Self-Isolation in the Family

COVID-19, the pandemic coronavirus disease, has come to my house. Maybe.

My son has been sick. Yesterday he had a telephone checkup. I don’t know what the official term is for a medical interview conducted via telephone.

He’s been told to self-isolate,1 which will cut into his work hours. He’s calling in sick. He asked me if I’d pick up meds for him, which gave me an excuse to leave the house today.

The pharmacy had those retractable belt stanchions, showing where folks should line up, before COVID-19 started. They’re still there, plus a line of yellow tape marking the ‘wait here’ border. And three yellow “Xs” spaced at six foot intervals, give or take a bit.

I was the only one who was in line when I arrived at the pharmacy. Otherwise I’d talk about folks following the rules and floor markings. Or flouting them.

Minnesota, Me and the Big Picture

(Maps and data from Minnesota Department of Health, used w/o permission.)
(COVID-19 spreading in Minnesota: March 13 through 26, 2020.)

My son hasn’t had a lab test done to see if what’s ailing him is the COVID-19 coronavirus. Neither have I or anyone else in the house. Or the majority of Minnesotans.

I gather that there are only so many test kits to go around. And that folks at the Minnesota Department of Health and their counterparts elsewhere are selective about who they test. Fair enough.

I’m curious about exactly what is making my son ill. But it probably wouldn’t change how we’re handling the illness. I suspect that we’ll all get through the COVID-19 pandemic without being tested. And without knowing for sure what was making us sick.

And I’d prefer that COVID-19 follows a “one per household” policy for this family. Or that it skips us entirely. Not that my preferences carry much weight in this case.

One reason I’m concerned, but not worried, about our health is that I’ve been keeping up with what the Minnesota Department of Health and others are learning.

There have, so far, been two known deaths from COVID-19 disease in Minnesota.

That’s two too many, but only two of 346 who have tested positive.

And only 41 of the 346 who tested positive needed hospitalization. That’s about 11.8 percent, fewer than one out of every eight. COVID-19 is a scary disease, but survivable.

Another reason for my attitude is that I’m learning to keep the big picture in view.

“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)

Somewhat-related posts:

1 From the Minnesota Department of Health:

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Staying In this Weekend

(My desk: clutter/knickknacks/curios and all.)

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t affect my weekly routine until last Tuesday. That’s when Bishop Kettler announced that public Masses in the diocese are suspended until April 13.

The St. Faustina Adoration chapel here in Sauk Centre closed the next day. The good news there is that our Perpetual Adoration schedule hasn’t changed.

The Eucharist was moved to St. Paul’s main sanctuary Wednesday evening. I’ll have a longer walk from the parking lot, but otherwise my weekly hour stays the same.

The Best We Can Do

(From Fr. Greg Paffel, used w/o permission.)
(Frame from Fr. Greg’s March 20, 2020, video message; recorded in St. Faustina’s Chapel of Divine Mercy.)

More good news — the local parishes are setting up an online video Mass.

It’s not a complete substitute for being there.

But I figure it’s the best we can do under the circumstances.

As Bishop Kettler said, part of our mandate is protecting human life and serving the common good. We do both by slowing the spread of a potentially-lethal disease.1

Still more good news — the Church has procedures for folks who don’t have access to sacraments: including the Eucharist, the Most Holy Sacrament.

That includes quite a few acts of spiritual communion, including this one —

“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things and I desire to receive you in my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally,
Come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there
And unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you.
(Acts of Spiritual Communion, Archdiocese of New York (March 16, 2020))

The Eucharist and Choices

One of these days I’ll talk about what sacraments are and why they’re important.

But today I’ll stick to the basics.

The Church has seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Marriage. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1210)

The Eucharist is a big deal because it’s a memorial of our Lord’s messy death and Resurrection. And it’s more than just a memorial. Our Lord is there, really, physically, at each Mass.2 (Catechism, 13221405)

I don’t know how the Eucharist works. None of us do. That’s God-level knowledge. I’d like to have the technical details, but God’s God, I’m not. I’ll settle for accepting the miracle.

What’s surprising, maybe, is how many Catholics aren’t upset by what the Eucharist is. Maybe two millennia have inured us to the gruesome reality. As an adult convert, I may be more aware of eating my Lord’s flesh. Or maybe not.

Besides, like Peter said: ‘it’s not like we have a choice.’

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
“Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
“We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.'”
(John 6:54, John 6:6769)

I do, actually. I could say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to our Lord and walk away. But that would be a very bad idea.

Doing What I Can

Saint Paul's Catholic church, Sauk Centre, November 13, 2009.As I’ve said before, I’m not happy about what’s happening.

I don’t like Mass being suspended, and I don’t enjoy experiencing a pandemic as it sweeps over my part of the world.

But I don’t have to like what’s happening.

So I’ll do what I can: pray, pay attention as circumstances change, and remember what Paul said.

“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.”
(Philppians 1:21)

I hope it doesn’t come to that.

Recent posts:

1 Mass suspended:

2 More about Mass and missing Mass (not an exhaustive link list):

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Mass Suspended: COVID-19 and the Common Good

Catholic churches in the St. Cloud diocese aren’t shutting down.

Pastoral care will continue.

But today our bishop announced that public Masses won’t happen in the diocese until after April 13:

Bishop Kettler: Public Masses in diocese suspended through April 13
Bishop Kettler’s Column, The Central Minnesota Catholic (March 17, 2020)

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“After much prayer and consultation with members of my staff, and in light of the latest recommendations from state and federal health authorities for slowing the rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and protecting the people of our communities, I have made the difficult decision to suspend all public weekday and weekend Masses in the Diocese of Saint Cloud, effective immediately through Easter Monday, April 13. All Catholics in the diocese remain dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass during this time….

