part in processions. In fact, in the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope Saint John XXIII in 1962, there are special texts for the Holy Mass to be offered in times of pestilence, the Votive Mass for the Deliverance from Death in Time of Pestilence (Missae Votivae ad Diversa, n. 23). Likewise, in the traditional Litany of the Saints, we pray: “From plague, famine, and war, O Lord, deliver us.”
In these days, I have heard from so many devout Catholics who are deeply saddened and discouraged not to be able to pray and worship in their churches and chapels. They understand the need to observe social distance and to follow the other precautions, and they will follow these prudent practices, which they can easily enough do in their places of worship. But, often enough, they have to accept the profound suffering of having their churches and chapels closed, and of not having access to Confession and the Most Holy Eucharist.
In our totally secularized culture, there is a tendency to view prayer, devotions and worship like any other activity, for example, going to the cinema or to a football game, which is not essential and therefore can be cancelled for the sake of taking every precaution to curb the spread of a deadly contagion. But prayer, devotions and worship, above all, Confession and the Holy Mass, are essential for us to remain healthy and strong spiritually, and for us to seek God’s help in a time of great danger for all. Therefore, we cannot simply accept the determinations of secular governments, which would treat the worship of God in the same manner as going to a restaurant or to an athletic contest. Otherwise, the people who already suffer so much from the results of the pestilence are deprived of those objective encounters with God Who is in our midst to restore health and peace.
We bishops and priests need to explain publicly the necessity of Catholics to pray and worship in their churches and chapels, and to go in procession through the streets and ways, asking God’s blessing upon His people who suffer so intensely. We need to insist that the regulations of the State, also for the good of the State, recognize the distinct importance of places of worship, especially in time of national and international crisis. In the past, in fact, governments have understood, above all, the importance of the faith, prayer and worship of the people to overcome a pestilence.
Even as we have found a way to provide for food and medicine and other necessities of life during a time of contagion, without irresponsibly risking the spread of the contagion, so, in a similar way, we can find a way to provide for the necessities of our spiritual life. We can provide more opportunities for the Holy Mass and devotions at which a number of faithful can participate without violating necessary precautions against the spread of contagion. Many of our churches and chapels are very large. They permit a group of the faithful to gather for prayer and worship without violating the requirements of “social distance.” The confessional with the traditional screen is usually equipped with or, if not, can be easily equipped with a thin veil which can be treated with disinfectant , so that access to the Sacrament of Confession is possible without great difficulty and without danger of transmitting the virus. If a church or chapel does not have a sufficiently large staff to be able to disinfect regularly the pews and other surfaces, I have no doubt that the faithful, in gratitude for the gifts of the Holy Eucharist, Confession, and of public devotion, will gladly assist.
In the end, faith and reason, as they always do, work together to provide for the just and right solution to a difficult challenge. We must use reason, inspired by faith, to find the correct manner in which to deal with a deadly pandemic. That manner must give priority to prayer, devotion and worship, to the invocation of God’s mercy upon His people who suffer so much and are in danger of death. Made in God’s own image and likeness, we enjoy the gifts of intellect and free will. Using these God-given gifts, united to the also God-given gifts of Faith, Hope and Love, we will find our way in the present time of worldwide trial which is the cause of so much sadness and fear.
Thank you, Cardinal Burke, for these consoling and inspiring words. May we repent and convert. Perhaps God will relent, and leave behind a blessing, as He did at Nineveh.