ASK FATHER: What do you think the pandemic will result in? Wherein Fr. Z RANTS!

From a reader…


We can’t know what’s going to happen with the pandemic.  But what do you think will happen socially?  In the Church?

It see it as a strong incentive to correct our badly compromised supply chains and outsourced manufacturing.   This is a serious problem that needs a nationwide effort, on an almost war-time footing as in WWII to correct.

Even if this pandemic may not be quite as bad as people, in anxiety, might imagine, I foresee this COVID-19 outbreak as a rehearsal for the Really Bad One.   After reading some dystopian fiction that games out various TEOTWAWKI scenarios, I see some effects where I live, and things aren’t even bad here yet.   Yesterday when I went to the grocery store, as is my routine nearly everyday for fresh things, I saw whole shelves and bins empty.   In a time of really serious crisis, we might see people at their worst.

I think this will also bring out the best in a lot of people.  Even as people are being forced apart through “social distancing”, I foresee that people will network together creatively for works of charity.   There are a lot of people out there who can’t help themselves.  Network now and consult with doctors and others about how you might, safely and prudently, be of help to the shut in or vulnerable.

That’s for the material.

Here’s for the spiritual.

I pray pray pray that this time of challenge will produce a vastly greater awareness of traditional practices and devotions and some seriously bad-ass spiritual warriors.

It is beyond question that, in our fallen human state, familiarity can breed contempt.  Routine can make people lax.  And the way our sacred worship has been – appalling and flaccid for decades – there is little surprise in the results of research that reveal disaster levels of belief in what the Church teaches about just about everything.

We are going to rediscover many traditional practices that nourished and sustained in truly horrible times our forebears in the Faith.  I have been receiving notes about, for example, processions.   Fantastic.

Also, I just posted about how to make a Spiritual Communion.  HERE

Think about the impact a revival of good Spiritual Communions might have on the whole Body of Christ: thousands discovering the practice and then making it their own, habitually.   Think of how that will impact the reception of Communion and the great good that will do for the whole Church.

I think we might see rise up some truly bad-ass spiritual war fighters because of this.  That will help all of us in the challenging times to come.

We still will have to deal with the massive demographic sink-hole that is about to open up.

If bishops are paying attention, and priests, then sounding and acting like bishops and priests in this time of crisis might capture the attention and imagination of young “nones”, who are going to disappear.

Put on all the gear.  Pull out all the stops.  Process.  Preach.  Lie down flat on the floor and pray.  Sing and chant and use incense and falls of Holy Water and blessings and deprecatory prayers!   We’ve been there!   The Church has done this before.

We are all in this together.  We are our rites.

Today I celebrated Holy Mass using the Votive “Tempore Mortalitatis”.

At the offertory I prayed, from Numbers 16:48:

Stetit pontifex inter mortuos et vivos, habens thuribulum aureum in manu sua: et offerens incensi sacrificium, placavit iram Dei, et cessavit quassatio a Domino.

We are our rites.

Save the Liturgy.  Save the World.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Our Catholic Identity, TEOTWAWKI, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ChrisP says:

    The demographic dying here are the ones who go to Church. The attendance statistics after this will be sobering.

    Which means employment will open up and prosperity of a sort will result for younger age brackets, but not all.

    And no one will attend Mass…. still. Apart from the remnant.

    And after a time, the real one will hit. Fr Z is right. This is a warning shot.

    Get us to thy confessional and Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

  2. Bthompson says:

    The Prodigal Son as the Gospel at Mass today made me think on how swiftly the fruits of one’s heritage is spent when one doesnt appreciate that heritage.

    Maybe the hunger will make people appreciate the Eucharist, and maybe even our shared heritage more. There is something saccharine and insubstantial about certain approaches to the crisis, and something comforting and sure about approaches that embrace and perhaps even rediscover our heritage, dare I say Tradition.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s interview book talks about his family’s spiritual practices during their sufferings under the Soviet Union, and spiritual Communion was a big part of it.

  4. KateD says:

    It is interesting that this pandemic has struck during Lent, in a year when the Passionsspiele is being performed in Oberammergau…

    Perhaps we can go all out with our own parish passion plays this year.

