Open all the churches now!!……Or wait until May 11?
Finally, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The government is now allowing us to slowly leave our mandatory confinement. You have been very patient and strong doing your best to follow the guidelines, for the safety of your families and others. Congratulations! It has not been easy.
There have been however, a few, but loud, voices of protest, directly or indirectly criticizing the Catholic Church for respecting the government’s guidelines. I have seen some videos sent to me in WhatsApp’s groups calling for us to open up the churches NOW! As any sincere and dedicated priest, I found the videos quite painful. If they spoke God’s will, it would infer that our bishops and we priests have not been truly faithful to our vocation, or even worse, we have been cowardly Christians. During these moments of doubt, I turn to prayer and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.
Any of you who know me, know that I am not afraid to do what needs to be done. I decided that it was time to consult with my brother priests and begin planning the future with them. Were we going to slow? Were we being too cautious? Were we being too silent? Fr. Javier, Fr. Sebastian, and I concelebrated Mass together in the small chapel. We were all careful in the confinement to social distance and only went out to the supermarket for food.
We also decided to have lunch together. It was very nice. We discussed future plans. It was very providential that we saw each other because Fr. Sebastian said he noticed a food allergy and had a rash. Fr. Javier even accompanied him to the pharmacy to get some medication. We then bid farewell and said that we would meet again soon to start planning the concrete steps for opening the church.
Five days later, Fr. Sebastian called me to inform me that he was admitted to the hospital because his rash turned out to be the Coronavirus. This was alarming for all of us because Fr. Javier lives with his 88 year old mother. We had been in somewhat close contact for around four hours. As of this writing, Fr. Sebastian is still in hospital and is improving. Both Fr. Javier and I have not developed symptoms.
Well, I certainly got the answer to my prayers. This virus is a formidable foe and we CANNOT let down our guard. Those naïve voices who clamor for us to not respect the government’s guidelines may be sincere but are very dangerous. There is a very good reason the bishops have taken their stance. They care about our safety, they care about our lives.
I personally do not want to be responsible for anyone being infected. The people on the videos say that they will be volunteers and disinfect the churches but if they miss a spot, and someone gets infected, ultimately it would be MY FAULT because I opened up the church before the allotted time. Considering the many pious elderly of San Dámaso, I am sure that many would take the risk if they saw the church doors opened before the permitted time.
The fifth commandment is clear: THOU SHALL NOT KILL.
Because I love my neighbor as myself, I will not take that risk. Too many have died already and even one more death is one too many. I therefore plead with those people who so quickly judge the bishops to be prudent (as Pope Francis has implored), and I ask them to open their faithful hearts and place more trust in the Holy Spirit.
Maybe the most important line in this Sunday’s readings comes from St. Peter in the second reading where he writes: “Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.”
You see, our suffering now is saving the lives of others. Patience is a virtue.
Open up the churches now? No way! On May 11, we hope to open up the church again. As your pastor, I promise you that I am going to be extremely careful and that we will strictly follow the guidelines that have come down from the bishops. This time my ear will be deafer to any complaints that I am being too cautious because I have decided to listen instead to the voice of God. We pray for Fr. Sebastian’s rapid recovery, and know that Fr. Javier and I may maintain a larger physical distance from you, but you will be close in our hearts.
Be strong and patient. See you soon, by the grace of God.
He was admiring the unique architecture, the sweeping lines of the entrance, and the modern decor throughout the building. Finally, he turned to his escort and asked if the building was named for Thomas Mann, the world-famous author.
“No,” his friend said, “it’s named for Fredric Mann, from Philadelphia.”
“Really?” Remarked the tourist. “I never heard of him. What did he write?”
“A check” was the reply.