How would the saints act if they were in our position? The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has certainly caused various reactions – some have chosen to monitor the situation while others have fled to the stores to try to stock up on toilet paper and frozen foods.
There’s no doubt that the latter act out of care for their loved ones and want to make sure they have the necessary means in case the worst happens. Yet, as Christians, we are called to something greater. The problem is that in the type of behavior previously described, there’s a limited vision of the human person, of the family and of our mission as Christians. The human person and the family are, by essence, social. They cannot become isolated from everything or everyone else. We clearly depend on one another.
While the care and safety of our family is our primary mission, will we, as Christians, retrieve into ourselves or will we choose to look outwardly, love our neighbor as ourselves and serve the common good?
Therefore, in these times, Christian should rightfully ask: “What’s my role?” “What should I do?” “What is God calling me to do?”
They’re important questions that guide us to the true and the good, and lead us on a path of holiness, like the saints before us.
So, to answer these questions, let us look to the example of a few saints who have faced similar or worse circumstances.
THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAINTS
The great thing about the saints is that they participated in caring for others, each according to his own position. If we want to serve others during this time, we must first know our position in life and act accordingly.
St. Charles Borromeo | Persons in Authority
The Archbishop of Milan represents those in authority who have a large number of people under their care.
Milan not only faced a famine and plague outbreak from 1576 to 1577, but also the consequences of the cowardice of their governor and many nobility, who fled the city as things got out of control. Thankfully, Archbishop Borromeo, the other figure who exerted authority in the city, took the responsibility to fight the plague. He issued guidelines to prevent the further spread of the plague, organized volunteers and medical experts at hospitals to best tend to the poor and sick, and used all of his personal resources and other resources available to provide food for the hungry, feeding from 60 to 70 thousand people daily.
So, for people with authority, their mission is to implement the appropriate measures to prevent the spread of disease, to tend for those under their care and to provide the necessary means for their survival.
St. Rocco and St. Damien of Molokai | Medical Professionals
Both of these saints represent those who are in a position to help more directly tend to those in need, mainly doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
These saints provide an opportunity for reflection, as they risked their lives by tending to those who were infected. They did not serve the needy thinking that their faith would save them from getting infected, rather, they did it knowing that they could very well die doing it.
St. Rocco is an example of someone who miraculously survived the plague in Italy during the 14th century. He travelled throughout Italy healing people and was himself miraculously healed from his sores.
St. Damian is another example. He traveled to a Hawaiian leper colony to tend to the sick. He found the place was poorly maintained and that immorality and misbehavior were prominent. In his years of service, Father Damien contracted leprosy and eventually died from it.
For medical professionals the example and intercession of both of these saints can be of great help.
The saints next door | The rest of us
But the question lingers: Where is my place if I’m not a medical professional or a person in authority?
This example is best reflected by the great number of saints who we probably don’t know about, those saints who served their families and their neighbors with love, and followed the just measures implemented by people in authority for the common good.
We are called to be those “saints next door,” as Pope Francis said. But how?
While everybody else is looking to stock up on what they think they need, we can ask to see what our neighbors need. Of course, all of these actions should be done with the appropriate precautions, so as to not contribute to the spread of the virus, which, in itself, is a great contribution to the common good.
- Pray for your neighbor and for all of those who are suffering due to the current situation.
- Offer to babysit for your neighbor if you see they need it.
- Offer to bring a home-cooked meal.
- Ask them how they are doing and if they are stressed about the current situation.
- Ask if they have any material needs.
- Exchange phone numbers so you can check up on them if they get sick or in case there’s an emergency.
- Stay home if you’re sick. This may be the hardest one for many people but staying home can be an act of charity, humility and penance, knowing that you’re protecting others from also getting sick. That’s the best favor you can do to them.
As we continue in our Lenten practices, let us make this an opportunity to examine our lives and see how, according to our state and position in life, we can look beyond ourselves and follow the example of Christ and the saints.