  5. The Masked Chicken says:

    I think ChrisP is correct. This is the culling of the Silent Generation and The Baby Boomers.

    I do not agree with this attempt to, “flatten the curve,” as it were. The area under the curve is the same, but the effects are spread out much longer, thus, putting a greater continuous stress on the economy and disrupting social cohesion (and the same number of people are going to die, anyways).

    The idea of social distancing is not for our benefit – it is for the benefit of hospitals, so that they don’t become overwhelmed, but there are two ways the hospitals can become overwhelmed: vertically, by high volume or horizontally, by prolonged lower volume. Studies show that, generally, prolonged stressor are worse that fast stressors.

    Instead of flattening the curve, a better approach might be to sharpen the curve. If people older than 50 were to be sequestered for one month while young people mixed freely, they would get infected and recover, thereby becoming non-infectious, while, because the old people are sequestered, they will not become infected nor flood hospitals. Once herd immunity is reached among the young (who are not very likely to become seriously ill), then the old people can be re-integrated.

    Flattening the curve definitely works if the infection kills both ends of the age spectrum, as in a typical flu, but the age-dependent CFR (case fatality rate) is bifurcated with COVID-19, so that isolation of the population, as a whole, is, in my opinion, not the fastest or least resource intensive way to get over the disease.

    If the strategy governments are adopting to fight this illness is to flatten the curve, the societal disruption will go on for months – unless (please, God), the virus becomes untransmissable in warmer weather. Then, you will see a part 1 and a part 2 to this disease, next fall, which would be catastrophic.

    Young people have been so desensitized to religion, that I can’t see this bringing many back to the Church, unless they have good witness from older people, but they are the people being excluded from going to church. The demographic intersection of this disease and the Church is unlike anything I can think of in history. There needs to be clear lines of communication between the old and young, now, while the old can teach the young about life and God. The genetic memory of the Church is long and this is hardly Her greatest challenge, but that memory needs to be refreshed among the young because they are like outsiders trying to listen to a beautiful melody they can’t quite comprehend.

    The Chicken

  6. The Egyptian says:

    An aside, earlier you were discussing confession during this possible epidemic. When i was young our priest , Fr Stock, had a linen cloth over the wooden grill in the confessional, with the light he had on his side he could see nothing of us and we saw his reflection, also we knelt at a 45 degree angle to the grill not directly at it. seems to me that the cloth would stop all contact for the priest, just change the cloth frequently. If that seems not enough install a roll of wax paper or cooking parchment at the top and tear it off frequently using a pair of gloves if really concerned, also put a jug of purell in our side, why not, it is already part of the liturgy at mass, kind of poetic, if you muse on it for a spell. And it wouldn’t hurt to disinfect the confessional after a session for that matter, Maybe spray pinsol, for that “fresh” scent

  7. Kerry says:

    Sir Masked Chicken. In his episode #1439, Joe Rogan talks with Michael P. Osterholm, “…internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology…”, and author of Deadliest Enemy: Our War against Deadly Germs. Though a long interview, the first 25 minutes or so concentrate on the Covid virus. This commenter is interested in your responses to the interview. Thanks.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    “…a strong incentive to correct our badly compromised supply chains and outsourced manufacturing.”


    A disinformation campaign by the Communist regime in Beijing, with assistance from the Islamist regime in Tehran, that falsifies the origins of the Wuhan Virus has been underway for some time. Now, a recent article in Xinhua, an official Chinese Communist publication, threatened to reduce or halt the export of medicine, which would “plunge” the U.S. “into the mighty sea of coronavirus.”

    Communist China supplies most of America’s generic drugs, active pharmaceutical ingredients, and even Vitamin C (often “manufactured” in the U.S., but “key ingredients” mainly from “China”). The Defense Production Act of 1950 could be helpful here.

    The Wuhan Virus is a wake-up call for numerous reasons.

  9. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: young people, you underestimate them. At the end of Mass today, Father asked everybody to pray the St. Michael prayer with him, against the epidemic and whatever else. People my age were mumbling the bits they remembered and looking lost, but the young men and women of college age were louder and more confident in the words than the pre-V-II older people were!

