PITTSBURGH — As the coronavirus touches everyone’s life “with uncertainty, confusion, fear and suffering,” Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik urged Catholics to “to reflect on a hope-filled definition of the word ‘corona’ from the perspective of our faith.”
This is “truly,” he said, “The Other Side of Corona,” the title of a pastoral letter dated March 20 addressing the pandemic.
“For us Catholics, the word ‘corona’ traditionally means the crown of Mary, who is praying for us always,” Bishop Zubik said. “Corona is a sign that God is with us through everything we experience in life, wherever we are, whatever we do, whoever we are! We are never alone. We have an everlasting hope.”
“Every time we think of this virus — as we must do in order to protect others and ourselves — the name corona can call you and me to prayer,” he said.
Because “God works in all things to draw us closer to him,” this crisis is a time when “God deeply desires to be closer to us,” the bishop said. “But He will never force himself on us. We need to respond.”
Everyone is being affected dramatically right now by the pandemic, he noted, from business and school closures to the loss of jobs to the suspension of public Masses to lockdowns in various communities, but this is “an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus.”
Whether or not one is personally suffering from it, the disease “is affecting all of us — locally, nationally, globally,” Bishop Zubik said. “And therein lies the need for us to come closer to God, to respond to his need to be with us more closely. Our response is to pray and to pray most fervently.”
He included a prayer in his pastoral:
“We pray: that God may protect us from a spread of the virus; that God may extend his love and care for others through us; that God may heal those who are ill; that God may guide our leaders through this pandemic; that God may be in the hearts of the medical professionals; that God may enlighten the researchers who are searching for a vaccine to work against the virus; that God may comfort all of us whose lives are disrupted in the path of the virus; that God may welcome into his embrace those who have died in the wake of the pandemic.”
Bishop Zubik went on to talk about the word “corona” and how it is an invitation to think of prayer to Mary, especially by praying the rosary.
“An early name for the rosary — still used in many parts of the world — is ‘Corona del Rosario’ or ‘Crown of the Rosary,'” he said. “Although prayer beads are an even older tradition, our rosary stems from the devotion of a young man in the Middle Ages who wove crowns of roses to place on a statue of Our Lady.
“When he entered a religious community, he was distressed to learn that his duties would prevent him from making the crowns. The Blessed Mother then appeared and told him that his Hail Marys were her crown of roses, her ‘Corona del Rosario.'”
This way of praying became so popular Catholic prayer beads became known as “rosaries,” and over time the Catholic Church has added more mysteries and prayers.
“This account of the corona shows us the path to grow deeper in our faith, even though current health measures to combat the coronavirus prevent us from gathering for Mass,” he said, adding that it broke his heart to have to suspend public Masses.
But “as long as conditions allow, I have asked our priests to keep our buildings open” so that people can visit “in their own time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and our Blessed Mother,” Bishop Zubik said.
“I have also encouraged our priests to set aside times for eucharistic adoration, perhaps even daily. And while our priests will continue to celebrate Masses without the public, we can still receive the presence of Christ daily in spiritual Communion,” he said.
“As painful as it is to be deprived of the Mass, we are followers of the Great Physician who would never want us to risk making others seriously ill,” he added. ” Our Catholic faith is more than what we believe; it’s how we put our belief into action with our words, deeds and interactions for the glory of God and out of Christ-like service to each other.
“This is a time when we are called to love God and our neighbor, drawing closer to Jesus, doing all that we can to ease the hardships of those around us.”