Yes, this is serious. Yes, it is deadly for some. No, we should not go out and about as usual, and congregate in groups of more than 10. Follow all the state (and, mostly, common sense) imposed regulations. Etc. Etc.

This is what one expects to hear from a governor, a mayor, a good parent — even a pastor. A good pastor will also add, please pray. Pray alone and pray with family, wherever it is safe to do so. At this writing it is still possible to take a walk or a short drive to a local church, which is likely to be open at least for part of the day. Keep your quiet and distance, but the Most Blessed Sacrament is present there, whether in or outside the tabernacle. And, of course, for baptized and grace-receptive believers, God lives even in your heart!

Most Catholics, many people of faith and even those not of religious persuasion recognize that our religious practices of gathering in worship spaces are not optional activities in a civilized society like going to the movies, a restaurant or a sporting event. Even the secular culture we live in understands certain priorities, like the need to shop for living essentials. That’s why, to date, grocery providers, pharmacies and even liquor stores may remain open. So also, medical facilities and funeral parlors, for obvious reasons.

Now we know that you do not physically have to be IN church to be a church. While the Mass is the highest and foremost expression of our Catholic identity — and the Mass is being celebrated daily by every priest in our Diocese, joining us all in a communion of prayer and sacrifice — it is possible, essential in fact, to live our Catholic identity in many ways when we are not assembled. In fact, I might go so far to say, one reason why we may not have all as publicly expressed our belief in the treasure of the Mass by weekly participation is that our awareness of being a part of Christ’s body wherever we are has not been nourished spiritually or in practice. Each and every one of us is a valuable and essential part of the Mystical Body, no matter where we are. And family is a special place to practice that reality of God’s presence in us.

Even when you are on the phone, or e-mailing, writing or texting, you are not doing it alone, but bringing something of God’s presence to others. It is possible to communicate — to be in communion — humanly and spiritually, even when the wonderful tactility of the sacraments is not immediately available. That’s right. All of the sacraments involve a touch, which we can’t do much of right now during this pandemic-imposed period of social fasting. We can still be present to one another and bring God’s presence as well.

You do know of course that our website, www.rcda.org, has been cited by many, including America magazine, as the premium go-to source for up-to-date information on this coronavirus crisis. We post the latest updates from public authorities, sites from which Mass and services may be viewed, guidelines on liturgical norms, and many links to creative prayer and activity during this extended Lent. A Lent like we never had before!

In some ways this is more like the Lent Jesus himself experienced, when for 40 days and 40 nights he fasted and prayed, only to be tempted by the Evil One when he was in his most weakened and vulnerable state. This is the Devil’s favorite place, for he is an exploiter and an opportunist. Don’t fall for it. Fortify yourself with the arms of God’s grace. Let the angels come to you, as they did to Jesus when he fought off the temptations. And be an angel to anyone who might be fraying a bit at the edges. Offer some spiritual comfort food in the form of a phone call or a text, a rosary together, a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel or, a personal favorite (very easy), the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Pope Francis just gave a plenary indulgence to virtually anyone who recites the Chaplet. Easy to find online, but here is one link:

https://www.praydivinemercy.com.

You can say it using your Rosary beads, or just your fingers. Bear in mind as well that you may also obtain this Plenary Indulgence, not only if you are sick from this virus or caring in some way for any who are, but also “visit the Most Blessed Sacrament, engage in Eucharistic Adoration, or read Sacred Scripture for at least half an hour, or pray the Holy Rosary, or do the pious exercise of the Via Crucis, or pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, to implore Almighty God for an end to the epidemic, relief for the afflicted and eternal salvation for those the Lord has called to Himself.”

Now amidst all the rules and options we have for keeping safe and healthy, spiritual, emotionally and physically, I know we all appreciate the value of certain routines in our lives. Some of them require adjustment, abstinence or moderation at this time — or the creation of new ones. But one is something we cannot avoid and that is eating — this habit we acquired in childhood that does not go away.

Fast food may not be the wisest choice, for its health and exposure risks, though I do not want to discourage any small businesses you have confidence in. I myself may continue to order a pizza here and there (yes, I have found some favorites). If you don’t need to go out or can’t get a delivery, may I suggest, cook something special at home?

Some good friend of mine made Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday with all the trimmings. Not a bad idea. And today, what am I gonna do? Make Mac ’n Cheese! Everyone likes it. It’s comfort food. And it’s so easy. The great thing about working from home, if you have this ability, is that you can multitask: be with family, go online, get some exercise (housework is actually a certifiably significant source) — and cook. I actually know people who are putting their Christmas lights up and I heard they are starting to sing from windows in Dallas. Copycat! But who cares if you can have some fun. And keep a sense of humor in a time of great uncertainty. If there is nothing else you can think of doing, please make Mac ’n Cheese. And be sure to say your prayers before and after meals!

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