    Fear not. Lax generations are followed by the gung ho ones.

  10. The Egyptian says:

    Gumby, before “china” most of our meds were mfg in Puerto Rico, they pulled out and bombed their economy, move them back make Puerto Rico great again, win win
    read an interesting article about the 1918 spanish flu, seem a group was doing a study of the routes of pandemics, at the start of the 1st WW a large number of Chinese were brought into Europe to work in place of the men that went off to war, can’t recall but it spread through Europe, most countries had a blackout on information so as not to give the impression of weakness to the enemy, Spain had no such restrictions on their media, so that is where it first made news hence the name. Wilson just made it worse by sending our solders to Europe in droves and then at the sign of illness loading them on ships and sending them home infecting the crews and all new troops going over. creating a huge deadly pandemic over here, one large cluster you know what. These researchers claim that most of the flu and viral pandemics, historically, in one way or the other can be traced to china and to far lesser extent to Africa. No wonder the chi coms have their panties in a wad over naming it the Wuhan Flu

    I suggest you read this blog post, it is an eye opener, the country is a health hazard

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: Two variables: Super-spreaders (unintentional or intentional…) and Hot Zones.

    “Studies show that, generally, prolonged stressors are worse than fast stressors.

    “Instead of flattening the curve, a better approach might be to sharpen the curve.”

    True, prolonged stressors can be generally worse than fast stressors, but with fast stressors there is the problem of Intensity.

    A rough analogy is from stress studies on military veterans. An excerpt from the National Institutes of Health website, “Tyrosine [an amino acid] and Stress” by Harris R. Lieberman, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, copyright 1994 by the National Academy of Sciences:

    “Efforts have also been made to formally describe the acute behavioral syndrome that occurs among some soldiers as a consequence of exposure to combat. It has been termed combat stress reaction (CSR), and its principal symptoms are anxiety, fear of death, helplessness, crying, and tiredness. Sleep is also disturbed (Solomon et al., 1989). The behavioral manifestations of the CSR syndrome appear to resemble the helplessness syndrome described in animals.”

    “On some battlefields, such as the early stages of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war [this war began with a fierce, surprise attack by the Arabs on the Israelis in the Golan Heights and the Bar Lev Line along the Suez Canal, though many, but apparently not all, front-line Israeli soldiers sensed something was up 2-18 hours beforehand], casualties that resulted from CSR actually exceeded those that resulted from enemy fire (Flora, 1985).”

    So, there is a downside to fast stressors.

  12. kimberley jean says:

    I’m pretty sure there will be an uptick in domestic violence. People are already joking about the horrors of being stuck at home with their kids all day.

  13. Anneliese says:

    People have so much fear when they figure out they have less autonomy over their lives than they believe they had prior to a crisis. I believe those who have the most in material goods are the most afraid and I don’t foresee them growing in charity. They’re so used to controlling every aspect of their lives that the slightest chance of suffering occurring will bring out the ugly in them because they fear death.

    I know this for certain. God was in control before my existence and God will be in control of the world after I cease to live in this world. My advise to everyone is continue to receive the sacraments, when you are allowed in your diocese, and continue to grow in virtue. It shouldn’t take a virus to get a person to do what they’re supposed to be doing.

  14. Tara Tremuit says:

    In a time like this when there is only one news story, it would be so easy to get all eyes on Our Lord and to win souls by doing the grand gesture. Why the nothingburger response from the higher ranks? The clerics have all the weaponry and they act as if they haven’t got any ammo.
    Imagine if just one Pope and a few Cardinals and priests were to process at far distances from each other around the empty St. Peter’s square, and set up a temporary beautiful altar under the canopy, taking turns day and night, adoring, saying Litanies in reparation to avert the plague. We all saw the first commandment flagrantly broken in plain sight of the world. Now, our Sacraments are being taken from us and our shepherds are the ones giving them up! It’s not a coincidence, people. Something public offended God. Something grand and public must atone for it. If every priest and Bishop were to bring our Lord through the streets of his own city with thurifer before and Umbrellino-fer beside, he could go through the whole city, the whole town, in a few days and then start over. Do something! Drive-up Adoration! Anything! Drive-thru Confessions! Mass in private homes, or even in a stadium, everybody sitting three bleachers apart. The laity can only do so much.

