In today first reading for the Memorial of St. Patrick we read “Beloved: Be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace… whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:7-11)
It struck me that this is a good and appropriate message for these times of life with covid-19. A simple message: be serious and sober-minded. Hopefully the reality of this pandemic is sinking deeper into our consciousness and perspectives. And at the same time, we remember our Christian call to love, serve and pray.
Bergamo is located in the Lombardy region, the hardest hit province in Italy. In the last week, six Catholic priests from the northern Italian city of Bergamo have died from the coronavirus and over 20 have been hospitalized. (Crux) As of Sunday, Bergamo (population 120,000) had 3,416 coronavirus cases out of the country’s 21,157 total cases. An estimated 50 people a day are dying of the disease in the town. It was reported that these priests had pastorally attended to their parishioners suffering from infections. While the ages of the priests were not released, it is a fair guess they were over 65 years old. No doubt they were serious and sober about the crisis in their city, that their love was intense, and gave evidence of serving with the strength that God supplied. May they rest in peace and may the other recover.
On “Morning Edition” (NPR) there was a report from an American professor living and teaching in Italy. David Unger, who teaches foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Italy, described what it is like being ordered to stay at home. You can listen to the six-minute segment here. They describe a 8 pm ritual of his town turning out to applaud the health care workers, of neighbors shopping for the building…but also of the isolation. Hospitality, service, the expression of love for those serving the sick and dying. And all the while worried if he, his wife, friend or neighbors will become infected – and what will that mean.
Here in Tampa, like many other municipalities, we are beginning to adapt. Restaurants and bars must close by 10 pm and limit occupancy to 50 or less – which is a far cry from being closed except for take out and home deliveries. One of the most popular places in Tampa is the Armature Works, a 73,000-square-foot mixed-entertainment project of an old factory and streetcar barn overlooking the Hillsborough River and the downtown Tampa skyline. They have made the decision to close altogether
The State of Florida is going ahead with the election day process while states like Ohio have cancelled their voting. The local Hard Rock establishment has closed the poker rooms and are moving the slot machine farther apart. And their has been a huge uptick in hand gun purchases here in Florida…and yes the store shelves are devoid of toilet paper.
For the moment the Diocese of St. Petersburg has yet to close churches, although Catholic schools are being closed until sometime in early April. Of course all is subject to more change. There are no doubt tales from your city and parish. And as you move into your day, whatever shapes it takes, the first reading is a good reminder:
“Beloved: Be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace… whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:7-11)
Be well. Stay well.