Back from the Hospital: The Masked Minnesotan Rides Again

I didn’t feel all that sick Friday evening. That was August 21, 2020: 45 days ago.

Online self-assessment guides from the Minnesota Department of Health and Mayo Clinic put me on the threshold of needing to call a doctor.

My wife said calling the local hospital was a good idea.

As it turns out, she was right.

I started writing about my hospital stay three days after I returned home. Several days and a few hundred words later, I realized that I’d been really sick. And was still recovering. Make that am still recovering.

Which, under the circumstances, is good news:


Living in Room 20

I was in CentraCare Sauk Centre’s queue for some time before giving my wife our phone.

Long story short, she drove me to the hospital’s emergency room around 10:30 pm Minnesota time. My temperature was close to 105 Fahrenheit.

That was Friday, August 21, 2020.

Within 24 hours, I got good news. I didn’t have COVID-19.

Staph, Strep and Cellulitis

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria not getting destroyed by human white blood cells. From National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, via Wikimedia commons, used w/o permission.I did, however, have a staph and a strep infection. Which helped explain why an ulcer on my left calf had been hurting so much. And not healing.

That, I gather, is why “cellulitis” showed up in my diagnosis.

Cellulitis is what medicos call a bacterial infection in the skin’s inner layers.

Given time, it’ll work its way down to the bone, into lymph nodes and the bloodstream, and can be fatal. What I had didn’t get that far, happily.

Having Staphylococcus aureus on my skin is par for the course. The bacteria are often a part of the micro-menagerie living on us. Streptococcus dysgalactiae isn’t as well-represented in our skin flora, but obviously I’d acquired enough to start an infection.

Tests at the hospital weren’t all bad news.

An ultrasound Doppler scan showed that I didn’t have deep vein thrombosis. That’s a fancy way of saying there wasn’t a clot blocking normal blood flow in my leg.

In 20-20 hindsight, setting up an earlier appointment at the local wound clinic would have been a good idea. On the ‘up’ side, I was discharged before I was scheduled to see them — and now have more information for those folks.

If I didn’t have diabetes and wasn’t overweight, my immune system might have kept these bacteria from spreading under my skin.1

That’s another incentive for me to keep trying to lose weight.

Conspicuous by Their Absence

I was living in room 20 of CentraCare’s Sauk Centre hospital from early morning of August 22 until around noon, September 2.

It’s a nice place, 15 feet on a side, give or take a bit, with a handicap-accessible bathroom in one corner.

Maybe halfway through my stay, I was transferred to a swing bed.

But I was still in room 20. What changed was the room’s designation. Calling my place a swing bed let the hospital keep treating me while easing back on how often they checked my vitals.2

Spending more than eleven days in one room, apart from chaperoned strolls in the hall, wasn’t how I’d planned to spend late August and early September. It did, however, give me time to read books my family sent in.

On the ‘down’ side, I didn’t see anyone apart from folks working at the hospital.

With a pandemic in progress, they’re being careful. One family member could have been designated as a visitor, passed health checks, and seen me. But my family is being careful, too: so we dropped books off at the front desk. In a plastic bag.

COVID-19 pandemic precautions probably explains the absence of a priest, deacon or Eucharistic minister in room 20.

I’ll get back to that, and why I didn’t go ballistic over the lack of a crucifix on the wall.


A Century of Antibiotics

A hundred years ago, someone with my health issues and a skin ulcer might have survived. But probably not without having at least part of my leg amputated.

And maybe not even then.

Germ theory of disease was catching on, thanks partly to lessons learned during the Second Boer War and the 1914-1918 war.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that antibiotics were still in the R & D stage, and mainly aimed at treating syphilis.

Getting killed by a bullet, explosion or gas was an option for World War I soldiers. But they were more likely to die from infections.

I really don’t miss the ‘good old days,’ and that’s another topic.

Alexander Fleming first noticed penicillin in 1928. Or maybe it was Sir John Scott Burdon-Sanderson in the 1870s. Or Joseph Lister, around the same time. Or an ancient Egyptian physician. Or someone else.

Penicillin applied topically cleared up gonococcal ophthalmia for two infants in 1930. Probably. Another two babies may or may not have had similar treatments. The medical records aren’t complete, and I’m drifting off-topic.3

Mice and a Man

'Hand coloured engraving of Radcliffe Infirmary as it was between 1863 and 1865' via Oxfordshire Health Archives.Fast-forward to 1939.

Researchers at Oxford dusted off Fleming’s research. One of them, Norman Heatley, developed an automated process for extracting and purifying penicillin.

