The Christian faith is not just a personal experience, it is founded on the community. However, with the rapid infection rate of COVID-19, many Churches, as a preventive measure have suspended the Eucharist and limited their visiting hours. While these measures are prudent and help to contain the spread of the virus, it also isolates people from the community at a time when they most need support.
Yet, with the advent of modern internet technology, we are still part of a community that prays together via televised and broadcast Eucharistic Celebrations. We are also exhorted to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which unites the Church across 24 hours a day.
The LORD GOD was not joking when he said, “I am with you always, yes, until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20)
It may be easy in these trying times to fall prey to panic and anxiety, however, we can hold firm to the Lord’s promise and assurance that He will never abandon us. Panic and fear are not from God, peace, calm, and hope are. It is thus possible to respond with rational minds and with inner serenity to the crisis, knowing that God is sovereign and that He knows what He is doing. St. Ignatius of Loyola, often spoke about how the evil one, “causes gnawing anxiety, saddens and sets up obstacles. In this way it unsettles people by false reasons aimed at preventing their progress,” while God’s Spirit “stirs up courage and strength, consolations, inspirations and tranquility.”
The Lord God has also gifted us with companion saints who themselves have been through hunger, uncertainty, civic unrest, wars, and pestilence.
As with every condition that is known to Man, there are saints that we can call upon for help in a time of plague.
In Medieval and Early Modern Europe, there was widespread suffering from the epidemics caused by plagues and pestilence. Saints heard the call of the Lord and administered heroically to those who were ill and on the verge of death. There were also saints who were invoked for their intercession during those times. In more recent times, the 19th and the 20th century also saw such holy men and women such as St. Damien of Molokai and St. Teresa of Calcutta ministering to the poor and the leprous.
List of saints we can turn to in this time of pandemic:
St. Quirinus of Neuss
St. Quirinus was born in the 1st century and died in 116 A.D. He was a Roman Tribune who was tasked to arrest and persecute Christians. However Quirinus witnessed miracles performed by these Christians and was baptised into the Faith.
In 1485, Charles the Bold of Burgundy laid siege to Neuss with his army spreading from western Germany, the Netherlands, and as far south as Italy. The citizens of Neuss invoked Quirinus for help, and the siege ended. Wellsprings popped up and were dedicated to him. He was then called on to fight against bubonic plague and smallpox.
St. Roch was a 14th century saint who travelled to Rome and across Italy healing those suffering from the plague. At Piacenza, he contracted the plague. He was healed miraculously when a dog licked his bulbous sores and brought bread to him. St. Roch was thus the living proof that one could survive the plague. He is invoked for his intercession against the plague and other infectious diseases.
St. Charles Borromeo
St. Charles Borromeo lived on earth from 1538 to 1584. While recognised as the author of the first Roman Catholic Catechism,
St. Borromeo, then Archbishop of Milan, provided critical governance and care to the suffering people when the governor and many of the nobility fled the growing humanitarian crisis. St. Borromeo issued guidelines to control the plague outbreak, organised makeshift hospitals, used his own vast fortune to provide food for the hungry, and personally attended the poor and sick. He never contracted the plague and credited this to a regular regimen of fasting and prayer.
St. Henry Morse
St. Henry Morse lived from 1595 to 1645. He was an English Protestant who later converted and became a Jesuit priest. He returned to England to serve the Catholic underground and the victims of the Plague. In 1635-1636, Morse contracted the plague three times but recovered each time. When he was later captured, his work with plague victims was considered and he was released. The next time he was captured, there was no such clemency, and Morse was martyred.
By Brian Bartholomew Tan