  15. The Egyptian says:

    Tara Tremuit
    AMEN, it starts from the top down, pity if us at the bottom have to kick a few to get the top moving at a time like this, makes one believe that the top has no faith in God, doesn’t it??

  16. LeeGilbert says:

    Serpentza (, my guru for all things Chinese, points out that every other virus epidemic has had a geographic association in its name, for example MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome), the Ebola virus for a river in the Congo, etc.. The World Health Organization, headed by a communist who considers Xi Jinping a mentor, has transformed what would ordinarily be the Wuhan Virus into something far more abstract: Covid19. Keeping it the Wuhan Virus would have left the onus on China and particularly on the Chinese Communist party, where it belongs. Considering the agony which the CCP is putting Catholics through, everything which serves to delegitimize the CCP is in the interest of our fellow Catholics and Christians, so for me, Wuhan Virus it is. Words mean things and have consequences.

    Serpentza further points out that China has been quick to seize on the acknowledgement here that some cases in the US previously thought to be influenza were in fact the Wuhan Virus, and is now beating the drum relentlessly that the virus is a deliberate American plant. As a result intense xenophobia, particularly anti-American xenophobia, is taking hold among the average Chinese. Could this have eventual geopolitical consequences? We will see.

    He also mentions, and perhaps it is general knowledge, that to punish Taiwan shortly before the outbreak of the Wuhan Virus China forbade its citizens from touring in China. Evidently Chinese tourists are big spenders and this was supposed to inflict a big financial hit on Taiwan. In fact, it helped greatly to restrict the number of Taiwanese affected by the virus.

  17. Sportsfan says:

    I’m predicting something positive. With everyone stuck at home, in about nine months the maternity wards will be hoppin’. More people, more Christians, more graces.

    With a moniker like mine, in these times, I’m looking to expand my interests.

  18. Semper Gumby says:

    The Egyptian: Right, an internet search will show that media such as ABC, NBC and Scientific American reported back a decade or so ago that seasonal influenza originates in East and Southeast Asia. Though, a different coronavirus caused the 2012 outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (involving humans, bats and camels).

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    With all the work I have to do to transition classes to on-line, I, probably won’t get to listen to the Joe Rogan podcast until later, this week. Sorry.

    Semper Gumby,
    If the curve were to be sharpened, then you would want superspreaders and hotspots among the young (remember, the old would be sequestered) and intensity doesn’t matter because no additional medical resources would be needed – you would just have a large number of sick young people.
    As for short vs. long stressor, they affect different systems in the brain/body. Short intense stress, research is now finding, is primarily a memory problem and can be interfered with, if caught early (even something as distracting as a computer game can do it, but it must be caught before long-term memory integration occurs). Long- term stressors affect the hormone/cortisol balance and can lead to a depressed immune system (hardly what one wants) and depression.
    The governments can do what they want and one can hope that they are right, but they have chosen a path that puts the world at long-term risk for many secondary problems and, unlike the 1918 flu which seemed to vanish overnight (and good thing, too – if it had gone on for another month, it would have been an extinction-level event), this virus will be around for a very long time.
    Maybe the 1918 flu was punishment for WWI, who knows, but this virus should remind everyone that God is in charge and our choices have consequences.

    The Chicken

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: Hot zones involve geography, not demography. Intensity certainly matters, given the range of behavior and the reaction to stressors among not individuals but across an entire population. The 1918 flu had several waves over three years. Cheers.

  21. The Masked Chicken says:

    I know that hot zones are spatial, not age-related (generally, although, they can be). It doesn’t change the argument.

    As for whole population stressors, populations are composed of individuals and the population response represents an amalgam of the individual stress responses. People have parades after a war because individual are happy. It makes no sense for individuals to be depressed, but the population happy.

    In any case, an interesting theoretical discussion, since I have no ability (nor would I want any) to affect public policy. It is the job of theorists to consider all possibilities, even impractical ones.

