The Word of God

The New COVID Catacombs


“Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.'”

Shhhhhh!

Can you keep a secret?

I’m practicing my faith!   

Every day and week that passes from the apex and summit of the COVID-19 pandemic in which we found ourselves immersed and almost overwhelmed at times, we discover that there are more and more insights and reflections to be had and digested. While there is always a risk of alienating and even angering some of any given position on the spectrum of opinions about the whole matter, we should still be confident enough to express our thoughts and ideas, especially in a forum such as this. So here we go.

Although it may not be apparent or obvious to some, there does seem to be a level of inequality, or at least disparity, about how the pandemic has shut some aspects of our lives, and compartmentalized them in an unusual fashion, which has caused even more to question what the motivation was or the rationale behind such moves. Here we are talking about the closure, even the prolonged cessation of places of worship, no matter what the alliance or persuasion. While many other types of businesses were allowed to remain open with some similar amounts of clientele and consumers, churches were somehow held to a different and questionable standard. To help better situate our position, let’s take a look at two interesting comments that reveal a certain analysis and narrative about the subject at hand. In two very different parts of the country, the following kinds of conversations took place. The first one had to do with the lack of outrage or disappointment with the inability to worship and be with others at prayer. 

Friend 1: “A couple of us are trying to get together for prayer.”

Friend 2: “Oh no way! It’s too dangerous.”

Friend 1: “You don’t want to join us?”

Friend 2: “Absolutely not, and you better think twice!”

Friend 1: “Aren’t you still going to the packed grocery store?”

Friend 2: “I gotta eat!” 

Then there is this official announcement about the partial reopening of some churches in another part of the country that caused many to remain scratching their heads and the sheer puzzlement of it all: “All citizens are cautioned about engaging in any religious ceremonies over the weekend. A list of worship locations has been posted but please note there will be no reciting of prayers or other communal group activities such as singing.” 

No one is or should be disputing the great care one must take in the wake of any spread of infectious diseases. There is clearly no discussion about the proper care we must take to safeguard life for the safety of individuals and for society at-large. The problem is that it has not been consistent. It is almost as if a certain segment of the population was singled out for a more rigid, even draconian approach to safety for the sake of all.

In an analogous way, the same could be said of the rationale used by several Roman emperors and other authorities in our human history. Praying and gathering in prayer was seen as dangerous to the welfare of the larger mass of people. Not for the disease aspect but because it represented a detachment from the control and management of the powerful and wealthy. This could, and might, explain the rich phenomenon of the catacombs, still venerated in Rome, reminding the world of the extent that those who believed would go to gather and worship and be with their God, yes, even in community, even though it was in secret, (and also with the threat of discovery and certain death). Thank God Almighty that we do not have to, nor will we even attempt this part of the discussion. Let others do that. And believe me, they are already fully engaged. Our focus is quite different. While we have not real control over the outcome of any of this, we do have a tremendous amount of responsibility as to the process. How else to say that? What are we to do? 

“Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.”

First and foremost, we cannot forget who we are and whom we worship. The Lord God has done everything for us and has continually shown us His great love for each and every one of us. Every good gift comes from His hand, especially the many healings that have taken place during this awfully frightening time. 

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.”

Perspective, dear, perspective. Here is a difficult point to convey: at the end of all our worlds, we are all going to die of something. How do you want to die? In fear? In cowardly, relinquishing everything that you hold dear and important? What will it take for us to surrender our very character and identity? Before we allow this piece to be detoured by a tangent of rights and demands, first think about the place of faith and the Word of God. If, for whatever reason, we were kept from practicing our faith in public, what kept us from practicing and praying in private? This is similar to the classic response of those who say that they do not need to go to church to worship God because they can do that at home, or even in their backyard. But does that even happen? 

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

Now that life seems to be inching back to normal, the traditional gathering places such as grocery stores, hardware, and DIY locales, restaurants, beaches, and parks are beginning to fill up once again in huge and record numbers. However, the same is not true with places of worship. It seems that many are still in the catacombs as a result of the fear and dictates of those around them. And the realistic fear on the part of some church leaders is that this will become the norm even as the same folks are marching forward to other places in droves as if nothing ever happened. 