“…While the threat in your community may not be readily visible, it is very real. I believe these steps are necessary during this national emergency to protect human life and uphold the common good — two foundational principles of Catholic social teaching. While it may seem counterintuitive, we stay in solidarity with one another at this time by staying apart.

“This outbreak has caused much fear and anxiety, and I share those same feelings. I haven’t experienced anything like this in my 50 years of priesthood. But we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus never leaves our side. He offers us the grace we need to make our way through this present challenge. ‘Take courage,’ he reminds us. ‘It is I; do not be afraid’ (Matthew 14:27)….”

I’m not happy about this, but think it’s a good idea.

Mass is the heart of Catholic worship. And we’re expected to protect human life and uphold the common good. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 25582300)

Bishop Kettler included a link to Diocesan TV Mass. It’s not a substitute for being there, but will give me opportunities to participate. Virtually.

One more thing. There’s a prayer at the end of the bishop’s column. No pressure, but prayer seems like a good idea.

And the inevitable links to allegedly-related posts:

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Changing My Daily Prayers

I read David Torkington’s “The Resolution to end all Resolutions” and started a new prayer routine three years ago.

My starting point was Lauds and Vespers from Liturgy of the hours. Don’t be too impressed. Lauds was recognizable after my adaptation. But I reduce Vespers to something I could reliably remember, late in the day.

Morning and Evening, Memorizing and Me

When I started, my morning and evening routines totaled 520 words, including the Lord’s Prayer in both.

I made a printed copy of both sets, and still use the ‘morning’ copy. The ‘evening’ copy, not so much.

Like I said, I reduced that set to something I could reliably remember. Which isn’t much, late in the day, when I’m well past peak mental performance.

I’ve idly speculated that there may be blooper tape analogs in the heavenly realms, recording my prayerful efforts on the borderlands of sleep. And that’s another topic.

Ideally, maybe, I’d have had morning and evening prayers memorized before I began. And recited all 520 words flawlessly each and every day for the last three years.

That didn’t happen.

Bitterly berating myself for memorizing what I can and reading the rest is an option. But not, I think, a reasonable one. I might as well wail and gnash my teeth because I haven’t memorized Sacred Scripture. All 73 books.1 And that’s yet another topic. Topics.

What Prayer Should Be

Backing up a bit, should I be praying at all?

Briefly, yes. Emphatically, yes. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 25662567))

And what is prayer, for that matter?

Prayer is — should be — “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God.” (Catechism, 2258)

Speaking of which, I’ve heard and read that each of us should have a “personal” relationship with God.

I think I know what folks who say and write that mean. But the exhortation makes little sense to me, until I remember what’s meant.

The way I see it, I’m a person. God is three persons. A “personal” relationship strikes me as the only sort we could have. Getting back to prayer —

More About Prayer

Prayer is a gift from God, a covenant and communion. (Catechism, 25592565)

We’ve got five sorts of prayer: blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. (Catechism, 26232643)

I’ve felt, and feel, a bit awkward “blessing” God. Remembering that I’m reflecting blessings that come from the Almighty helps. (Catechism, 2626)

Should prayers be spontaneous or routine?


Routine, scheduled prayer is a good idea. Spontaneous prayer is a good idea. Praying only when I feel like it, not so much. (Catechism, 2629, 2650, 2698)

Prayers aren’t just reciting phrases and performing predetermined gestures. Believing that prayer works if I go through the motions, doing a strictly external performance, would be dropping into superstition. And a bad idea. (Catechism, 2111)

Thinking about what a prayer’s words mean is important. (Catechism, 2688)

Prayer is a gift of grace. It’s something I can’t do unless I decide it’s worth the effort. (Catechism, 2725)

Prayer is a battle against attitudes I’ve learned from “this present world,” pitfalls dug when time did not yet exist; and against my own shortcomings. (Catechism, 391395, 27252728)

That sounds, and is, very far from easy.

Happily, there’s help available: drawing from two millennia of Christian experience, built on a much deeper foundation. (Catechism, 26852690)

Prayer is always possible. Even when it’s not easy. That’s a good thing, since trying to be a Christian without prayer won’t work. Prayer makes sharing the love Jesus has for each of us — all of us, everyone — possible. (Catechism, 27422745)

Spending Time

I checked off ‘fifteen minutes of daily prayer’ on a ‘what I’ll do this year’ form distributed at a Mass before Lent.

I thought I was already doing that. My morning prayers, plus a varying set of intentions, felt like at least fifteen minutes.

I was wrong.

Checking the clock before and after told me that I was putting in five minutes. If that.

My short-term solution was to add a Divine Mercy Chaplet to my evening prayers.

That was an interesting experience. And, if my ‘blooper tape’ speculation reflects reality, added a reel or two to the collection.

When Lent started, I started my usual Lenten Chaplet and moved the Divine Mercy Chaplet to morning prayers.

My morning prayers now take nearly 20 minutes. Not that protracted prayer is better than momentary meditation or concise contemplation.

But I figure that spending time praying, focusing on God, is a good idea. And that it can’t hurt to take maybe 20 minutes each day doing so.

The Lenten Chaplet will be over when Lent is. That will leave me a few minutes shy of my target again. My plan is replacing it with the Rosary.

Mostly Links

I’d talk about prayer and COVID-19, but Deacon Scott Dodge did that yesterday:

I thought he made sense.

I thought I made sense in these posts, too. Your experience may vary:

1 Sacred Scripture’s books:

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