Friday, March 13, 2020

Amid Corona's Spread, A Church In Lockdown

By the looks of it, we are entering a moment unlike any in living memory.

Within 36 hours of the million-member archdiocese of Seattle's move to suspend all public Masses at the national "ground zero" of the coronavirus outbreak – a call unseen in the US since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 – six others among the nation's 197 dioceses have followed suit, led by the capital church in Washington and, this morning, the 2.3 million-member archdiocese of Chicago.

For those who haven't been keeping an eye, as an ecclesial service, the Whispers' side-feed – either down your right sidebar or directly accessible here – has been keeping a running tally of the suspensions and other major steps as they emerge. As developments are shifting in real-time – and often contradicting prior guidance in the respective locales – the feed will be updated as further announcements are made... and with Holy Week just around the corner, a situation without precedent is ostensibly at hand.

(SVILUPPO – 4.20pm: In just the two hours since this piece went to "print," the number of US jurisdictions announcing suspensions of Masses has zoomed past a dozen, now including the nation's fourth-largest fold – Boston (reversing its guidance from yesterday) – the million-member arch/dioceses of Detroit and San Diego, statewide across Colorado and West Virginia and, beyond, to Canada's largest diocese in Toronto and all of Quebec.

(Again, the feed is updating in real-time to keep up with the extraordinary pace... and notable among the tide is this late-afternoon insight from Bishop Ed Burns as he indefinitely suspended public liturgies in the 1.4 million-member Dallas church:

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In general, while dispensations from Sunday Mass attendance (without their being cancelled) are quickly becoming the national norm, even where these are not explicitly given by competent authority, one's own judgment on risks to health and/or safety are indeed sufficient to lift the obligation, with the common good – in this case, the health of all – always and everywhere being the paramount value.

In other words, as chanceries have never been famous for their common sense, that doesn't absolve you from using yours.

As these pages have always come from the home-office, this scribe'll be here for the duration, doing whatever needs to be done. Ergo, in particular, if there's anyone in your world who can especially use prayers in these days, just say the word.

But most of all, please just take care of yourselves and those you love, and let's keep an eye out for each other – even if just over the wires or by wi-fi, if there were ever a time for us as Church to be family to and with each other, this is it.

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Beyond the flood of protocols and contingency planning, late this morning the following reflection and prayer for the nation was issued by the USCCB President, Archbishop José Gomez, likewise the head of the nation's largest diocese, LA's fold of 5 million:
With the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus, we are confronted once more with the fragility of our lives, and again we are reminded of our common humanity — that the peoples of this world are our brothers and sisters, that we are all one family under God.

God does not abandon us, he goes with us even now in this time of trial and testing. In this moment, it is important for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Let us draw closer to one another in our love for him, and rediscover the things that truly matter in our lives.

United with our Holy Father Pope Francis, let us pray in solidarity for our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are sick. Let us pray for those who have lost loved ones to this virus. May God console them and grant them peace.

We pray also for doctors, nurses, and caregivers, for public health officials and all civic leaders. May God grant them courage and prudence as they seek to respond to this emergency with compassion and in service to the common good.

In this time of need, I invite all the faithful to seek together the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I share this prayer with you:

Holy Virgin of Guadalupe,
Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas.
We fly to you today as your beloved children.
We ask you to intercede for us with your Son,
as you did at the wedding in Cana.

Pray for us, loving Mother,
and gain for our nation and world,
and for all our families and loved ones,
the protection of your holy angels,
that we may be spared the worst of this illness.

For those already afflicted,
we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance.
Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful,
wipe away their tears and help them to trust.

In this time of trial and testing,
teach all of us in the Church to love one another and to be patient and kind.
Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts.

We come to you with confidence,
knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother,
health of the sick and cause of our joy.

Shelter us under the mantle of your protection,
keep us in the embrace of your arms,
help us always to know the love of your Son, Jesus. Amen.