In 1348, the Black Plague or “Great Pestilence” led to the deaths of 30 percent to 60 percent of medieval Europe, killing one out of every two or three people on the continent.
In 1918, the Great Influenza or “Spanish Flu” killed approximately 50 million people, over twice the total number of soldiers who died during World War I. Its mortality to infection ratio was approximately 3 percent, with 3 out of every 100 infected people dying from the virus.
Coronavirus is presently manifesting a 3.4 percent mortality rate, with some 90,000 infected and over 3,100 reported deaths to date. This mortality ratio, coupled with its extreme contagion and absence of any previous immunity, is leading world governments to react to the new virus with much more urgency than to usual influenzas, which typically have a .1% mortality to infection rate (1 death in 1000 infected). This makes the Coronavirus some 30 times proportionally more fatal than the ordinary flu.
With the closing of cities in China, borders in the Middle East, churches in northern Italy, schools in Japan, Italy, and Seattle, and the cancellations of major public events throughout Europe, joined with state of emergency declarations in numerous countries and U.S. states, Coronavirus is being perceived as having all the earmarks of a pandemic. German national health experts have admitted that the virus is out of traceable control, while the American Center for Disease Control has instructed Americans to prepare for a “not if, but when” Coronavirus epidemic in the U.S.
“Corona” virus, named after the series of crown-like spikes on its surface, has the potential of creating worldwide economic recessions, cessations of global travel, international supply stoppages, and most importantly, monumental significant human suffering and loss of life. Even though no one can know with certainty the ultimate medical impact of coronavirus, its worldwide effect, whether based on or reality or perception, has clearly begun.
Coronavirus is, moreover, causing a worldwide escalation in fear and anxiety: personal fears, family fears, communal fears, global fears.
This begs the fundamental question: How are we supposed to keep our inner peace through a potential pestilence pandemic?
While the destiny of coronavirus is uncertain, the Christian response to it is not.
Along with all necessary and appropriate active efforts to prevent its spread and evade its sting, the Christian must see this viral outbreak entirely within the context of trusting faith and divine providence. One possible reason why God at least providentially permits global pestilences such as these is to return us to our true priorities: to the God who loves us, and to the families and friends he has given us.
Here are three basic pillars of the Christian life that can help us to maintain our spiritual and interior peace during the approaching Coronavirus challenge:
Number 1: Pray more. Ironically, we sometimes respond to hard times by becoming even busier, even more active, due in part to our increased anxiety. Christians should rather be returning to increased generosity in prayer, which remains the perennial Christian remedy for greater fear and anxiety.
It is not an over-simplification to say that all human challenges can find their ultimate answer and remedy in the Eucharist. Jesus is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, and his Sacred and Eucharistic Heart possesses a more effective solution and consolation to every human trial.
Receiving Jesus more frequently in Holy Communion during daily mass; taking some time each day to sit with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration; telling him each worry of our hearts before the Blessed Sacrament—these are heavenly balms for earthly hearts that feel overburdened. Like John, the Beloved Disciple (Jn. 13:25), when we symbolically rest our head on his Jesus’ heart before the Blessed Sacrament, we can typically feel the fear and anxiety dissipate by the moment.
Number 2: Remember the supernatural value of suffering. Suffering, while never seen by the Church as a good in itself, nonetheless can lead to a supernaturally transformative quality that cannot be replaced by any other human experience. St. John Paul II put it this way: “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls (Salvifici Doloris, 27).”
Christians also need to be reminded that we were saved through suffering and we, too, must save through suffering. Colossians 1:24 enunciates the sublime call of St. Paul to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church.” Through the uniting of our present sufferings, including those related to Coronavirus, to the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross, we can cause a supernatural release of the graces merited infinitely by Jesus on Calvary to be applied for the salvation of our brothers and sisters today.
The great John Paul II further explains: “Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus, each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ. (Salvifici Doloris, 19). This comprises the universal Christian call to be, in the words of Pope St. John Paul, “co-redeemers in Christ.”
The traditional role of Mary, Mother of Jesus, as the Co-redemptrix, provides the ultimate example of the supernatural value of uniting our human sufferings to those of the Redeemer for the salvation of others. Once again, St. John Paul explains: “It was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world (Salvifici Doloris, 25).
Make no mistake: Mary is the Co-redemptrix. By consenting to give birth to our divine Redeemer (Lk. 1:38) and by suffering with him at the foot of the Cross (Jn. 19:26), Mary, as an immaculate human being, uniquely participated with and under Jesus in the historic work of Redemption, as popes, saints, martyrs, and mystics have all taught. The more the Church acknowledges her unique role in the Redemption, the better we will embody our own Christian roles as co-redeemers with Jesus in the ongoing process of human salvation, and in transforming the potentially new sufferings brought on through Coronavirus into a supernatural victory.
Number 3: Turn to Mary
Early Christians knew well the powerful result of invoking Mary, the Mother of God and the spiritual Mother of all peoples during times of disaster. The ancient Marian prayer, Sub Tuum Praesidium (“Under Your Protection”, c.250 A.D.) called upon the Mother of God particularly during times of trial and persecution in the early Church in order to receive her unparalleled motherly intercession in their gravest of necessities. History, time and time again, testifies to the truth that invoking the Mother of all peoples at times of potential disaster leads to both personal spiritual peace and historic global peace.
Along with the great and powerful prayer of the Rosary, I would also recommend the daily praying of the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations. This powerfully anointed prayer was directly revealed by Our Lady during her locally Church-approved Amsterdam apparitions (1945-1959) to respond to global dangers of “degeneration, disasters, and war.” And surely, the present Coronavirus epidemic is manifesting itself as a legitimate disaster.
The Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, with its over 50 imprimaturs from cardinals and bishops worldwide, was directly revealed by Our Lady with the promise that this prayer “holds great power before the throne of God:”
Lord, Jesus Christ,
Son of the Father,
send now your Spirit over the earth.
Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations,
that they may be preserved from degeneration, disasters, and war.
May the Lady of All Nations, Mary Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix,
be our Advocate. Amen.
This prayer was also given by Our Lady to prepare the world for a solemn definition or “dogma” of her role as the Spiritual Mother of all Peoples. Our Lady, in her Amsterdam apparitions, repeatedly promised that a solemn proclamation by the pope of her motherly roles would result in a historic release of grace, redemption, and peace for humanity through Mary’s most powerful intercession.
As coronavirus and other seemingly ubiquitous challenges face contemporary humanity, perhaps this would be an optimum time to “crown Mary” with this dogma, and thus allow for the full release of her most powerful motherly intercession for the world and for the Church.
Let us, therefore, keep our Christian peace during coronavirus.
Let us pray more generously, especially with our Eucharistic Jesus.
Let us offer our sufferings with Jesus as co-redeemers in Christ.
And let us acknowledge the powerful intercession of our Mother, and consequently, receive and maintain Christ’s gift of peace through the upcoming weeks and months of coronavirus through the Spiritual Mother of all peoples.
Dr. Mark Miravalle
St. John Paul II Professor of Mariology
Franciscan University of Steubenville
For free copies of the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.