The leap

A ¬†gentle reader in Massachusetts, in the habit of attending Mass frequently, comments that we are back in the 14th century: “A plague, two popes, and no Mass.” As a man of the 13th century, I have not caught up with events. In my own diocese, the Cardinal Archbishop has cancelled Sunday Masses, though retained Vespers and daily Masses, where attendance is much smaller. He was “advised” to do this by the politicians; and has therefore dispensed from our Sunday obligation.

Of course, priests may say the Mass privately — that is to say, without lay participants — on behalf of all the faithful. They can hear Confessions, and as we should know from St Thomas Aquinas and others, there is such a thing as spiritual communion. Consult e.g. Father Zed for instructions to “seriously bad-ass spiritual warriors.” It is not actually necessary to become lax. Moreover, taking communion, whether on tongue or hand, does not prevent coronavirus, even if you are superstitious. It could even increase the risk.

But the Catholic doctrine does not work on material assurances. We are still prey to infections, and other accidents. Whether the current infection will be as large and lethal as the media, government, and other enthusiasts publicize, we will see. I have mentioned I have no opinion on that, aside from my characteristic scepticism. But feeling sheepish after it goes away, in a few weeks, after a run on the groceries and stockmarkets — with only a fraction of the annual death toll from conventional flu viruses — would not be the worst that could happen. It has never been necessary to get covid-19, in order to die.

That there are many silver linings, goes without saying. Anything that reduces the vile commercialism of our “globalized” world will be an advantage. But we know it won’t last, and the cruise ships will fill again shortly, whoever happens to own them. A good scare will last slightly longer, but people have a long record of forgetting what they have just experienced, unless they have been through a spiritual awakening in the meantime.

Sometimes I think of a rather undisciplined dog, who escaping from his collar, stepped on the third rail of a railway track in England. He jumped up five feet in the air. Then he went on trotting as if nothing had happened. Dogs may have even shorter memories than moderns.

I had myself nearly forgotten about Sars, Swine Flu, &c. Or Ebola. Or Syphilis, &c. And let us not forget Cholera, Yellow Fever, Spanish Flu, Smallpox, Tuberculosis, Polio, &c. Or the Bubonic Plague, which still doesn’t have a vaccine. Should I survive — which is very likely — I may nearly forget about this, too, although the death rate can be quite high.

I am not telling anyone to avoid precautions, however — this side of the absurd. We have probably bought enough toilet paper now. Avoid Netflix, or it will rot your brain. And I gather we should not lick doorknobs.