“…The automated process he came up with made use of bedpans, milk churns and baths all rigged together, yet it worked very well….”
(“Penicillin: the Oxford story,” J. Wood, Oxford Science blog (July 16, 2010))

By May of 1940, World War II had started and Heatley’s contraption had produced enough penicillin for testing. Eight mice were given lethal doses of streptococci bacteria. Four got penicillin injections. Those mice lived.

The Oxford folks kept Heatley’s penicillin extractor running. By February, 1941, they had enough to try with humans. Almost enough.

Albert Alexander, a British policeman, had scratched his face on a rose thorn. Or maybe he got hurt in a bombing raid. Either way, the wound got infected and the infection spread.

A doctor at Radcliffe Infirmary treated Mr. Alexander with a penicillin injection on February 12, 1941. Within 24 hours, he was on the mend.

Four days after the first injection, Radcliffe Infirmary’s supplies ran out. Mr. Alexander’s infection got worse in early March. He died a month later.

Meanwhile, World War II was hurting and killing folks in wholesale lots.

That’s why the USDA’s Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL) in Peoria, Illinois, began a search for high-yield penicillin molds. Their quest led to a cantaloupe in a local farmer’s market. Or so the story goes.4

More Than You Need, Or Maybe Want, to Know About Penicillin

Penicillin 'wonder drug' headline. (1943)
(From St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Missouri Historical Society, used w/o permission.)
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday edition. (June 27, 1943))

'Penicillin saves lives' World War II poster.Penicillin was a “wonder drug” in 1943.

What we’d call clinical testing told doctors that the previously-overlooked fungal byproduct cured ‘incurable’ infections.

Meanwhile, folks at NRRL were learning how to mass-produce the stuff. That, in turn, saved a great many lives.

“…One soldier being treated at Bushnell’s Veteran Hospital in Utah lay sick in a hospital bed for 14 months with wounds containing bits of uniform, missile fragments, and shattered bone.
“Doctors didn’t risk operating on the gangrenous wound. Once the soldier began receiving penicillin injections, he began to improve almost immediately….”
(“How the ‘wonder drug’ penicillin went from discovery to mass production, and the role St. Louis had in it,” From the Post-Dispatch archives (March 13, 2020))

I think preventing death is a good idea. So is dealing with diseases and infections. Using penicillin and other antibiotics imprudently is another matter.

Antibiotics affect bacteria, not viruses. Using them to treat viral diseases does no good.

Usually.

Sometimes an antibiotic keeps a bacterial infection from taking hold when someone’s already sick from a virus.

And there are antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

They showed up right after we started using antibiotics. That’s not surprising. Bacteria develop immunity to toxins: fast.

Doctors who over-prescribe antibiotics haven’t helped. Neither have folks who stop taking antibiotics when they’re feeling better. Someone can feel fine and still be hosting bacteria. And they’re the resistant ones. The bacteria, that is. Not the people.

Like pretty much anything else involving medicine, it’s complicated.

The antibiotic I got is amoxik clav 875. I figure that’s amoxicillin and clavulanic acid. Amoxicillin is two steps removed from penicillin, chemically. It’s been around since 1972. Clavulanic acid makes the antibiotic more effective.5


Pandemic Precautions, Piety — and Prudence

St. Cloud Hospital
(From Google Maps, used w/o permission.)

Spiritual Care Services, CentraCare
“Our staff consists of Catholic priests, Protestant pastors, Catholic sisters, and lay chaplains who visit patients….”

CentraCare’s records include my religious beliefs. They know I’m a Catholic.

So how come I didn’t see a single priest, deacon or Eucharistic minister while I was there?

And why aren’t I ranting at this lack of service?

First, that “Spiritual Care Services” excerpt discusses what’s at CentraCare’s St. Cloud hospital. I was in CentraCare’s Sauk Centre facility, about an hour up the road from St. Cloud.

Second, the COVID-19 pandemic is in progress. I figure that the folks running CentraCare know this, and are taking reasonable precautions.

Besides, I’m a Catholic. I take my faith seriously. That means, among other things, that life isn’t all about me.

I’ve talked about this before.

“The “Source and Summit of the Christian Life”

I’m a Christian, a Catholic.

I depend on Jesus for salvation. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 456460, 519521)

That’s why I think Mass is a big deal.

Each time I’m at Mass and hear ‘this is my body … this is my blood,’ I’m with our Lord at that Passover meal, and Golgotha, and beyond.