“This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  

One more migration must take place, and all this is quite Biblical both in meaning and in proportion: from the catacomb to the Upper Room. When we mention the Upper Room, we are referring to that place which was first mentioned in 1 Chronicles when King David gave his son Solomon the plans for the temple which contained a unique place of quiet and prayer. It was more than just that, really. It was a place where the expectation was clear and definite to have an intimate moment with God and allow that time to feed and instruct and empower the Christian for the road and the life ahead. Of course, the most famous and critical important location is where the Apostle stayed when they were in Jerusalem. This is the place where the Last Supper took place and amidst that moment there included the quintessential act of loving service where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It is also the same room where Jesus appeared, both before and after the Resurrection, at which point He made his wounds visible and accessible to be seen and touched. This was also the place of Pentecost and the birth of the Church as we know it. 

So instead of hiding and staying away from others who love the Lord Jesus, this has become a time to move from the catacombs-way-of-living to the Upper Room-way-of-acting. This time must be a complete renewal of each one of us to create and develop those intimate moments and those special times and places with Jesus and then, as His Mother told us, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) The implications of all of this are simply remarkable. What we are suggesting is an entirely new structuring of one’s day. This would necessarily begin with a complete and honest assessment of how we are currently spending our days. How much time are we actually quiet and by quiet we mean unattached from social media and other devices that fill our hearts and minds with such mental dribble that we are exhausted even though we’ve never left the sofa. It means declaring to ourselves the desire to be patient and wait upon the Lord to respond in His good time when it is fitting and right. That will be difficult but not impossible. It will mean that we become accountable to each other in the settings in which we find our lives. For some, this could be family members. For others, close friends and still for others, a kind of community where truth and honesty have the chance to grow into something worthwhile and life-changing. Sounds like the early Church, doesn’t it? 

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

If anything deep and meaningful will surface because of what we are experiencing with viral diseases and this modern-day pestilence, it must reconfigure our ideals about life and what we want to do with them. What is clear is that something has to change before the next crisis. Life is to be lived fully and with a gaze toward our place in Heaven. Just think about it. What will any of this matter if we gain the whole world and lose eternal happiness? And it must start with me. What have I done during this time and what would I have done differently? What do I want to teach my children and express to those closest to me? These are great questions that beg for real answers. Social distancing created a needed distance from the world and a closeness to the world of faith. This is where Jesus lives. I desperately want to live there also.

“The need of the immaterial is the most deeply rooted of all needs. One must have bread; but before bread, one must have the ideal.”  Victor Hugo

Share your thoughts (12 thoughts)

12 thoughts on “The New COVID Catacombs”

  • Mary Ann Ramos says:

    Thank you for your beautifully inspiring article! So very needed at this time. In the last 3 months, we drift from one horrible story to the next while simultaneously not being able to attend Mass nor to receive Our Lord’s Precious Body and Blood. These times can lead to ambivalence. A lukewarm relationship with our Lord is devastating. These times have lead to a reawakening for me. Praise God!

    Listening to Relevant Radio, praying the Rosary daily, reading my Bible and taking an online apologetics class with friends have all been so helpful. We can inspire and bring peace by sharing these things with with family and friends.

    Your hopeful article reminds us of the miracles and blessings God is constantly bestowing upon us. Thank you!

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back, Mary Ann! It is always great hearing from you, especially on this timely topic. I had never considered the concept of ambivalence but you have certainly struck the nail on its head. I think the most stellar phrase from your post was: “a lukewarm relationship with our Lord is devastating.” Indeed it is, Mary Ann, indeed it is! Let us pray together and with all those who seek that eye-opening, heart-beating relationship with Jesus most specifically in the Eucharist, for a quick and safe end to the madness. Then, we shall see your face, O God!

  • Denise Guerra says:

    This piece is very well written and conveys the life we are all living as we speak. I must say for all the fear that this virus invoked in people at the beginning, it seems now that nothing ever happened. The virus is still raging in some parts of the country but people are acting as if it is all over. You see people everywhere, except our churches. Those that are not afraid to venture into a shopping mall are quite nervous about being in church. To me, the church is the place where we should be, thanking our almighty Father for his protection and asking for healing for those afflicted. Maybe people aren’t making it into the churches because they haven’t been the faithful servants they needed to be at home. Maybe they are like Adam and Eve, hiding from God because they knew they weren’t faithful and are embarrassed to admit it. I, for one, couldn’t wait to go back into the church.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so much again, Denise! Your comments are often echoed by many with the deep hope to return to the Eucharist. Our hope was simply to shine attention on the apparent disparity when it comes to Faith and Religion in our society. We always appreciate your response. I loved the comparison with Adam and Eve. Gold Star!

