We did something unusual this week; we closed the school for a day due to illness. A large proportion of our students was sick, mostly with the flu. Many stayed home, but some came to school anyway, which made things worse. Our principal, Mr. Ted Ewanciw, checked with the Archdiocesan Schools Office and with me, and we all concurred: shut ‘er down. We let parents pick up their kids when possible after lunch on Monday, and Tuesday we did not open, in order to stop the spread.
Of course, this is happening at a time when everybody is excited about the coronavirus outbreak in China. Tens of thousands ill, hundreds of deaths. So, the response has been similar regarding travel to and from China: shut ‘er down. Quarantines and travel bans and cancelled flights, all in order to stop the spread.
In this context at 6:30 Mass on Tuesday morning, the day the school was closed, I offered a votive Mass of the Holy Angels. I was inspired by the great statue of Saint Michael the Archangel in Rome, atop the Castel Sant’Angelo. It is a monument to the vision given the faithful of that city who were threatened by a plague that was killing thousands of people. It marks the place where in response to their prayers, the holy Archangel was seen wielding his flaming sword, and at which point the plague ceased its spread. My logic in choosing that Mass was that if the angels can turn back the plague, we could certainly use their help just about now, to stop the spread.
How easy it is to forget we have angels who are assigned to protect us; Guardians, we call them. We have governments and institutions, laws and insurance and risk management; we trust them to defend us from threats. But every now and then, a threat comes along that reminds us that there is only so much that governmental action and tort law can prevent. We watch anxiously as the virus spreads. Perhaps we are moved to prayer. Do we pray to our Guardian, the angel whose one job it is to defend us?
Like all angels, ours is pure spirit, so his first priority would be our spiritual well-being. Physical harm is of secondary importance unless it would leave us at a spiritual disadvantage, such as danger of eternal damnation. Perhaps the invisible nature of our defender, and what it is about us that he defends, makes it easy for us to lose sight of his importance.
How rare it is to be granted a vision of the angel who defends us; no wonder it left such an impression on the Romans, and no wonder they erected that statue to remind people.
Even rarer to see with bodily eyes is the reality of the slaughter wrought by sin; the sickness, weakness, death, and putrefying rot that sin effects in human lives as it claims and consumes them. Awareness of our vincibility can have a salutary, that is, healthful effect.
Thanks to coronavirus, evidence of our vulnerability to pandemic is featured now on every news outlet. If we could see the progress of the sin that kills, the contagion that leaps from person to person and moves through gatherings and societies, it would not be unusual for us to identify the point of contact, and shut ‘er down. What wouldn’t we do to stop the spread?
Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. AmenMonsignor Smith