Mass is the Holy Sacrifice “…because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering….” (Catechism, 13221405, especially 1330)

My senses tell me that the unleavened bread and wine are still bread and wine. But Jesus is really there, in the Eucharist: physically present. (Catechism, 13241327, 1378)

“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’…”
“The Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life. ‘Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.’…”
(Catechism, 1324, 2177)

That’s why, like I said, Mass is a big deal.

So is acting as if what Jesus said matters.

It’s simple, and incredibly hard to do.

The Common Good

Hans Holbein's 'The Rich Man,' 'The Queen.'I should love my neighbor and see everyone as my neighbor. Everyone. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937)

I’m obliged to take care of my health, within reason. (Catechism, 22882289)

And I’m supposed to work for the common good. Which includes, but isn’t limited to, acting as if I value the life and health of my neighbors. (Catechism, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 22582317)

The COVID-19 pandemic and my circumstances give me limited options.

Folks with abilities and training I lack are developing vaccines. They’ll be wanting healthy volunteers for testing.6 That excludes me. I wouldn’t be overly-eager to volunteer in any case, and that’s almost another topic. (October 7, 2016)

I don’t have a problem with science, medicine, or testing new treatments.

Healing the sick and keeping folks healthy are good ideas. Provided that we respect each other. And don’t take crazy risks. (Catechism, 22922296)

Uncertainty

Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 illustration from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (January, 2020)We didn’t know about COVID-19 before December of 2019.

Within a month, scientists found the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and started learning how it spreads from human to human. That’s part of the good news.

Part of the bad news is that SARS-CoV-2 is something new. It almost certainly didn’t exist in its present form before 2019.

Nobody was immune when the pandemic started. Probably.

Folks who’ve had COVID-19 and recovered also developed immunity to the disease. But we don’t know how long they’ll stay immune. I’ll call that good news: not great, but good.

Social distancing / physical distancing: either way, keeping six feet apart helps slow down COVID-19.Another bit of good news is that we know how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads.

That’s why outfits like the CDC say we should wear face masks, avoid big crowds and wash our hands.

More accurately, we’re learning how this virus spreads.

We know that SARS-CoV-2 viruses can ride tiny droplets through the air. We’re not sure how far they can travel or how long they’ll last after landing on surfaces.

We also know that the viruses get into an infected person’s saliva and mucus. That makes touching someone who has COVID-19 risky. My guess is that we’ll see an uptick in obsessive hand-washing. Maybe it’s already happened.

The CDC has been telling us to keep six feet apart.

The Australian Government Department of Health says to “stay 1.5 metres apart.”

European authorities apparently figure two meters is the minimum safe distance.

And the British Medical Journal says two meters isn’t enough.7

All this uncertainty helped inspire pandemic-related conspiracy theories. likely enough. (March 31, 2020)

Weirdness and Worship

Etzel and Page Avenues, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1918: another case of the flu.
(From St. Louis Post Dispatch, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just like the Spanish Flu. Which started in Kansas — or maybe somewhere else — and killed upwards of 17,000,000 people. And folks didn’t respond to it exactly the same way in 1918 as we are responding to COVID-19 in 2020.

On the other hand, today’s responses aren’t all that different.

I see no evidence that human nature has changed in the last century. Or the last millennium. Or since long before cuneiform was the latest thing in information technology.

Torch-wielding mob from James Whale's 'Frankenstein.' (1931)Times change, human nature doesn’t, so we’ve got new and improved bogeymen.

Along with some tried and true phobias.

Back in 1918, at least one American newspaper said that the Spanish flu was from Germany.

Some folks figured it was in Bayer aspirin. Others blamed German agents at some east coast harbor. 1918 wasn’t a good time to have German ancestors and be living in America.

The last I checked, we still don’t know exactly how the COVID-19 pandemic started.

We’re a bit more certain about where it started spreading. That’s focused pandemic-related xenophobia on folks who look like they’re from east or southeast Asia.8

Ideally, nobody would blame their problems on strangers. Civic leaders would realize that churches aren’t a greater threat to public health than tattoo parlors. And priests wouldn’t use homilies to spread conspiracy theories.

We don’t live in an ideal world.

