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Cautious and courageous

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As the conversation about how to manage what's ahead of us evolves, I'm hoping that the voices of two principle interlocutors -- caution and courage -- are strong and clear.

Jaymie Stuart
Wolfe

Warning: if I hear anyone else say "We're all in this together," I just may explode. There's only so much you can take before you find yourself pushed to the edge. That's where a whole lot of us are right now. And the view isn't pretty.

Have you noticed how elastic time is? I don't know about you, but I'm not even sure what day of the week it is. The truth is they all run together when they're all the same. And the weeks seem endless. Was Easter really only three weeks ago? It's hard to believe.

You wouldn't think that the stay-at-home orders would bother those of us who work remotely from home anyway, but they do. Terribly. No Sunday mornings at church and no Monday mornings at work take a toll on everyone. Monotony amplifies the feeling that we're stuck where we are for good, even though the numbers of cases and hospitalizations aren't nearly as horrifying as they were a month ago.

Because a catastrophic collapse of our healthcare system has, for the time being, been avoided, the national conversation about when and how to move back toward normal life has begun. It is a conversation that ought to be taking place in all homes and neighborhoods, at every level of government, between business and community leaders, among healthcare professionals, and yes, within each diocese and parish.

Over the past five weeks, most of us have accepted restrictions we otherwise would find completely unacceptable. These include the prohibition of our basic rights to gather, move, work, and freely exercise our religion. In more than a few places, clergy has been barred from hospitals and unable to minister to Catholics who are seriously ill. While many priests, bishops, deacons, religious, and laity have found creative ways to bring hope and encouragement to people, the overwhelming majority of Catholics have been forced to give up how we worship as well as the conditions necessary to administer and receive the sacraments. This is particularly true of Reconciliation and Holy Communion.

Certainly, we have made these sacrifices for the sake of our neighbors. We've accepted this burden in charity because we are our brothers' keepers, because every human life has value, because faith and reason are not at odds. We know that caring for someone begins with caring about them. Both the body and the soul are precious.

The status quo, however, is not sustainable. We must move forward without a vaccine, and we will not be able to eliminate every risk when we do. But we ought to recognize that there's a point at which the Church's cooperation with lockdowns imposed by civil authorities becomes assisted suicide. We just don't know when or at what point that is.

As the conversation about how to manage what's ahead of us evolves, I'm hoping that the voices of two principle interlocutors -- caution and courage -- are strong and clear. The fact is that most of us tend toward one at the expense of the other. When we do that, our caution is rooted more in fear than in love, and our courage arises more from reckless frustration than from faith.

Perhaps you suspect, as I do, that there is at least some gap between what we are doing to minister to people and what we could do. That gap must be closed, and it can be by creative and generous souls directed by both caution and courage.

This Friday, as we cross the threshold into another month, the bishops of the United States and Canada will be consecrating their nations to Mary, Mother of the Church. I'm grateful for this humble inspiration, and the recognition that when we don't know what to do, seeking the help of the Mother of God is the right place to begin. In Mary, faith and love meet. Neither caution nor courage is dispensable; in the weeks and months ahead, we will need wellsprings of both. And we will find them in one another.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.



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