Open Wide and Say Ahaaa

05-10-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

The science of Virology demonstrates that generally the most contagious viruses are the least lethal. Think of the common cold. None of us are immune to it but none of us die from it alone. The most lethal viruses tend to be less contagious. Think of AIDS. You cannot contract AIDS sitting next to someone or by breathing the same air. There are very specific ways that the AIDS virus is contracted. And if you do contract it you might not know it for a while and it is very lethal. When it comes to COVID-19 it was initially thought that this virus was both highly contagious and highly lethal, uncharacteristic for a typical virus. At this point the data suggest that COVID-19 is very contagious but not as lethal as feared. It tends to kill the same categories of people as the Flu, namely those with underlying health conditions. When AIDS first broke out in the 1980’s, those infected were put in extreme isolation and a lot of fear and panic about how contagious it was abounded until we understood more about the virus. I remember visiting a patient in the hospital who was dying of AIDS and I had to wear a full Haz-mat suit. The same goes with COVID-19, initially lots of fear and panic but as we come to understand more about the virus and how it is spread and who it affects calmer waters will prevail.

But one nasty characteristic of COVID-19 is that it duplicates itself very rapidly which quickly overwhelms the body’s own immune response. The good news is that anti-viral medications like Remdesivir can help slow the replication and give the body’s immune system a chance to kick in. While Remdesivir is not a cure it is one treatment among others that can assist the body in fending off the virus. But still our first line of defense is prevention. Wash your hands, don't touch your face, and if you are sick stay home. Keep track of who you are in close contact with and if you are exposed to the virus go and get tested. And if you are in a high-risk group, age or underlying health issues than you will need to take additional precautions.

There is debate about whether this virus is spread by asymptomatic people. Which would be odd since it is spread by droplets that come from coughs or sneezes or saliva. But at this point we simply do not know. Which makes it all the more mysterious and frightening. That’s why wearing a mask in places that ask you to is important because it reassures other people and in that way is a charitable act. Several days ago, there was a report of a man who shot a business employee who asked him not to come into the store without a mask. If you are opposed to wearing a mask than simply do not enter locations that require them. Private businesses have the right to ask such of their customers. I know a lot of you don't like the new policy: no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service. However, please refrain from politicizing the wearing of face masks. I know we were told don't wear the mask, then wear the mask, then maybe it helps maybe it doesn’t. And there is a big difference between face coverings and the N95 mask. Confusing, I know. But wearing it in a store, if required, helps reassure the person working there that they are safe. Consider it a gesture of respect for hard working people, serving large numbers of people while laboring under uncertain conditions.

It’s important to keep all of that in mind as we start to reopen and come out of our caves. This includes returning to Church. Currently we are planning with the Bishop on what reopening will look like. At this point the plan is to reopen in phases while continuing the Live Stream Masses and maintain the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Eucharist. At this point I am not sure what this will look like but I will keep you informed. Or actually, I have a good plan but not sure it’s the same as the Bishop’s.

In the meantime, we will continue to offer Holy Communion after the Live Stream Masses on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I thank you for your cooperation and for your reverence which made it all work rather smoothly. I think it is very important to keep the reception of Holy Communion connected to the Live Stream Mass. After all Mass is not a spectator sport and this gives you a way to participate in the Mass. It is optional and if you are ill please stay home and make a Spiritual Communion instead.

And most importantly, remember as we reopen to practice charity, patience and tolerance. So many of us are stressed out, many people have lost jobs, or businesses that they worked hard for or face a very uncertain future. The media has done its best to politicize the issue and separate us all into two opposing camps: the masked and the unmasked, the stay-at-home and the wander-from-home, the executive order-obedient and the executive order-disobedient, those who worship Gov. Cuomo as their lord and savior, and those who don’t. As a Christian do the next right thing and be a beacon of hope to all.


Fr. John B.

PS A happy and blessed Mother’s Day to all our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and all those who mother us in one way or another!