San Francisco’s Rules


(From Dennis Callahan / Archdiocese of San Francisco, via National Catholic Register, used w/o permission.)
(Following the rules in San Francisco. (August 22, 2020))

Justice Department Calls San Francisco Worship Restrictions ‘Draconian’
Catholic News Agency/National Catholic Register (September 28, 2020)

“…The DOJ on Sept. 25 sent a letter to Mayor London Breed, warning that the city’s rule allowing only ‘one worshipper’ in places of worship at a time regardless of their size — while allowing multiple patrons in other indoor establishments — is ‘draconian’ and ‘contrary to the Constitution and the nation’s best tradition of religious freedom.’
“San Francisco’s restrictions on public worship remain among the strictest in the country. Until Sept. 14, public worship in the city was restricted to 12 participants outdoors, with indoor services prohibited.
“As of Sept. 14, houses of worship are allowed to have 50 people at religious services outdoors, with indoor services still prohibited until at least Oct. 1….”

San Francisco’s ‘maximum occupancy not to exceed 1 persons’ rule for places of worship strikes me as unreasonably cautious.

It Could have been Worse

Indiana historic marker: eugenics law.The city’s government could have required residents to register their religious affiliation, if any — and mandated rehabilitation for those with unhealthy beliefs.

I don’t know how classifying religion as a public health issue would fit into San Francisco’s reputation for tolerance.

I also don’t know how self-styled American patriots of my youth squared their unyielding allegiance to freedom with their equally-unyielding insistence everyone agree with them.

Maybe noticing the difference between “free” and “free to agree with me” is easier for folks who aren’t solidly in control. Or maybe trying to quash dissent starts looking good when folks are losing control.

We’re still uncomfortably close to the days when mental and social hygiene enthusiasts were trying to purify America.

And that’s yet another topic. Topics. (July 4, 2019; November 19, 2017; July 4, 2017)

Seating Capacity

Archdiocese of San Francisco's cathedral.
(From Google Maps, used w/o permission.)
(Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, seen from San Francisco’s Geary Boulevard.)

“…San Francisco’s revised health order from Sept. 14 states that ‘[o]nly one individual member of the public may enter the house of worship at a time,’ with no reason given.
“The DOJ letter called on the mayor to treat places of worship equally with other venues where people share enclosed spaces, such as gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycares.
At those establishments, San Francisco city authorities already allow capacities of between 10 and 50 percent, depending on the type and provided that sanitary measures and 6-foot distancing is followed….”
(Catholic News Agency/National Catholic Register (September 28, 2020) [emphasis mine])

Putting the ‘one worshiper at a time’ rule into perspective, San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption seats 2,400.9 Someone standing in the sanctuary’s center would be more than a hundred feet from the nearest wall.

That’s well over the European two-meter social distancing guideline.

Maybe allowing 1,200 Catholics inside at a time would be too much. But limiting occupancy to one seems excessive.

Happily, San Francisco now puts worshipers on a par with restaurant patrons. In terms of seating, at any rate.

It’s a step in the right direction.

North Carolina in Cahoots with China?!

I am not making this up.

Archbishop Hebda: Minnesota Priest’s Coronavirus Homily ‘Inappropriate’
Catholic News Agency / National Catholic Register (September 23, 2020)

“…Fr. Altier preached September 6 a homily at St. Raphael Parish in Crystal, Minnesota, saying the COVID-19 coronavirus is a ‘man-made virus, whose work had begun at a lab in North Carolina, then they shipped it to China to finish the work, then it was released so that people would get sick.’
“‘All this is being done on purpose.’…
“…Fr. Altier was ordained a priest in 1989 and has served in various capacities in the Minneapolis archdiocese. A 2018 homily from the priest also went viral online, in which Fr. Altier said in his view the Theodore McCarrick crisis and similar incidents in the Church had been caused by the systemic infiltration of the priesthood by predatory ‘homsexual networks’ [sic] and by communist agents intent on harming the Church….”

I’ve talked about “the Theodore McCarrick crisis,” what makes sense, what doesn’t — and why obedience shouldn’t be blind. (February 17, 2019)

I have no idea why Fr. Altier said that COVID-19 is part of a joint North Carolina/China plot. Or how he got the idea.

New Lyrics, Old Song

'At the Sign of the UNHOLY THREE' cartoon, warning against fluoridated water, polio serum and mental hygiene. And 'communistic world government.' (1955)His ‘communist agents’ claim strikes me as oddly anachronistic.

From my viewpoint, anyway. I remember McCarthyism’s fading echoes.

