Suffering and Quarantines

[written 3/11/20]

God saved us from hell by suffering and dying Himself. The bitter human suffering of God, and the human death of God, gave us our human share in God’s immortal life.

A Christian does not regard bodily suffering or bodily death as ultimate evils.

That said, a Christian must always act rationally. Loving our neighbor means making choices in favor of protecting vulnerable lives.

venice cargo ship
Venetian cargo ship

Did you know that the word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Venetian word for Lent? If a ship arrived from a country with the black plague, the Venetians made you wait in the harbor for forty days before docking. To be safe. That’s where the word ‘quarantine’ comes from.

A quarantine doesn’t mean someone has the disease. When someone certainly has it, you isolate that person to prevent him or her exposing others. That’s called “patient isolation.”

A quarantine is when you don’t know who has the disease, or who carries it unknowingly. If everyone with any coronavirus on them suddenly turned green, then we could solve our problem quickly. But it doesn’t work that way. The disease is gravely dangerous for vulnerable people, and it can spread undetected. Undetected, that is, until it’s too late.

That’s what taught the Venetians the forty-day rule. They didn’t become the richest and most-powerful city-state in fifteenth-century Europe by being rash or undisciplined.

Let’s think like this: None of us wants to be the invisible carrier who transmits the virus to a vulnerable person who could die from it. None of us wants to do that. Loving our neighbor prudently means keeping that in mind all the time for at least the next month.

4 thoughts on “Suffering and Quarantines

  1. Well said and a good reminder.. there are those who argue the black death wasnt the plague because fleas don’t understand quarentine.. but if the ships werent able to unload maybe the fleas had no choice.. interesting thought…

  2. Fr. Mark,
    Have read all of the postings to date and am so very happy that those who are unable to attend Mass in person can have the opportunity to at least read your homilies. I am very fortunate in that I am symptom-free and able to attend all the Masses in person and hear you preach, but I still enjoy reading everything you post.
    Stay well…we need you.
    Judy R.

  3. Second comment: I believe the thing I miss the most is dipping my finger tips in the Holy Water each time I enter and leave the sanctuary. It just doesn’t seem right…always feel that I’m missing something very important.
    Judy Rogers

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