    The Chicken

    P. S. I am a little grumpier than normal because public Masses have been cancelled and I miss being able to pray in front of the tabernacle (especially with all of the societal stress). Yes, God is everywhere, but He is more everywhere somewheres, if you catch my drift.

  22. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: It certainly does change your argument. Regardless, thank you for admitting your proposal is impractical. Have a pleasant day.

  23. Semper Gumby says:

    Lee Gilbert: “Words mean things and have consequences.” Good point.

    “Could this have eventual geopolitical consequences? We will see.” Indeed.

  24. Kathleen10 says:

    I have a small recommendation. Pray the rosary or other prayers and try not to freak out while you do it, God knows what we need. Quarantine, and watch happy movies and programs, preferably vintage. Get out in the sunshine and look at spring flowers and blue sky and hear a bird whenever you can. Speak to others cheerfully even if you’re completely faking it, especially children because they have a tiny life reference point and are frightened, and lots of people are scared, including us, but talking about it doesn’t seem to help. Maybe we can convince ourselves. Our young people need us to come through now as Christians when life is threatened more than other times. We have a reason for our hope, or we need to get one, or what good is Christianity. We can predict all day but God is in the equation and if it be His will the virus could disappear tomorrow, confounding all predictions, charts and experts. Remember St. Michael standing on the bridge in Rome, sheathing that bloody sword.
    Sorry, this started out a small recommendation.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Semper Gumby,

    I did not say my argument was impractical, but that one must consider all arguments, even the impractical ones (but not the impossible ones!).

    In fact, the type of situation I am talking about is well-known in the mathematical epidemiological literature. It is called segregated mixing (where each age groups sticks to itself). Here is a link to a paper that discusses the various types of age-dependent mixing (although, for their purposes, it is the old people with the immunity, not the young, so the situation is backwards, but all it does is flip the results:

    The author does point out that segregated mixing is unrealistic, but that is only because it has never been tried. Given the peculiarities of COVId-19, now might be a time to try it.

    You will notice in the graphs at the end (page 28), that the segregated mixing model shows exactly what I am saying: the young get sharply and quickly infected, while the old have a broad or no infection. In his case immunity is caused by pre-existing immunity in the older population, but sequestering them leads to the same result, since in both cases, Ro, effectively, equals zero.

    Unfortunately, as the paper points out, not a lot of research has been done on age-dependent infection rates in populations in epidemiology, so the optimal strategy very much might depend on the particular structure of society with regards to the infection. As I mentioned, earlier, the current no-contact strategy is best for diseases that affect the population uniformly or at least at both ends of the age spectrum (Valle et, al.’s, Normal Mixing), such as the flu, but in such a one-sided age-dependent strength of infectivity as in the current case, there may be a better way to do things. We know this to be the case in such things as smallpox, where total isolation is not necessary, just what is known as ring vaccination. This is because the population was routinely vaccinated until 1972 (when the disease was declared eradicated), so the older population has at least a partial immunity. The idea is symmetric: if the young population develops an immunity instead of the old population, the same result would occur.

    Sadly, once COVID-19 becomes widely disseminated among all age groups, then segregated mixing can no longer work, because both age groups are infected. Segregated mixing is an early-on strategy when one can sequester one of the groups before it is infected and we may have passed the point where it could be effective.

    No, hot zones do not change my argument, at least the ones I am thinking of, since I am talking about segregated mixing and the hot zones I am talking about are restricted to only one of the two mixing classes, in theory, not both. If you meant a generalized all-age hot zone, then I agree, it does change the picture, but that is not the model I am considering.

    I hope this discussion isn’t too tedious. Years from now, these are exactly the types of discussions epidemiologists will be having, having collected the data from COVID-19, so that they can do a proper post-event assessment.

    The Chicken

  26. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: In fact hot zones do change your argument, please take a closer look. So do other variables such as asymptomatic shedding and further waves. As you know, at some point theory must grapple with reality or it’s a pointless exercise.

    A “proper post-event assessment” will encounter difficulties, given the origins of the Wuhan Virus and the dubious statistics from more than one totalitarian country. Cheers.

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