Order of Friars Minor
One Year Since COVID-19 was declared a Global Pandemic
March 11, 2021
My dear Brothers,
May the Lord give you peace!
On March 11, 2021 the world will mark one year since the World Health Organization declared Sars2-COVID-19 a global pandemic. On that date, there were 118,000 verified infections, and 4,291 verified deaths from COVID-19, with 114 countries reporting the presence of the virus. As of February 26, 2021, there have been nearly 112,000,000 confirmed infections, and nearly 2,500,000 deaths from COVID-19, with 192 countries now directly affected by the pandemic. What also is clear is the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has upon our poor brothers and sisters and upon the world’s poorer nations.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that everyone of us in the Order knows someone who has become infected, and perhaps someone who has died. It is difficult to verify exactly how many of our beloved Friars have died as a result of complications from COVID-19, but the numbers are significant. Fraternities have been quarantined. Individual Friars have been isolated in hospital or in Provincial or Custodial infirmaries or in other care facilities. Family members have been infected and, sadly, some have died. A significant number of ‘survivors’ of COVID-19 are reporting long-term effects, including exhaustion, respiratory difficulties, heart abnormalities, and other difficulties for which they are now under medical care. One cannot even begin to fathom the psycho-social impact of the pandemic due to fear of contagion, social isolation, and the triggering of other long-standing mental health conditions. They affect not only those unknown to us; they affect our lives as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic is rewriting the history of the world, and, more importantly, the history of each of our lives, the life of the Order, and the Church. We do not know the full weight of collateral ‘damage’ that might come as a consequence of the pandemic, but we already are sensing increased challenges that touch every aspect of our lives, our institutions, and our evangelizing presence in the world today. It is my prayer that each of you has been able to take sufficient time to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on your life, on the other brothers in the fraternity, on your pastoral and missionary work, and on the lives of those whom we have been called to serve.
As we draw near to March 11, 2021, the first year since the official declaration of the Sars2-COVID-19 pandemic, I invite all of you, my dear brothers, to join with the universal Fraternity of the Order for a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These three ‘methods’ find precedence in the Sacred Scriptures and offer an opportunity for those who embrace them to enter into a spirit of conversion of mind, heart, and action (Cf. Joel 1:14ff). Find attached to this letter two prayers that have been composed as a response to the pandemic. They are prayers calling upon God to hear the cry of God’s people and to come to our aid. In the spirit of fasting proposed by the Prophets (Cf. Is 58:6-7) and by Jesus (Cf. Mt. 6:16-18), the focus clearly is on a radical change of heart and mind and is also linked with acts that contribute to the liberation of God’s people by uniting our efforts in one great act of solidarity, something so much needed in our world prior to and as a consequence of the COVID pandemic. This is the focus of Pope Francis’s message in Fratelli Tutti when speaking about the need for the entire world to undergo a radical conversion (Fratelli Tutti 32,55). Finally, I urge you to take time to talk to one another and express how the COVID pandemic has affected your personal life, your involvement with the fraternity, your missionary engagements, and other challenges you are facing. It would most appropriate if the local fraternities could celebrate the Eucharist together on this day of prayer. The moment of dialogue could take place in a special house chapter or during the time for the homily at the Eucharist.
May we unite as the one universal brotherhood on this occasion the first year since COVID was declared a pandemic. Let us call upon Mary, Mother of the Seraphic Order, and all of the saints of the Order to intercede to God on our behalf, and on behalf of all of humanity. May the gift of our fraternity be a source of constant support and encouragement as together we face an uncertain future. May we reflect the love and mercy of God who is always present with us, most especially during these most difficult times, inviting us to stand up and lift up our heads, to see that we are not alone (Cf. Lk. 21:28).
Let us pray for all who continue to suffer the direct physical consequences of COVID-19. Let us pray, also, for all those who are affected socially, spiritually, and economically. And let us remember all of our brothers and sisters who have passed from this life and who now enjoy fullness of life in God’s kingdom.
Rome, March 1st, 2021
Fraternally yours in Christ and St. Francis,
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant
PRAYER FOR MARCH 11, 2021
Almighty and eternal God, our refuge in every danger,
to whom we turn in our distress;
in faith we pray
look with compassion on the afflicted,
grant eternal rest to the dead,
comfort to mourners,
healing to the sick,
peace to the dying,
strength to healthcare workers,
wisdom to our leaders
and the courage to reach out to all in love,
so that together we may give glory to your holy name. (Collect of Mass in time of Pandemic)
Strengthen the bonds of our spiritual fraternity,
That we might give witness to your presence and healing love
Through the way we care for one another,
And for the way we reach out to our brothers and sisters most in need,
Especially those most affected by the pandemic.
We call upon the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Seraphic Order,
St. Francis, St. Clare, and all of the seraphic saints,
Asking that they intercede on our behalf to the God of all mercy.
We make this our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Who promised to remain with us always,
When information overwhelms us
and fear overtakes us.
speak to us again those comforting words,
“Peace be with you.”
Though we cannot be physically close to others,
give us the ability and courage
to love as well as we can,
Since “perfect love casts out all fear.”
Direct your caring gaze on doctors and nurses,
researchers and safety personnel.
Come to strengthen the sick, vulnerable,
and comfort those who are grief stricken.
And when the pandemic has passed,
and this frightening crisis is resolved,
teach us to know You more certainly
as our dearest Friend and our only Hope.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever, Amen. (Adaptation of ‘Prayer in a Time of Pandemic’, Diocese of Cork)
(offer one Our Father. One Hail Mary, and the Glory be….)
Our Lady, Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.