“…the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear…” The disciples were afraid they were going to suffer like the Master Himself had suffered, so they locked themselves away, petrified. Then miraculously, Christ stands among them, reassuring them with the breath of the Holy Spirit that He is truly risen, truly alive.
In the present lockdown, we must avoid retreating into ourselves, shutting ourselves off from everything except our own fears. We have to work hard at keeping our soul open; open, generous, and not angry. A good way of keeping our soul open to the Lord, and to our neighbour, is to pray regularly and in detail for others and their needs. Prayer is never wasted, and praying for the myriad needs of God’s people will help prevent our prayer-life from becoming too self-centred.
In addition to prayer, we can also use the time to deepen our knowledge of the faith. In that connexion I would like to recommend three excellent books on the faith, three books that you can really trust. They contain no half-truths. No deliberate ambiguities. No lies.
First, The Catechism of the Council of Trent. This magnificent summary of the faith is a triumph of unambiguous clarity, and has not been tampered with. An admirable adjunct is the excellent Baltimore Catechism, which nourished so many young minds, until the madness of the 1960s irrupted. Third, Dr Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. This invaluable book sets out the fullness of authentic Catholic doctrine, with a wealth of authoritative references. These three titles will not short-change you. The Council of Trent’s Catechism and the Baltimore Catechism can be downloaded free from the internet. They are wonderful resources to have on your phone or on your kindle. Reading them would be a good use of any extra time you might have during our present lockdown.
Here is something we simply must face up to. Whether we like it or not, Almighty God is permitting our present plague and our present lockdown. The Almighty does nothing by accident, nor as an afterthought. More and more people, clergy and laity, are starting to think they can see how some of the dots might join up.
Before the medical pandemic emerged from China, many elements of the Church around the world were already seriously sick. Sick; theologically, spiritually, and morally. In various ways many of the faithful were being led into error. Some who were better informed knew this, but they chose to remain silent, at least in public. In private, many, many clergy admitted the sickness, and lamented it. But only a microfraction were loyal enough to speak up and tell the truth in public; the truth about the ever deepening confusion around Catholic faith and morals, the steadily growing incursion of non-Christian ideologies and agendas, and of course, the staggering financial corruption in many parts of the universal Church.
In the midst of such abusive disorder, hundreds of thousands of the faithful were on our knees every day, begging the Lord for something to happen, to break-up the log-jam. And now, something has happened. Something most unexpected. And of course what has happened is not only about us, the beleaguered disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. But it does seem to be at least partly about us. And it’s not over. Some of us believe that what we are now living through might be only the first episode of a longer series, a longer and more extensive spiritual cleansing. I do not of course mean a cleansing by the tragic loss of human life. We must always do everything we possibly can to save lives. I mean this: deprivations such as the temporary closure of our churches might be the early sign of a more far-reaching ecclesial purification yet to come. God knows how much it’s needed.
The Biblical history of Israel in Egypt comes to mind, especially the Israelites’ liberation from idolatry and slavery. How many plagues did it take? How many plagues did it take before the tyrannical Pharaoh Ramases and his princes actually started to listen? More than one plague, the Bible tells us. Ten in fact. But even then, the tyrant and his apparatchiks refused to learn from the signs, and reverted to indulging their taste for oppression, and their reluctance to part with the gold. Their hardness of heart led to their total destruction. As scripture tells us, in the book of Exodus: “The Lord is a man of war, Almighty his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his hosts hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drownèd, even in the Red Sea.”
Praised be the Lord, that He led His people out of bondage and away from pagan idols. The People of God survived, although as a faithful remnant. As our Catholic future unfolds, I’m sure the phrase faithful remnant will become more and more of a reality, within the increasingly persecuted and steadily diminishing flock of our Lord Jesus Christ.