On Thursday, 19 March 2020, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of St Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic Bishops of Peninsular Malaysia had designated this day as a day of prayer and fasting, beseeching St Joseph’s intercession and God’s intervention for an end to Coronavirus epidemic (Pastoral Letter, 12 March 2020). Some of you may wonder why the Church in Peninsular Malaysia designated this particular day as a day of prayer and fasting?
Plagues have a long history in Europe and Asia. When the plague (Black Death) devastated Europe from 1347-1348, one third of Europe’s population was estimated to have been killed in villages and towns. After that, there were a series of major pandemics in the 16th and 17th centuries (Black Plague) while a third pandemic (Bubonic Plague) occurred at the end of 19th century in Yunnan, China and India, with more than 12 million deaths. These were the worst catastrophes recorded in history.
During these times of crisis, the Catholic Church repeatedly turned to St Joseph, the Protector of the Church, for his intercession. The Church turned to St Joseph for the need of prayer during the pandemics because he has shown to be a powerful intercessor. This information about St Joseph is a new discovery for me, that he is seen as a great intercessor for plague victims. This is also the reason the Church in Peninsular Malaysia invites the faithful to pray and fast on 19 March 2020, so that St Joseph will intercede for the protection of the whole world during this current Coronavirus epidemic. We pray that he will intercede on our behalf, all our petitions, asking Jesus Christ to have mercy on us all, and keep up safe from the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, as well as for the discovery of a cure and for the protection of individuals who are sick.
On 11 March 2020, the Holy Father prayed to Mother Mary, “Health of the Sick” for all hospital personnel, doctors, nurses, volunteers, for those who are suffering, and an end to the COVID pandemic. He composed a prayer to Mary during the coronavirus pandemic. Since the suspension of Masses in our Catholic Churches, I recite this prayer regularly. I have also placed a copy of this prayer – in three languages – at the sanctuary. In this prayer, the Holy Father said, “as you did at Cana of Galilee, we may return to joy and celebration after this moment of trial.” This phrase has really touched me and I just pray that we will return to a normal routine of life after this moment of Covid-19 trial.
As I reflect on this phrase, which echoes the first miracle at the wedding at Cana of Galilee, (Jn 2: 1-12), the newly wedded couple ran out of wine on their auspicious day. Seeing the difficult situation, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “they have no wine.” Jesus then changed water into wine and everyone was surprised to taste such good wine at the wedding celebration – “you have saved the best till now”. When the newly married couple was facing a difficult situation, through Mary’s request, Jesus turned a chaotic situation into a joyful one.
Today, we get updates of the gradual rise in confirmed Coronavirus cases and deaths caused by the virus. Due to this, our routine life has become irregular as we have been issued a Restricted Movement Order (RMO) till 31 March 2020. When will this pandemic end? Everyone just hopes and prays that “joy and celebration may return after this moment of trial.”
Catholics in various parts of the world are just waiting to return to their churches in order to celebrate the Eucharist, as soon as the suspension of Masses in the Church is lifted. Looking at the scenario now, the Coronavirus epidemic may not even allow us to return to our churches for the Easter or Paschal Triduum celebration. However, we continue to seek the intercession of St Joseph and Mother Mary, to end this epidemic.
PRAYER TO MARY DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
O Mary, you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Salvation of the Roman People,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to celebrate
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.
Hail Mary, Health of the Sick, pray for us.
St Joseph, hope of the Sick, pray for us.
Rev. Fr. George P.