In early December 2019, a global pandemic broke out in China’s Hubei Province called the the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).  Since then, the disease which speculatively originates from human interaction with bats has become a global crisis. At the end of January, the World Health Organization declared a “Public Health Emergency” for COVID-19.  Since then, COVID-19 has truly become a global pandemic, affecting 176 countries and counting.

Indeed, the situation has been so severe in some countries, that quarantines–a measure viewed as a last resort–have been quickly instituted across the world.  In Italy, the situation grew so severe that in cities like Venice and Genoa, government restrictions echo precautions taken by governments of those same cities centuries ago, such as those instituted in the mid-seventeenth  century by Venice’s Doge, Nicolo Contarini, who imposed quarantines and the burning of corpses.  

In the United States, the pandemic may be the worst outbreak the country has seen since the 1918e Spanish flu.  In the midst of World War I, the global movement of troops contributed to a quick spread of the disease.  Akin to the tragic scenes in seventeenth-century Venice, the dead were carried out of their homes on gurneys, as loved ones wept and grieved.

Fortunately, there are small signs of hope glimmering in the distance in relation to the virus.  Recently, death projections for the United States were lowered, despite a predicted second wave of the virus.  At the end of March, the world was heartened when an elderly Italian gentleman who had survived the Spanish Influenza defeated the disease.  But most of all, there is hope in the epiphanies that this tragic pandemic has brought to bear: we idolized sports, and they have been cancelled, we worshipped bands and celebrities, and they can no longer make shows in civic centers.  Our society condoned the killing of the unborn, and the virus shut down abortion clinics as non-essential.  These closures provide much to contemplate: where we had gone wrong, and where we stand without the luxuries we idolized and the evils we permitted.

While we may and must turn to the wonders of modern, ethical medicine, this time has stripped its varnish of invincibility; many countries have colossal medical shortages, and are being forced to make grisly decisions of life or death.  We must turn to God’s mercy and trust in him. We must even through our arms around him and beseech his mercy and limitless love.

This tragedy particularly invokes the command written in Matthew 11:30: “Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. [30] For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.”  And so do the words of Saint Mark’s gospel: “The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.”

To find the fullness of these directives from Christ, we would be well advised to seek him through his saints, as our ancestors did before us.  The Fourteen Holy Helpers, saints tasked with interceding to stop plague and sickness, have been venerated as early as the twelfth century in Germany.  Among them are the famous Saint Giles, confessor to Charlemagne, and Saint Christopher, the martyr who carried the Christ child across a river upon his shoulders, both of whom intercede against the plague.  In addition, there are saints amongst these Holy Helpers who directly confront the symptoms of the Coronavirus, such as Saint Blaise, whose blessing guards against and resolves ailments of the throat. Alongside Christ’s Blessed Mother, these holy men and women are our most powerful intercessors.  Their prayers will help to lift ours to God, and help us to more resolutely turn our hearts to him.

And after our prayers are heard, which all are in some way, many people will need to resolve to improve and learn from the lessons of this pandemic.  As a civilization, the post- “Enlightenment” western world will need to reevaluate how we treat globalism, popular culture, and moral liberality as altars, while we neglect the altars of God.  Finally, we’ll need to express contrition for our mistakes, something which comes before any true reckoning with the dangerous themes and excesses of this century.

A wonderful way to seek the intercession of the Fourteen Holy Helpers is through their novena and litany, which can be found here:  Novena to The Fourteen Holy Helpers