This article caught my eye this morning and got me thinking back over the past year. A year ago we were in the midst of the Covid Crisis: public Masses were still forbidden around here, and for funerals, I was obliged to limit attendance to ten people, which was excruciating for the mourners. I recall one funeral when the doors of church were standing open, and in laws and grandchildren of the deceased were standing at the doors.
At the time, I was adamant that I would visit anyone, under any circumstances, to bring any sacrament. It was simply unthinkable to me -- then and now -- that anyone needing the anointing of the sick, confession, or the Holy Eucharist would be denied them. Several times I had to push and push to gain access to hospital rooms; one senior citizen facility was very accommodating. I don't judge; everyone involved was trying to keep people safe. But it was frustrating in the hospitals, because in each case, the patient had Covid and I did not; it was I who was taking the risk! As it happened, with God's grace, I was able to talk my way in each time, and I wore whatever gear they asked me to.
Maybe I was just too stupid, but I was never concerned about my own safety. Maybe I underestimated the risk to myself; I am overweight, so who knows, Covid might be the end of me if I were to get it (if I haven't; for all I know I did have it unawares, as some people report). But it just seemed to me then -- and now -- that this is what I signed up for; and really, this is a pretty good way for a priest to exit this life: "he died because he was visiting the sick." I don't know what death awaits me, but something does -- what is more certain? This might as well be the way I go. And I'm not saying I didn't take precautions; I am simply explaining why I didn't feel any particular fear about Covid.
And, I might add, for the most part, there wasn't any great difficulty. Confession is absolutely no problem; there need be no physical contact, I only need to be present to the penitent (no you can't go to confession over the phone or the Internet). And both the anointing and Holy Communion can be given while wearing masks and gloves. Yes, there is some risk, but let's not overstate things. And I ask once again: you're going to die at some point, what sort of death do you want? What sort of life do you want? Like Richard Blaine, "I'm no good at being noble, but"...