Sts. Corona, Fidelis and Barnabas. Public domain

COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: Notable Saints of This Pandemic

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What’s in a name? I think many of us have heard interesting stories about how our parents named us. Perhaps the name was bestowed in honor or memory of a saint, a loved one or a friend. My older brother was named after my dad, and my younger brother was named in memory of our maternal grandfather. His middle name is that grandfather’s last name. We never met grandpap Harry, as he died when my mom was in seventh grade.

Hurricanes follow a certain protocol for naming. When we find ourselves in the middle of the alphabet for the first letter of the name, we know it has been an active hurricane season.

What about diseases? How did the coronavirus derive its name? I did a little research and discovered first that this is a common question. I also learned that the answer is very simple. It seems that under the microscope each virion (the infective form of a virus outside a host cell) is surrounded by a “corona,” or halo. How can something so deadly be associated with a halo? The virus, interestingly enough, is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Did you know that there is a St. Corona? Corona is often associated with St. Victor, a Roman soldier. Legend has it that Victor endured torture, allegedly having his eyes gouged out and was beheaded. Corona, often referred to as Stephanie, was a 16-year-old wife of another soldier and sought to comfort Victor. Some maintain that they were husband and wife. Corona was subsequently arrested and put to death. This happened during the third century.

In reflecting upon the life of St. Corona, I find myself thinking about two other names that we as a Church are hearing about during the Easter season. The first name is Barnabas. St. Barnabas was one of the first Christian disciples. He was a traveling companion of St. Paul and made many missionary journeys. Travel was rough back in those days. Moreover, beginnings are never easy. In the midst of these challenges, Barnabas persevered in the Faith. The Acts of the Apostles describes Barnabas as “a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith” (11:24).

According to sources, Barnabas was originally called Joseph by his parents. It is believed that the apostles called him Barnabas, which means, “son of encouragement.”

The other name that emerges before us is the saint of whom we celebrate on April 24 — namely, St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen. Born in Germany and given the name Mark Rey, this person practiced law and served as a tutor for the rich. He eventually became a Franciscan Capuchin and took the name Fidelis. Fidelis preached the Faith at a very challenging time in the life of the Church and often encountered resistance. Eventually, this resistance led to his martyrdom. In the end, this holy man was true to his name and the Christian faith for Fidelis means faithful.

In this dark time, we all need to strive to exude the qualities of these saints. It is important that we aim to be encouraging and faithful in what is a very challenging time. St. Corona, St. Barnabas and St. Fidelis, pray for us!

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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