  • Brother Peter Picciolini says:

    Thank you once again for your wise words and clarity. I have not thought of the correlation between recent events and the story of Moses however I can assure you that I personally have never left the upper room. I do often feel that I have abandoned in the upper room by the Apostolates. I feel like much of the problems is a result if a lack of Supernatural grace from the Bishops. Let us continue to pray for them and pray for the believe mrs to return and hope that this event was not the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
    It wasn’t just the church closings, not receiving the Eucharist and the other things, as much as it was all those people that died alone in the hospital with no family or priest. That’s what has a bolder in the pit of my stomach.

    • Caro says:

      Some of the more stunning comparisons that were highlighted between the Moses chronicles and the current situation is that after all the Lord had done for His people, freeing them from the tyrants of the desert and a life of shame and slavery, they still grumbled, complained and forgot not only who they were but who He is, the Great I AM. Perhaps this latest crisis or series of crises will purge the lame and weak-hearted from leadership from which we need solid, brave, and courageous voices. Thank you so very much for your comments, Brother, and please keep praying for all of us here at CityOfAgape Charitable Foundation and all those who continue to receive Bibles to strengthen their hearts and souls for the months and years to come.

  • Isabel Jauregui says:

    This is a wonderful article. It has given me that extra jolt I needed. I have been struggling to make sense out of a situation that just didn’t sit well with my soul. However, I obeyed. I stayed home and I learned a lot about my myself and my faith. I was diagnosed with lung disease Dec 5, 2018. Everyone around me, including my doctors exhorted me to stay inside. My doctors even wrote a letter for me to submit to my priest recommending I work from home. I am the director of religious education at my church. I have been extremely conflicted over the shelter at home and cancelled masses but I obeyed my family and doctors. My Lord stayed with me, guiding me, teaching me but I remained conflicted. These words have capped my fear and I’m am coming out of the catacombs! Thank you for this gift!
    Isabel Jauregui
    St Theresa, San Benito TX

    • Caro says:

      Isabel, your words have touched us in ways that we would never have imagined. The Lord has always had an amazing way of arranging and re-arranging the order of things and bring amazing results if we just listened and watched carefully. CityOfAgape arranges Holy Mass to be celebrated for all our readers and Bible recipients on Sunday mornings so please assured that we will be praying for you by name. God bless you for your kind and inspiring words.

  • Kris Bauta says:

    Brilliantly written with a great and deep evaluation of our time overpowered by the fear of a virus. How should Christians of today live like ? Afraid, intimidated? isolated? manipulated?,controlled?, enslaved?
    Is that a living or just pitiful existing?
    Thank you for reminding us where the fear was replaced with courage-Upper Room. But how to get in the Upper Rooms of our parishes, when “apostles“ of our times locked them up and placed the seal over like enemies of Christ did with his tomb? Shame that they crossed the divide line and went over to join those who plotted, colluded, fabricated, falsified, bribed, lied just to hold their power. I want to believe that today’s Christians will remain faithful to Christ. The aged will remain (“where can we go ? You have the words of everlasting life.”) but young will leave disappointed and disgusted with disgraced and filthy shepherds.

    • Caro says:

      Many have written recently and not so recently that the recent pandemic and the accompanying paralyzing panic did not create the current problems but rather they revealed them to such a moment that the cowardly scrambled so quickly looking for anyone and anything else to blame in order to effortlessly shift attention away from the real causes of the ills of society. Thank you for helping us see things in a more clear and functionally dynamic. We must remain strong!

  • Patty Lichtenberger says:

    This is wonderful. It makes me feel so much better as our beautiful city and churches open back up. Thank you for this. I love the part “I gotta eat!” Makes you really think…

    • Caro says:

      Patty, thank you for your comments and for the hope which you expressed to all of us. I actually heard “I gotta eat” from a person who surprised me with the obvious, blatant lack of gratitude for the gift of Heaven. We must avoid being hardened or jaded especially at this time. God bless you always!

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