But it fits his aversion to vaccines. And his perception that the COVID-19 pandemic is a conspiracy. Fr. Altier apparently …

“…said that only 9,200 people have died of the coronavirus pandemic, which is recorded to have killed more than 200,000 in the U.S., and that the virus was launched in order for unnamed figures to create propaganda networks and disinformation campaigns.
He said the goal of those campaigns is to achieve social control, by inducing people, out of fear, to receive a vaccine that is ‘designed to change the RNA in your body.’
Fr. Altier said he had told his elderly parents, ‘do not, under any circumstances allow them to put one of these vaccines in your body. The only way that I would allow it to happen to me is if they arrest me and hold me down and force it on me. There is no way.’
“‘It’s time we start to recognize that we are being lied to…. This is all engineered. This is all an agenda. And it’s pointing in a certain direction. So far, like the good sheeple that we are, we’ve all put on our masks and we’re all staying six feet apart, but there comes a part where we have to draw the line.’…”
(Catholic News Agency / National Catholic Register (September 23, 2020))

Vaccine aversion, agenda alarm and sheeple label notwithstanding, I’ll continue acting as if the COVID-19 pandemic is real. (June 12, 2020)

I’ll also continue acting as if ethics matter.

Sound, Fury and Making Sense

Grant Hamilton's cartoon about William Jennings Bryan's 'Cross of Gold' speech. (1896)Finding ardently-held opinions isn’t hard.

Some, like ‘politicians control us with COVID-19 fear’ and ‘anti-vaxxers threaten our future,’ contain a grain of truth. Along with truckloads of sound and fury.

I try to make sense. Which doesn’t make me a good sheeple or anti-vaxxer.

Again, from my viewpoint. I’ve been called a sheeple. Which I am, for folks like Fr. Altier, since I wear a face mask in public. (May 23, 2020)

Getting vaccinated against diseases strikes me as a good idea. Besides helping me, being inoculated keeps me from infecting others: which is supporting the common good. In a small way.

Make that vaccinated against diseases that are a reasonable threat. Wanting every vaccination and inoculation in our pharmacopoeia doesn’t make sense. Not to me.

Vaccinations are generally safe, but not 100% safe. Accepting an unlikely and minor risk to avoid a likely and major risk makes sense. Taking an unlikely risk to avoid a non-existent threat doesn’t.

For example, I’ve yet to hear of a case of Rift Valley fever in my area.10 Getting inoculated against Rift Valley fever wouldn’t make sense for me.

Flu season is coming, so I’ve had my flu shot.

COVID-19 has been infecting and occasionally killing folks here in central Minnesota, so I’d probably have had a COVID shot, too. If a vaccine was available.

Vaccines can be ethically dubious, for reasons that don’t involve communist agents.11 And don’t lend themselves to snappy slogans.

Fear Appeal: Communist Agents, Tiny Cows and More

James Gillray's 'The Cow-Pock—or—The Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!' (1802)
(From James Gillray, H. Humphrey, Anti-Vaccine Society; via Wikimedia Commons; used w/o permission.)

On the whole, I’d prefer living in a world where folks didn’t try striking fear into their followers by invoking communist agents rewriting the faithful’s RNA, or an inoculation producing tiny cows.

Whether and how well fear appeal marketing works is debatable, and debated. What’s more certain is that it’s been used to tout everything from deodorant and insurance to antifreeze and plastic surgery.12 And, extending the definition of “advertising” a bit, salvation.

Perceptions

Kumari figurine in a miniature chariot.I’m most familiar with American Christianity’s version of an angry god. (April 6, 2019)

But variations on an irritable Zeus aren’t uniquely American or Christian.

“for a man to infect a family in the morning with smallpox and to pray to God in the evening against the disease is blasphemy; that the smallpox is a judgment of God on the sins of people, and that to avert it is but to provoke him more; that inoculation is an encroachment on the prerogatives of Jehovah, whose right it is to wound and smite.
(Contemporary reaction to inoculation experiments by American physician Dr. Zabdiel Boylston (ca. 1720) via Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University)


“…’…If the gods are angry, we will land into more severe problems than coronavirus. I have a serious objection against the Nepali government’s control of religions, which bounds on the sinful as far as I am concerned.'”
(Kapil Bajracharya, an elder gurjus in Bungamati, regarding the Rato Machindranath Jatra (2020) via BBC News)

I could see cross-cultural instances of “the gods are angry” as evidence that religious leaders use fear to control their gullible followers.

Which may be true, sometimes.

I think it’s at least as likely that preachers, priests and others who warn against communist agents and divine anger are sincere. Misinformed, but sincere.

Having a distorted image of God doesn’t help. And isn’t limited to Christians. We’re all dealing with consequences of a really bad decision. (Catechism, 397401)

I also figure we’re not all that different from folks in Nepal.13 Some of us see communist agents and divine anger.

