At first glance, Lent of 2020 was unlikely to stand out from that of previous years. By Septuagesima Sunday, the priests started wearing the violet vestments and there was no more Gloria. The time had come to choose a simple, concrete and effective resolution to follow more closely the Divine Master. By Ash Wednesday, everyone had started running to win the prize and win the imperishable crown (I Cor 9, 24-25). With eagerness, all carried on their efforts under the impulse of divine grace.
But, in reality, Divine Providence had planned a special Lent for this year.
The spread of a coronavirus disease and the containment measures that followed are forcing all of us into a quarantine and nobody knows when it will be over. For sure, however, all of us are facing with an ideal situation to do an open retreat. This type of exercise, unlike closed retreats, does not oblige us to get away from our ordinary occupations, to search for seclusion in a retreat house, and to keep a strict silence.
The conditions are ideal for us all to make an open retreat
To approach the exercise in the best possible conditions, it is necessary to highlight a fact, to clarify a few points and to point out the opportunities to be seized.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT GOD’S WILL
God manifests his Will, either in general to all men, always and everywhere (by means of the Ten Commandments), or in a particular way to each individual according to the concrete circumstances of his life (by mans of the duty of state).
What is the duty of state? It is all the obligations that are imposed on each individual, because of his condition, his state of life and the commitments he had already taken freely.
Fulfilling one's duties as a Christian, student, employee, parent, priest or religious remains the royal way to sanctify yourself. With or without viruses. With or without containment.
If Our Lord could say, "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me" (Jn 4:34), how much more must every Christian strive to do this will of God which is meant to him by his duty of state? Indeed, “it is not those who say: Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father... (Mt 7:21).
Certainly, the external circumstances in which the duty of state is embodied can be disturbed. Also, when one tries to adapt himself to a new situation, there are always some adjustments and some corrections to be made, and it takes time. This being said, the fulfillment of one's duties as a Christian, student, employee, parent, priest or religious always remains the royal way to sanctify himself. With or without viruses. With or without containment.
SOME POINTS TO BE CLARIFIED
Any unprecedented situation logically raises questions and possibly doubts that many find it hard to resolve. So, let us consider three of them that we have to deal with right now:
The question of the sanctification of Sunday.
While the churches are closed to the public, the services that can take place there are only accessible to a maximum of five people, who are requested to keep “social distancing”.
The divine precept ("Thou shall keep holy the Lord’s day") and the apostolic precept (sanctify Sunday) are still relevant to our present-day situation. On the other hand, the ecclesiastical precept (attending Sunday Mass) cannot be accomplished because of a serious inconvenience.
Every Christian is still obliged to sanctify Sunday, but in this case he must do so in a different way than by attending Mass.
Sunday Masses with preaching accessible on the Internet can be a useful medium for nurturing the virtue of faith, keeping a liturgical piety, joining with the redemptive sacrifice and making a spiritual communion.
Restrictions on the freedom of movement.
Fearing that hospital services would be overwhelmed by the massive and cumulative influx of patients in serious condition over a few days, the public authorities imposed strict limitations to movement.
In principle and regardless of the negative consequences it may have in the middle and in the long run, this decision does not exceed the powers of the public authority. If the state cannot lawfully dispose of the body and of the life of its citizens, it has the responsibility to direct their actions to the service of the common good. If necessary, this is done by means of precepts, laws and orders.
Sometimes authority restricts freedom of movement. No one has forgotten the restrictions imposed to the sick with plague and leprosy, diseases that were easy to recognize.
It may happen that, sometimes, public authorities lay restrictions to the freedom of movement. We should not forget the restrictions imposed to the sick people with plague or leprosy, some diseases that were easy to identify. It happened in the past that, sometimes, the State restricts freedom of residence. Who would not remember the 300,000 Alsatians who were deported between September 1 and September 3, 1939? In either case, the sacrifices demanded of citizens are only justified if they can be reconciled with the requirements of the common good, which falls under the responsibility of the State as humble servant.
The dilemma of health-care workers.
The limited number of ventilators may not permit adequate care of all the patients who suffer severe respiratory distress. Choices are needed. This predicament deeply affects the medical staff, but all of us are worry, because think that we may need these ventilators one day.
In normal times, health authorities ensure that health needs and the means available to meet them are proportionate. But facing with a disaster, the resources available are no longer sufficient to meet with the massive increase of needs. It is up to medical staff to assess the best use to be given to the means available to treat as many patients as possible.
In the impossible, no one is required
The medical profession remains at the service of all patients, but it can only fight the disease with the means at its disposal. Nobody is bound to the impossible, not even the caregivers, in a disastrous situation.
SOME GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES
True to their duty of state and enlightened on new issues, everyone must seize the opportunities that quarantine offers them.
Even confined, everyone continues to perform their customary tasks. Children have to study and school assignments have to be completed. Work at home or even outside continues. Household chores are kept.
However, travel restrictions offer a double benefit: more free time and less stress. Reading requires calm and time.
Let's make good use of it. Let us devote the time that is offered to us to serious and formative readings. How many exciting books stacked on our shelves without ever being opened!
Jesus Christ insists: "We must always pray and never tire” (Lk 18:1). How little effect these words have on us, as the asceticism of prayer puts us off! We spend hours playing on our cellphones, but our morning and evening prayers are often reduced to three Hail Marys recited at full speed!
Making the most of the time we have
So, why not if we take advantage of the time given to us to practice a more stable, better nourished and more intense life of prayer. And since the family is reunited in one place out of necessity, why not resume, if necessary, the daily family rosary?
Finally, strengthen the bonds of charity.
The order of charity commands us to love God above all, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In those days, let us remember that it is first and foremost the members of our family.
Too often people live in their little world with no concern for others. But now, more than ever, it is time to strengthen the bonds of charity that must unite the members of a Christian family.
Adapted and translated by Fr. Dominique Boulet from an article published by Father François Knittel, SSPX