Most people probably have spent at least a little time thinking about how to survive a pandemic or other apocalyptic scenario. We live on a farm, so people regularly tell us they’re heading over to our place should it all hit the fan. I usually smile and change the subject. It’s just so depressing, I can’t think of anything amusing to say. It’s depressing not only to ponder the huge amount of suffering such an event would cause, but also the likely breakdown of civility and decency, even basic humanity, that would attend it. This breakdown is the most depressing thought, because it wouldn’t be just out there; in fact, it’s already in me. I feel like a grubby rat talking about how to survive while others starve. It sickens me to see videos of preppers target shooting—preparing to fend off the hungry—but what really sickens me is that my own survival planning essentially amounts to pretty much the same thing.
Yet every cloud has a silver lining, and even the darkest scenario can become a conduit for God’s grace. It’s good for me to see how base I am and repent. Because when we repent, God always provides a way forward.
Like most parishes, ours has a hall and a commercial grade kitchen. It also has a core of highly committed daily communicants, a robust Knights of Columbus presence, and a very active section of the Catholic Women’s League. If there is a pandemic or other apocalyptic scenario, all of us would want the Mass more than anything else. And many, many others whose faith has slipped into a slumber would be reawakened to their hunger for God. There would also be a wonderful opportunity to evangelize the unchurched.
From the feeding of the 5,000 in the Gospels on throughout the history of Christianity, feeding hungry stomachs has opened hungry hearts to Our Lord. It’s the way Christians love one another, and the way we bring people to Him. Civil society has taken over many of the charitable functions initiated by the Church, from schools and hospitals to soup kitchens and counselling. It has been mostly good that society has undertaken these efforts, but on the downside, all thoseactivities, which began as prayer in action, have become jobs rooted in a vague spirit of benevolence. The grace that comes with crisis is a radical reawakening to first principles. If there is a crisis, the fire of faith will burn bright and be a light in the darkness.
I recently spoke of this with our pastor. We both agreed that the social system is wonderfully robust, and also that it’s very unlikely the coronavirus will bring society to its knees. However, we also agreed that the Church should prepare for any event that might bring people to their knees before Our Lord. Big things like a back-up generator to keep the lights on and the fridges and stoves working could come later, but for now, there are small things all of us can do. Many people are already buying canned food and supplies for themselves. It’s not wrong to do so, but we shouldn’t just buy for ourselves. We have to plan to share. We can bring canned goods to the parish, thereby making it both earthly and heavenly food. We can live and die like brothers and sisters.
The great beauty of the pro-life response to abortion is not that it’s right or just, but that it’s loving. As prolifers, we try to be loving and supportive to mothers and fathers in crisis pregnancies as we ask them to respond in love and share their lives with their babies. The threat of the coronavirus calls each of us to love in the same way we ask parents in crisis pregnancies to love.