theflock

Through a large part of the world all public Masses have been cancelled. Why? Supermarkets are open. If absolutely necessary the civil authorities could have said that food could be delivered only. Instead it has been judged by the temporal power that the risks of people using supermarkets can be diminished and controlled. Man does not live by bread alone. Groceries are necessary. Surely the Bread of Life is more necessary than the bread which perishes. The ventilation of Churches could be investigated along with their safe maximum capacity while maintaining the necessary distance between individuals and households and parishioners could sign up for a fixed number of places. Priests can say three Masses a day in cases (such as this) of pastoral necessity. Why are bishops not doing this? Where is their zeal for souls?

For most clerics today the sign of peace, communion under both kinds, universal reception of  communion, concelebration and extraordinary ministers are not questionable novelties that ought to be phased out but are non-negotiable essential elements of the liturgy. If these practices were missing from the Mass it were better (for this generation) if Mass were not said at all. If particles of the Eucharist are not being scattered over the fitted carpets and cloths soaked in the Precious Blood are not being discarded in a bag in the sacristy, if men and women in habitual grave sin are not eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves then why are we here?

If these practices were eliminated and the liturgy still celebrated the laity might start getting funny ideas. They might question whether they really need to be be reintroduced. God might start pouring down graces upon the Church. Vocations, conversions, orthodoxy, sanctity might at any moment rise from their unquiet graves and trouble the clerical bureaucracy and start questioning its conduct or even its sincerity. If receiving the Eucharist were really that important then the faith might be certain and true and a proper basis for civil and social life and worth dying for (shudder). The joy and the hope, the fear and the anguish of the followers of Christ might not, after all, entirely overlap with the joy and the hope, the fear and the anguish of the men of our time after all.

So the churches must close, especially those which offer the actual Roman Rite instead of the manufactured fabrication, the banal on-the-spot product currently traded under that name. Once again holy obedience is demanded by the wolves and the hired men in order to destroy the faith of the little ones and extinguish the perpetual sacrifice. If possible confession should be banned.

“Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:28-29)

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth: and the wolf casteth and scattereth the sheep, And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd: and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. ” (John 10:11-15)

ArthurArthur’s title to the throne is hereditary. He does not acquire it through political virtue. It is, furthermore, unknown to him. The advantage of heredity – that the pursuit of power corrupts even more than its possession – is therefore magnified in his case. He thinks he is the younger son of Sir Ector. He is identified by means of a wonder sought from God by national prayer led by the Metropolitan of Londinium. When the sign first appears on Christmas Day, in the presence of the entire political nation, Arthur is not present. He is present on the Feast of Circumcision as page to Sir Kay.  He is being trained in the skills necessary for the exercise of the temporal power in his day, as befits what he believes to be his gentle but not exalted rank, but in a mode of service. Sir Kay has already been a knight for three months. The sight of the wonder is supposed to be guarded in a pavilion by ten knights but they have gone to the tournament. The tournament is the symbol of all those skills necessary for the governance of the temporal city which are nonetheless mere skills and not virtues. Sir Kay, the bully, is bursting to display his prowess at the joust and as is later revealed, should the opportunity present itself, to be king. Arthur doesn’t even know what the sword is, he draws it to help his brother while going the extra mile to serve him. He draws it alone in front of St Paul’s the outpost of the City of God in the world while the world is at the tourney. In Sir Ector’s oath the codes of honour and virtue combine to force Kay to admit that Arthur is King.

 

Then stood the realm in great jeopardy long while, for every lord that was mighty of men made him strong, and many weened to have been king. Then Merlin went to the Bishop of London, and counselled him for to send for all the lords of the realm, and all the gentlemen of arms, that they should to London come by Christmas, upon pain of cursing; and for this cause, that Jesus, that was born on that night, that he would of his great mercy show some miracle, as he was come to be king of mankind, for to show some miracle who should be rightwise king of this realm. So the Archbishop, by the advice of Merlin, sent for all the lords and gentlemen of arms that they should come by Christmas even unto London. And many of them made them clean of their life, that their prayer might be the more acceptable unto God. So in the greatest church of St Paul’s all the estates were long or day in the church for to pray. And when matins and the first mass was done, there was seen in the churchyard, against the high altar, a great stone four square, like unto a marble stone; and in midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about the sword that said thus:—Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all Britain. Then the people marvelled, and told it to the Archbishop.

