With all the talk of infection rates, with businesses and schools locking down, with the stock market bouncing around wildly, and hoards of people trapped at airports trying to get back into the country, anyone can be excused for succumbing to a moment or two of panic.
It’s hard to take the long view when you’re in the middle of such an emergency as this. But God has a way of making good come out of difficult times.
We saw it in Florida, where I live, with Hurricane Irma. Damage was extensive. Loss was great. People and communities were deeply hurt. But after the cleanup, rebuilding, landscape restoration, and a period of economic recovery, much was actually better than it had been before.
If we look behind the fear of coronavirus currently gripping the nation, we can spot a few genuine blessings.
There’s an element of irony in some of them, such as the slowdown in the sex trade. How long anxiety about contagion will depress patronage of streetwalkers, brothels, and peepshows, no one can say. But we should applaud any improvement in our moral atmosphere, no matter how temporary.
The small signs of bipartisanship we’re seeing might be just as fleeting. Certainly, public pressure hasn’t been sufficient to keep our politicians from trying to load all kinds of pork onto pandemic-response legislation. But at least Washington is getting the message that the people want their government to take strong and effective action — and that means being willing to cooperate across party lines.
We’ve gotten a special National Day of Prayer out of this crisis. That’s no small thing in a highly secularized society where prayer is too-often mocked and God acknowledged only grudgingly. Expressions of faith are more in evidence right now than at any time since the days after 9-11, when churches were bursting at the seams.
Perhaps most importantly, the sudden appearance and rapid spread of coronavirus has provided an occasion for us to reflect on life and death — and some of the big issues related to those. We should think about what it means to be human, how we should be living as a community, what we owe each other as neighbors, and what we really believe.
Large concerns can be read in some of the small, even silly, moments associated with the pandemic, such as the hoarding of toilet paper. These little scenes raise important questions about how to reconcile our genuine needs with our obligations of charity. After all, we really are in this together.
We tend not to spend much energy pondering such questions. But now we’ve been given a great opportunity to do so. And that’s to everyone’s benefit.
There will be heartache associated with this crisis, no doubt. Some people will suffer greatly — even to the loss of their lives. Any of us could be touched by tragedy.
But those who come through may see new value in human existence. They may rediscover faith. They may come to a new relationship with God.
What a true grace that would be.
A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Rev. Michael P. Orsi currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals.