Although not in the universal calendar, today is the memorial of Saint Catherine Labouré , the visionary of the Miraculous Medal, mentioned yesterday. Besides Our Lady appearing to her, with the mission to have the medal forged – which proved spectacularly successful, with millions donning the sacramental – Sister Catherine lived a hidden life in her convent of the Visitation Sisters in Paris, quietly and devoutly caring for the elderly for over four decades after the visions, until her death on this day in 1876, her body still lying incorrupt in the convent chapel at Rue du Bac, where the Virgin Mother appeared to her, and where the saint prayed all those years, in silence.
Hence, Saint Catherine provides quite an a propos patron for our day, wherein so many of the old, the infirm, the single and solitary, find these days of lockdown and isolation well-nigh unbearable.
I say ‘well nigh’, for God always provides the grace to endure what suffering He sends, admittedly an easy thing to write from a place of relative comfort.
Which is why I find the recent decrees of the Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, so odd and off-putting, to put things mildly. He claims the province is not in lockdown, but has just promulgated a law forbidding anyone to have any guests at their home, with the ironically titled ‘peace officers’ – who will be bringing anything but peace – issuing fines ranging from $10,000, all the way to $100,000 for ‘serious offences’- left ominously ambiguous. How many families can pay back six figures?
I find his law a ‘serious offence’, and, prescinding from all the medical debates, charge the Premier with violating the inviolable sanctuary of the home. How is this going to be enforced? With neighbour snitching on neighbour, or, worse, relatives on each other? Will police do roving checks or road blocks – as is already happening – to see whither you go and whence you come? Infra-red scanners and SWAT teams? Is forming a totalitarian police state – with officers invading the very living and bed rooms of the nation – and financially, psychologically, and spiritually crushing families, worth the debatable lowering the risk and spread of Covid? The burdens of these lockdowns fall most heavily upon the elderly and the infirm. To what extent is this all worth it, and even beneficial?
I sympathize, that Premier Kenney is in a tight spot, with advice from medical personnel that this is the plague to end all plagues – which it does not seem to be, and one wonders what they will do if such a thing comes along.
More to the point, this would all be easier to bear if there were some clear goal in mind. We could lockdown for six weeks, six months, six years, and the virus is still going to be there – waiting patiently. As far as this writer knows, the only way to get past a pestilence is an infallible vaccine – which will never exist, for viruses mutate, and Covid-19 will become, like a tired re-run, Covid-22. And are they going to force everyone to take a vaccine, rushed into service before even being tested on animals?
Or, as has happened any number of times in history, we achieve eventual natural immunity. The situation we’re in now, is going to be the same in 2021, and 2025. So it seems prudent to adapt to it, protect the vulnerable, as we might, but allow us all to live life, which eventually must go on.
I had hoped that Jason Kenney, a fellow Catholic, and someone whom I have met in my travels through life, might see things from a more supernatural perspective, that, in the principle of double effect, there are worse things than threats from a virus, and that, as Pope John Paul II states in Evangelium Vitae, even this life is only a penultimate good – our ultimate end is in heaven, and we must maintain the means to attain that supernatural goal – hope, charity, friendship, community and, most of all, access to the sacraments and the Holy Eucharist, even if they entail some degree of ‘risk’.
After all, God sends us plagues and pestilences, and a host of other sufferings, which we will not be able to avoid; but they are all for our greater good, not only so we may learn that this life and its many goods are not all there ‘is’, but that to enter eternal life, we all must eventually pass through that dark door of suffering and death, with the hope that, in the end, as Blessed Julian of Norwich optimistically said, ‘all manners of things shall be well’.
And well they shall be.