BISHOP of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said we must prepare ourselves for the most difficult experiences over the coming weeks and months, including death, as the Coronavirus takes hold.
In a statement after Sunday Mass, which was streamed live from St John’s Cathedral, Bishop Leahy also gave personal testimony of the fine life-and-death Covid-19 line that loved ones may have to walk during the crisis.
He said we are entering a period of weeks when we will experience shock, suspense, fear and dismay, and, sadly for some, bereavement. Loved ones, he said, will be struck down by the virus and some will die.
“I had a foretaste of this myself during the week as to how fine the line will be. On Wednesday, I received word that a friend was going for testing for the virus as he wasn’t well, Thursday a text from my friend to say he was told he needed oxygen and that he would probably be in for a few days and that should help. Friday evening, another text from someone but with the shocking news my friend was unconscious, in a coma, critical. Thankfully, he has turned a corner and we are hopeful for him and he is surrounded by a symphony of prayer storming heaven,” he said.
Bishop Leahy said this week’s developments came as a great shock to him.
“While I am praying for him, thinking of his wife and family, this has brought home to me just how serious the situation is. It has shown me how indiscriminate this virus is. A healthy man in his 60s. In short, if it gets near us, we are vulnerable and no one knows how much.”
Stressing how much this is all in our own hands, he said: “I appeal, therefore, again today that we all do our part in preventative action. We have heard the guidelines and we’ve listened to the public health officials, experts telling us to really be attentive in every moment and in every action, remembering social distancing, hand hygiene, the stay at home recommendation, not hanging around in groups.
“If we saw a car out of control heading for us, we’d make sure we got out of its way. The virus is that car out of control. The danger is that it will take our parents, grandparents, the unwell, people we love dearly from us. But we can save them. If it were a car, you would do all you could to get them out of the way before it strikes right into, and potentially kills them. You can do that now. Together we can be their protector. We can guard them.”
It will not, he said, be easy as we are a social people but that it is a sacrifice for however long it lasts that we have to make and we must stay the course.
“None of this is easy. It doesn’t come naturally to us to isolate, to restrict our movements like this. Thank God, we are a social people, we love company. So, this requires sacrifice. But this is what loving my neighbour as myself means today. In a word, love right now is… ‘not growing the virus’.”
In his message, Bishop said it’s a time for us to appreciate, with a new gratitude, the family. We all belong in some way to a family. It’s a time to make the effort in creative ways to be a family and I’m hearing wonderfully encouraging anecdotes of people, in this moment, realising the importance and magic of family.
In wishing all mothers a very special day, he also singled out the frontline workers of the battle against Covid-19. “I think, too, of all those mothers on the healthcare front line today. Nurses, doctors, hospital staff of any kind, mothers in GP clinics, of course in the testing centres, those ensuring the essential services continue to be provided.
“We need to tell them today that, more than ever, they are our heroes. We know they are our heroes now so please, tell them this on our behalf. We will salute them properly in due course, but right now, I ask those of you whose mothers are out on the front line today to tell them how much we esteem their contribution. And if you have a sister or brother in any of those positions, tell them too. They are guardians of all now, just like Mary, Mother of God herself,” he said.