Mercy in the Time of COVID-19

By Chris Sparks

Every day, it seems, we have more news of the spread of a strange-sounding disease. Every day, news of quarantines, of schools shut down, of increasingly larger disruptions in the ordinary workings of the world.

It’s enough to alarm the most sedate soul — but we’re called to something different. As Catholic Christians, we are called to virtue. More specifically, we’re called to live the cardinal and theological virtues, both in good times and in bad. Those virtues are:

Cardinal

  1. Prudence
  2. Temperance
  3. Justice
  4. Fortitude

Theological

  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Charity/Love

Let’s take them in turn and see how they guide us in the present crisis.

  1. Prudence

Reason; don’t simply react. Take a measured look at the risks, at the news, and think through what you ought to do, given the duties of your state in life and the resources available to you.

  1. Temperance

Don’t panic. That message comes again and again from government and medical experts. The best thing you can do is don’t panic. At the same time, apathy in the face of a real epidemic isn’t a good response either. Be prepared, but don’t go overboard.

  1. Justice

What are your obligations? For whom are you responsible? How do you make sure you do justice to those responsibilities?

  1. Fortitude

The virtue of strength involves the firm, steadfast refusal to give way in the face of a challenge. You need fortitude in order to face an ordeal and overcome it.

  1. Faith

Our strength isn’t only natural; it’s also supernatural. We are Christians, after all, called to trust in Jesus through all things, good and bad. We must look at this whole situation in the light of faith, and allow that light to show us more than our unaided natural prudence will.

  1. Hope

Because we have faith, we have a hope that many of our neighbors do not share. We know the ultimate outcome of human history: a great victory for love and goodness, leading into eternal beatitude. Because of that, all current crises and challenges can be seen in a different light. Evil may have its hour, but the Lord will have His day, and into eternity.

  1. Charity/Love

Arising out of all the virtues, our response needs to be animated thoroughly by love: love for God and neighbor; love for the sick; love for our families and friends who are threatened by this virus or even enduring it already; love for those without the same faith and hope that we are blessed with; love for those falling under suspicion or prejudice because of this epidemic.

Our model for responding to this pandemic should be all those Christians before us who have faced such crises, and gave outstanding witness to Christian charity. From the time of Christians nursing plague victims in ancient Rome down to the present-day Christian hospitals and medical facilities around the world, Christians have been outstanding for going to places where the diseases have been most virulent in order to nurse the sick, bury the dead, and provide whatever aid possible.

Saint Faustina demonstrated this sort of courageous service to the poor and those in need. She also received it when she was suffering from the tuberculosis that ultimately took her life. In all things, she teaches us that we must pray, “Jesus, I trust in You.” We must refuse to give way to fear. We must abide in the virtues, repent when we fall, and turn again and again to our loving Lord as we transmit that love and mercy to those around us.

Jesus told St. Faustina (and, through her, tells us all):

I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 742).

As the world faces this global epidemic, let us turn with trust to the Divine Mercy. Let us commit to prayer — especially the Chaplet before the Image of Divine Mercy — for all those afflicted with this disease, for all those providing care for them, and for everyone tasked with responding to this crisis. Let us be virtuous in our response to this outbreak, prudently discerning how best to fulfill the duties of our state in life with temperance, fortitude, and justice. Let us remember our faith, drawing on the hope it gives us, and thereby be free to truly love God and neighbor with Christian charity.

As St. John Paul II said, “Be not afraid.” Pray for me, that I may practice what I preach. I’ll pray for you.

Jesus, I trust in You!

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

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Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash.

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