Devastating news hit netizens with the online New York Post headline on April 27, 2020 which read, “Top Manhattan ER doc commits suicide, shaken by coronavirus onslaught.” The article showed how several health workers felt overwhelmed by the death toll of their patients to the brink of despair. Government, civil, Church and medical leaders not only sought to end the pandemic, but also grappled for methods to restore normalcy and balance spiritually, mentally, physiologically, etc.
Even as this crisis has been a life-and-death situation for the whole world, we continue to confront other issues such as the peace and order situation in parts of the Philippines, family wellness including marital relationships, dignity of women, care for children, for the elderly, and for the underprivileged.
How could we, as a Church, enter into these realities and bring concrete manifestations of hope? For example, in the area of the long battle between natural family planning and contraception, the Church has been hugely criticized. Many have questioned the credibility of celibates to talk about the actual practice of responsible family planning when they are not married in the first place. We have come to realize that it is very important to impart in ways that involve the testimonies of married couples, that what the Church teaches is indeed life-giving.
In the Covid-19 pandemic, the Church’s cooperation regarding the suspension of the physical accessibility of Masses to the public was a witnessing of Her sensitivity to the times. Pope Francis, on the evening of March 27, 2020, walked alone on St. Peter’s Square to deliver his message of God’s compassion to the world amid the pandemic and to give the special blessing of the Urbi et Orbi.
As some frontliners themselves were experiencing vicarious trauma, communities of the Faithful organized psychological first aid endeavors, with the recognition that those directly tasked to address Covid-19 in medical centers needed all the support they could get to stay strong and inspired to serve.
Online Masses became the “new normal” and even older priests were pushed to adapt to these, and to seek the help of younger ones familiar with Facebook live and Zoom. In all these realities, how do we communicate hope, respect for, preservation of, and fullness of life? Pope Francis on that night of March 27 reminded us, “Like the disciples, we will experience that with Him on board, there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God, life never dies.”