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COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: Religious Conversations

Reassure one another that God is good and that he is with us

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Father David BonnarThis is just a paradoxical time. As a pastor, my chief responsibility is to unite God’s people around Jesus Christ. And yet, right now, people are being asked to scatter and isolate. It really is a tough time for any pastor to do what he is supposed to do.

The pandemic is even deeper than that, however. Every human being is feeling the challenge and isolation. For example, the other day I received a two-word text from my eldest sister, “Miss you.” I often spend an overnight at my sister’s house. We typically go out to dinner. I find the experience to be one that slows me down and recharges me to go back for another week of ministry. For the past two weeks, I have been unable to do that. Only God knows when we can see each other again. We are actually going to communicate with all the siblings through a free conference call.

One of my parochial vicars hasn’t been able to see his parents in a while. He is going home to do a driveway visit as he does not want to endanger his parents in any way. They are committed to maintaining a safe distance.

In the meantime, there is little for anyone to do. Many people have been left unemployed. Those who are still employed are working from home or with a reduced schedule. I wonder how people are filling the now empty space in their schedule. Due to the restrictions in place to contain this deadly virus, we know that there are no sports to watch or attend. Movie screens are dark. Malls are closed. Even spas and gyms are locked down.

When people do talk via phone, text, Skype or from a distance, what do you suppose they are talking about? No doubt there is much conversation about coronavirus. We watch the news and see the alerts on our phones pop up throughout the day.

What else are people talking about? We know they are not talking about the immediate future because it is all so uncertain. Every event in the foreseeable future has been canceled. It hurts too much to think about this stuff.

I wonder how many people are talking about God. With some of the downtime, I have been able to catch up on some reading. The March 16, 2020, America magazine made reference to a 2019 Gallup Survey that showed that as few as 4% of Americans had a religious conversation with family and friends about God. The magazine asked readers when was the last time they had a religious conversation and with whom it was with.

When was the last time you had a religious conversation with family and friends? A friend of mine shared with me that in a text the other day her sister asked, “Did God send this virus to punish sinners?” My friend immediately told her to read the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent about the man born blind. Jesus notes that neither the man nor his parents sinned. His state was so that God’s works could be seen through him.

Now is a good time for us to have those religious conversations. We need to reassure one another that God is good and that he is with us and will not leave us orphans.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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