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Editorial: Open for business

  • April 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing society to take a hard look at what is essential and what is optional or even superfluous in our daily lives. In some respects, this material downsizing is a secular version of the spiritual exercise Catholics embrace every year at Lent.

Across Canada, governments have ordered widespread shuttering of businesses that provide goods and services deemed non-essential. For the most part, the closures align with common sense, but that is slight comfort as Christians worldwide face a Holy Week and Easter in which they will be barred from churches and denied communal participation in liturgies that define their faith.

It’s difficult to fathom, for example, why across Ontario people can still line up to buy beer but not to receive the Eucharist. Overall, though, the drastic measures are necessary to combat a potentially fatal virus that is easily transmitted among populations that have no immunity and too few hospital beds to treat a mass outbreak.

As a media company, The Catholic Register is deemed an essential service and therefore permitted to continue. In addition to news about the crisis, we like to believe we can provide emotional and spiritual comfort to people who, in many cases, are forced into lonely isolation in their homes. So we remain open, although our staff is working almost entirely remotely. The product you are reading was pretty much created on computers in home offices or, more likely, on kitchen tables.

Yet while The Register continues to publish, churches have been closed, public celebrations of Holy Week and Easter are cancelled and, with no weekly collections at Mass, some Canadian dioceses have been forced to lay off employees, including priests in at least one province.

Still, it would be wrong to believe we are powerless in the face of this health and economic emergency. On the contrary, even if we are not on the front lines, the pandemic summons each of us as agents of social and moral responsibility to join the battle in many ways.

Of course these include activating measures to contain the disease, but also activating a home prayer life, using modern communication tools to bring comfort to the isolated and giving generously to people and organizations hit particularly hard in these troubling times.

Church buildings may be locked but the people who are the Church can never close their lives to the world around them. We are called to reach out to the sick, the lonely and the suffering through modern technology, and to express solidarity with strangers and the forgotten by whatever means is possible.

We mustn’t become mere onlookers to a crisis. Maintaining social distance is physically necessary but Christians never relinquish a moral obligation to stay engaged in the world.

As Pope Francis said, an attitude of “every man for himself” is an unacceptable response in the midst of suffering.

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