Virus of the Clay, Virus of the Soul
Shepherds and Halos, No. 02 6 Min. Read
“Mass is canceled? Because of the virus? I can't believe it.” said Father Johnathan. Determination etched itself across his face. “Let's have Mass anyway,” he declared.
“Defy our Bishop?” asked a wide-eyed Fr. Hank.
Father George watched his two parochial vicars, curious to see their budding shepherding conflict with the Bishop's order to cancel Mass over the next weeks.
Father Johnathan calmed down a bit, his fire still evident. “You are right, Fr. Hank, we are called to obey our superiors in all things,” he paused for emphasis, “even when it is not our will, except when doing so, however slightly, goes against the will of God.”
“God wills our parish to be a new epicenter of spreading the virus? Possibly leading to deaths we could have prevented?” asked Fr. Hank with rising ire. “The Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis, has also cancelled public Mass in Rome. Is it not hard to claim that this defies God’s will?”
The two young priests, realizing they’d reached an impasse, looked to Fr. George.
“You both make excellent points.” He looked at Fr. Johnathan. “Were this a cancellation of Mass by a tyrannical government, or a permanent cancelling of Mass, I would agree with you, Fr. Johnathan. As always, it is God’s will that we shepherd the flock that he has entrusted to us. How do we best shepherd, now? By cancelling public Mass for a time limited period, which may yet be extended, we will save lives. The question is, how do we also keep saving souls?
Regardless of whether we personally believe this rises to the level of the plague, when some Masses were doubtlessly also cancelled or prayed privately, obedience to our Bishop does not clearly defy God’s will in any way. We will boldly obey, and we will seek ways to shepherd our flock in this time of fasting from Jesus our Christ in the Eucharist. How can we obey our bishop and innovatively shepherd our flock?”
“Implement scheduled, limited number, 24/7 adoration,” said Fr. Johnathan.
“Eucharistic procession in and around our parish boundaries,” offered Fr. Hank.
“Can we do that?” wondered Fr. George.
“Sunlight kills the virus,” declared Fr. Johnathan.
“Outdoor exercise while healthy and maintaining six feet distance is encouraged,” added Fr. Hank.
“Excellent. Yes. We will continue to keep our doors open to people to come for pastoral care and reconciliation and prayer, as long as we keep the numbers gathered below the recommended size,” decided Father George. “Father Johnathan, work up a way to ensure this happens.”
“Father Hank, set up the means for us to livestream daily Mass.”
“Both of you, keep your eyes and souls open to other ways we can shepherd. This virus of the clay is nothing compared to the virus of sin infecting everyone’s souls... and we are shepherds of the soul. Let us do all we can to ensure our people do not stray in this time of fasting from Jesus our Christ in the Eucharist because they experience Him in our care for them, and in their care for each other.”
“We can start up online Halos, connecting families with each other by video chat.”
“And start a list of volunteers and needs and match them up.”
“Excellent. Yes. Let our hunger for Christ deepen so we realize God’s wild abundance given us in the Body and Blood of our savior when we again have have public Mass.”
A day later and the world had changed yet again. Father George slumped, kneeling before The Blessed Virgin Mary, a heavy sigh escaping from deep within. Not so very many days ago he’d thought the cities and states and countries shutting down were seriously overreacting. He still wasn’t sure, but this was what most of the world was doing ... shutting down ... to stop the virus. Part of him wanted to shut it all down. Stop everything. Many of their plans had been shot down, either by the bishop or by changing restrictions. He felt powerless and slumped before Mary, despondent.
His phone buzzed in his pocket, the private line for emergencies only. “There will be a lot of emergencies buzzing on this phone, not that I can do anything,” he thought. He heaved his burdened body up to check his phone.
The text from an unknown number read: “Joy from Christ’s light is the best disinfectant for the soul. Chin up, eyes on Christ, with wild abandon! Grin.”
Father George burst out laughing, so loudly that Fathers Hank and Jonathan came running, mostly remembering to maintain six feet between them. He read the text aloud, still laughing.
They chuckled. “Who is so flippantly irreverently reverent yet you don’t know his number?” wondered Father Jonathan.
“He sounds like you, uncensored,” agreed Father Hank.
“It can only be my pastor from growing up. Wow. He must be — what — eighty something?”
They spent the next hour discussing ways to serve the flock entrusted to them by Christ, yet within the limits set by the Bishop.
About an hour later, they had devolved, again, into melancholy. “All we can do is process with the Eucharist, hear confessions from across a field, and be virtual-Christ by live stream. That’s it!” grumped Father Jonathan.
“Circles, we’re going in circles,” mumped Father Hank.
Father George was uncharacteristically quiet. His phone buzzed on the table, ‘Father Benny,’ the text alert read. Father George had entered the number in his contacts, intending to call when he got a moment. “Yeah. Right,” he thought.
“At times like this,” he read the text aloud, “it benefits all for some to be a wee bit salty, without being profane, as we strive by God’s grace to be salt of the earth for each other. Grin.”
“An hour and a minute after the last text,” observed Father George.
“Is this a new inspirational text service?” wondered Father Hank, as the phone buzzed again.
Father George read aloud: “Really? Has it really reached the need for this draconian action ... now I need my own cheesy made-up quote-of-the-hour service?” Just as he finished, another arrived.
“Oops. That one slipped out early. Delays may result. We apologize for the inconvenience of not receiving a service you didn’t ask for yet might have need of, so we feel better about doing something joyously salty.”
Buzz. Buzz. “All this for me? Nope. Not even close. Grin. All this for the body of Christ. For when we serve Christ, we are so much more than ourselves. Eyes on Christ, sin’s yoke down, Christ’s yoke up. Get behind me and come, follow me! We got work to do and light and salt to distribute by every means possible.”
Buzz. Buzz. “Hail Mary ...”
Father George looked up at his priests. “Well boys,” he said, looking for all the world like a war worn, determined sergeant preparing his troops to grind it out, “The original virus infecting humanity is sin. And we are bearers of the best disinfectant of the soul, the light of Christ. Let’s start finding ways to bring that light to His flock!”
This story has ended, our calling just begun. Come Holy Spirit! Pour through our souls, washing away all that is less than your breath you first breathed into us at the moment of our conception, that we may breathe that breath into the world by choosing powerful and simple mercies. May you bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prelude to Mass Intentions
“Why are we watching Mass livestream?” wondered Jim, an anxious, gruff edge in his voice.
“We can't go to Mass, so Mass comes to us.” Alison explained, not really understanding why she felt drawn to Mass more now that she couldn't go.
“We didn't go often before. Why do we care so much now?” Jim wondered, peering at the screen, listening intently. A few minutes later he gasped, “Did he really just say we're all going to die? What a ridiculous thing to say at a time like this!”
“Shhh!” Alison urged, “I want to hear what he is saying.”
By Patrick Augustin Jones © 2020, all rights reserved
About the Author
Deacon Patrick is a husband and father, a deacon in the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, and award winning author. See his books in the books page of this site.