DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Christ has equipped His mystical body with weapons in times of spiritual crisis, and many churchmen are dedicated to using them. In these unusual times — when most Catholics have no access to the divine-life-giving sacraments of Jesus Christ — Catholics are turning to other spiritual weapons Holy Mother Church has in her treasury to protect from and destroy the agents of death.
Pope Francis led the charge by calling for a Rosary to be prayed across the globe in union with him, on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph. As many of the saints attest, the Rosary is a powerful meditation that unleashes grace in the midst of spiritual darkness.
Elsewhere, Aux. Bp. Broderick Pabillo of Manila in the Philippines is encouraging prayers and solidarity in the fight against coronavirus, saying "plagues have been stopped not only through medical means but also through prayers and great acts of charity."
The bishop is calling on Catholics not to be afraid, but to channel their concern productively. "To be concerned," he said, "does not mean to be afraid, much less to feel helpless." Reminding the faithful that God is in charge and that we are His spiritual army, Pabillo added, "Wherever we are, in whatever state of life, in sickness and in health, we all can pray," urging prayers for those who have died and comfort for the bereaved.
"The power of solidarity in prayer and in charity," he said, is a big resource that Christians possess.
The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference has promoted prayer resources particularly to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Daejeon, South Korea reflects on the pandemic. It is "a good time to question ourselves about God's plans for humanity shaken by the coronavirus emergency," the bishop said, reflecting:
The almighty Lord is good and merciful. He alone knows how much destruction this disease will bring. But it is He Himself who has permitted it. I pray to understand what the Lord is asking humanity, the Church, the diocese and me. Everything that happens, even apparently terrible things, are signs of His infinite love. To understand, it is necessary to pray more, to do penance and make sacrifices. I asked my faithful to fast every Friday. The food they won't eat will be collected and distributed to people in need. Thus, we shall also help coronavirus victims in a practical way. On Friday, we shall recite the Rosary for the end of the epidemic.
The mayor of Venice, Italy, whose country has been devastated by the virus, visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Health last week, and publicly read a prayer to Our Lady for health, and consecrated his city to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In Poland, all dioceses are involved in online initiatives since the pandemic took root. The Church in Poland has been active through the internet, TV and radio, offering community prayer, Masses and retreats for the faithful.
"Thanks to the broadcasts, the faithful from all over Poland, as well as Poles abroad, can unite spiritually in both Sunday and daily prayer," states Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops' Conference.
"This year's Lent is special. It is a fast from large gatherings on prayer, but not from prayer," he noted. "People have spiritual needs and the media meet them through broadcasts and online prayer proposals. However, prayer in the virtual world should lead us to pray in sacramental reality as soon as the pandemic stops, for which we pray."
Closer to home, President Trump declared March 15 a national day of prayer in the midst of the pandemic, tweeting:
It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15th as a National Day of Prayer. We are a country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these. … No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!
The diocese of New York published in its archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York, the pope's prayer to Mary to combat the coronavirus.
Fr. James Blount, who has an international healing and exorcism ministry, believes the pandemic may have demonic and man-made origins: "This virus may well be an attack. It may even be man-made. It probably is," he said in a video message to the faithful. "There's something about it that's evil. God, though, destroys and defeats evil, and one method he's given to the Church is ... exorcised water with [blessed] salt. [It] will protect you in emergency situations."
Father Blount suggested Catholics ask a priest or deacon to pray an exorcist prayer over these elements for them.
Catholics recall the great battle of Lepanto on Oct. 7, 1571, when Christendom was on the verge of being taken over by Islamic forces and were greatly outnumbered. As the fleet of the Ottoman Empire was closing in on Christian Europe, poised to capture the Mediterranean area, Pope Pius V ordered the churches of Rome to open for prayer day and night, encouraging the faithful to petition the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the recitation of the Rosary.
They obeyed, Mary interceded and the rest is history. Father Steve Grunow, CEO of Word on Fire Ministries, says this victory created "a seismic shift in international relations from East to West. In some respects, and I do not want this claim to be overstated, the world that we know came into being with this victory." This is how Oct. 7 came to be celebrated as Our Lady of Victory day. Pope Gregory XIII would later change the name to the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
As Catholic spiritual leaders around the world attest, there are many ways to remain close to God and each other in such trying times when physical distancing is the norm and sacramental grace is unavailable. God will not leave us orphans (John 14:18).