By Father John Lamansky
For The Catholic Messenger
(Editors note: Father John Lamansky is a priest of the Diocese of Davenport who is currently studying at the North American College in Rome. As of March 17, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more than 2,000 deaths in Italy, according to multiple news sources.)
Things are rather dramatically shut down here. Almost everything is closed except grocery stores. Public Masses are suspended. The entire country is quarantined to their houses. People can leave their homes for limited reasons (e.g. going to the grocery store, or going to a job for which working from home isn’t possible), but they must prepare and bring paperwork with them (explaining where they’re going and why) in case they get stopped by police. Anyone outside without good reason is liable to monetary fine or arrest. The quarantine began on March 12 and will last until April 3. The whole country has a “post-apocalyptic” emptiness to it: almost nobody is outside.
Classes are suspended, but we have shifted to online communication with our professors. I live in a community of American priests, and we are doing very well, all things considered. We’re being fed, we’re able to provide the sacraments for each other, we’re still doing schoolwork from home, and we’re keeping ourselves entertained with various indoor community events. As far as we know, none of the priests living in our house have the virus.
My advice for people would be: take this seriously. Even despite the drastic quarantine in Italy, hundreds are dying every single day, thousands more are being diagnosed every single day, the healthcare system is overwhelmed, and things are shut down to the point that the dead can’t even receive a funeral or sometimes even a proper burial. I know this sounds horrific, but it’s the reality here. I don’t mean to incite panic, but to emphasize the gravity of the situation. On the one hand, we shouldn’t panic (because of the serenity that comes from our faith), but on the other hand, we shouldn’t be naïve or dismissive of the threat that this poses. Between the extremes of panic and naïveté, we should show prudent concern. Above all, we should pray (turning to the Rosary in particular), especially in a situation of not being able to go to Mass.