Obligations and Prudence

St. Paul Cathedral, Minnesota, in winter.Others see prudence in using our brains.

“…’We are yet to discuss with the government regarding the goddess’s presence at Taleju temple … I think there will be no crowds this time like in the past. But we cannot take risks by taking her there.’
“‘Some people fear that bad things may happen if we don’t worship properly,’ he adds. ‘But in my view, we should be realistic. We can organise festivals and rituals and preserve our culture for the future generation only if we survive.’…”
(Kapil Bajracharya, 11th generation Kumari caretaker (2020) via BBC News)


“In ordinary circumstances, Catholics are obliged to participate in Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation. This obligation is suspended in cases of moral or physical impossibility, and may also be dispensed for a just cause when it is for the spiritual good of the faithful. In addition, the Church also has the obligation to protect those who are most vulnerable and those who care for the sick.
“Due to the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19/coronavirus cases in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I determine it prudent to dispense all Catholics in the territory of this Archdiocese from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, until further notice….”
(Statement Regarding Dispensation from Sunday Mass Obligation, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda (March 12, 2020))

Complimenting an archbishop and a Kumari caretaker? Maybe I’d better explain.

I’m a Christian. I became a Catholic when I learned who holds the authority Jesus gave Peter. (September 22, 2018 )

As a Catholic I think that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” I’m also obliged to respect folks who seek truth, goodness and God. Including those who don’t know Jesus and Our Lord’s Church. (John 14:6; Catechism, 150152, 839848, 2614)


Crucifixes and the Eucharist

A crucifix on an open Bible (Matthew 6). From James Chan, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permissionCatholics, and some other Christians, have crucifixes on walls and altars.

We carry them in processions and wear them around our necks.

Crucifixes and crosses have been controversial for at least five centuries. Partly because some turbocharged zealots see them as idols.14

I’m a Catholic, so idolatry isn’t an option. Putting a figurine, money, fame, family or anything else where God belongs is a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. (Catechism, 21122114)

But I don’t have a problem with “truth, beauty and sacred art.” All of which can help me stay focused on “the transcendent mystery of God” (Catechism, 25002503)

Which gets me back to room 20’s crucifix-free walls and absent Eucharistic ministers.

The Eucharist is the Christian life’s high point. It’s a big deal.

And, as Archbishop Hebda said, our Mass obligations take reality into account.

Sometimes getting to mass is impossible. Sometimes it’s not a good idea.

Risking the health and lives of others during a pandemic, or any other time, is not a good idea.

I can see adding Eucharistic ministers to the folks already passing through CentraCare’s Sauk Centre hospital as a dubiously-necessary risk.

Breaks in Routine

Carl Emil Doepler the Elder's 'Fronleichnamsprozession/Corpus Christi procession.'This isn’t the first time the Church has experienced breaks in routine. We have procedures for dealing with ‘new normals,’ drawing on millennia of experience.

I’ve talked about spiritual communion before. (March 21, 2020; April 4, 2020)

I’d have preferred seeing a crucifix on room 20’s wall. Visible, physical things like that can make prayer and meditation easier.

But I don’t need to see a crucifix to remember that I’m a Christian and a Catholic, any more than I need a knotted cord to pray.

And nothing I see, or miss seeing, is going to keep me away from God’s love.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,
“nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:3839)

More, mostly about life and faith during this pandemic:


1 Staph, strep and all that:

2 Medical care, descriptions and discussions:

3 Antibiotics history:

4 Penicillin’s early years:

5 Learning about antibiotics and bacteria:

6 Developing a COVID-19 vaccine:

7 Still learning about COVID-19:

8 Spanish flu, COVID-19 pandemic and being human:

9 San Francisco’s cathedral:

10 Vaccines and common sense:

11 Human dignity and bioethics:

12 Using and/or exploiting fear:

13 Nepal and a festival:

14 Symbols, procedures and messages:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
This entry was posted in being a citizen, being Catholic, discursive detours, journal and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Back from the Hospital: The Masked Minnesotan Rides Again

  1. Good to see you back, Mr. Gill. And indeed, the only new thing about the general human struggle now is more or less the latest setting update. Fortunately, God’s always way better at things, keeping up with the times included. I think I’ll still need prayers for the sake of my ability to discern things right, among other things, though. I mean, if I have to take a side over issues here in human society, then I’d rather be on God’s side, whatever He wants it to be, not whatever we sinful humans think God wants it to be.

  2. Welcome back out of the hospital, again!

Thanks for taking time to comment!