In the midst of this dark spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has already killed more than 95,000 Americans and left 39 million without a job.
On a rainy afternoon in July 2009, the police department in Long Branch, New Jersey, received a call from a concerned citizen who said he saw a weird-looking guy, wearing a hoodie, walking through the quiet neighborhood in the rain. The strange man suddenly crossed the street and started peering into the windows of a house that was for sale.
During this painful spring, we have been unexpectedly forced to stay indoors. We have been dealing with the shelter-in-place spring season by cooking more elaorate meals, spending more time with the family — and watching TV. According to Nielsen, the average viewer spent 40 hours in front of a TV during the week of March 16, compared to 33 hours during
the same week a year before.
There is nothing older than yesterday’s newspapers — we know pretty much all that was said, and there is not much to discover there. But a newspaper from a century ago could be full of ‘breaking news’ for today’s readers. It allows us to access not just the events of yesteryear, but the way those events were perceived by the people living through them.
There is a poem by Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges that was one of my favorites since my youth. It says: “There
is a street nearby that is widowed of my footsteps, / there is a mirror that has seen me for the last time, / there is a door that I have closed until the end of the world.”
In August 2018, a case of African porcine fever was reported in China. One year later, 40% of the pigs in China had disappeared. That epidemic killed one-quarter of the world’s pigs. It was an epidemiological debacle that disrupted the food industry in a country with 1.4 billion people.
New York State, with just under 20 million people, has more cases of COVID-19 than any country in the world. On Easter Sunday alone, 671 New Yorkers died from the disease. This has been the most painful Holy Week of our lives.
On Friday, March 27, I received the news that Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay had died of COVID-19, becoming the first priest believed to have died of coronavirus in the United States.
This has been the strangest Lent of our lives, as it will be during the Holy Week we start this Sunday. The crowds that usually fill our churches with palm leaves in their hands, won’t be there. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the suspension of Masses and the closing of churches.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; / Lord, hear my voice! / Let your ears be attentive / to my voice in supplication.”