I command, said the Archbishop, that ye keep you within your church and pray unto God still, that no man touch the sword till the high mass be all done. So when all masses were done all the lords went to behold the stone and the sword. And when they saw the scripture some assayed, such as would have been king. But none might stir the sword nor move it. He is not here, said the Archbishop, that shall achieve the sword, but doubt not God will make him known. But this is my counsel, said the Archbishop, that we let purvey ten knights, men of good fame, and they to keep this sword. So it was ordained, and then there was made a cry, that every man should assay that would, for to win the sword. And upon New Year’s Day the lords let make a jousts and a tournament, that all knights that would joust or tourney there might play, and all this was ordained for to keep the lords together and the commons, for the Archbishop trusted that God would make him known that should win the sword.

So upon New Year’s Day, when the service was done, the lords rode unto the field, some to joust and some to tourney, and so it happened that Sir Ector, that had great livelihood about London, rode unto the jousts, and with him rode Sir Kay his son, and young Arthur that was his nourished brother; and Sir Kay was made knight at All Hallowmass afore. So as they rode to the jousts-ward, Sir Kay lost his sword, for he had left it at his father’s lodging, and so he prayed young Arthur for to ride for his sword. I will well, said Arthur, and rode fast after the sword, and when he came home, the lady and all were out to see the jousting. Then was Arthur wroth, and said to himself, I will ride to the churchyard, and take the sword with me that sticketh in the stone, for my brother Sir Kay shall not be without a sword this day. So when he came to the churchyard, Sir Arthur alighted and tied his horse to the stile, and so he went to the tent, and found no knights there, for they were at the jousting. And so he handled the sword by the handles, and lightly and fiercely pulled it out of the stone, and took his horse and rode his way until he came to his brother Sir Kay, and delivered him the sword. And as soon as Sir Kay saw the sword, he wist well it was the sword of the stone, and so he rode to his father Sir Ector, and said: Sir, lo here is the sword of the stone, wherefore I must be king of this land. When Sir Ector beheld the sword, he returned again and came to the church, and there they alighted all three, and went into the church. And anon he made Sir Kay swear upon a book how he came to that sword. Sir, said Sir Kay, by my brother Arthur, for he brought it to me. How gat ye this sword? said Sir Ector to Arthur. Sir, I will tell you. When I came home for my brother’s sword, I found nobody at home to deliver me his sword; and so I thought my brother Sir Kay should not be swordless, and so I came hither eagerly and pulled it out of the stone without any pain. Found ye any knights about this sword? said Sir Ector. Nay, said Arthur. Now, said Sir Ector to Arthur, I understand ye must be king of this land. Wherefore I, said Arthur, and for what cause? Sir, said Ector, for God will have it so; for there should never man have drawn out this sword, but he that shall be rightwise king of this land. Now let me see whether ye can put the sword there as it was, and pull it out again. That is no mastery, said Arthur, and so he put it in the stone; wherewithal Sir Ector assayed to pull out the sword and failed.

Now assay, said Sir Ector unto Sir Kay. And anon he pulled at the sword with all his might; but it would not be. Now shall ye assay, said Sir Ector to Arthur. I will well, said Arthur, and pulled it out easily. And therewithal Sir Ector knelt down to the earth, and Sir Kay. Alas, said Arthur, my own dear father and brother, why kneel ye to me? Nay, nay, my lord Arthur, it is not so; I was never your father nor of your blood, but I wot well ye are of an higher blood than I weened ye were. And then Sir Ector told him all, how he was betaken him for to nourish him, and by whose commandment, and by Merlin’s deliverance.

Then Arthur made great dole when he understood that Sir Ector was not his father. Sir, said Ector unto Arthur, will ye be my good and gracious lord when ye are king? Else were I to blame, said Arthur, for ye are the man in the world that I am most beholden to, and my good lady and mother your wife, that as well as her own hath fostered me and kept. And if ever it be God’s will that I be king as ye say, ye shall desire of me what I may do, and I shall not fail you; God forbid I should fail you Sir, said Sir Ector, I will ask no more of you, but that ye will make my son, your foster brother, Sir Kay, seneschal of all your lands. That shall be done, said Arthur, and more, by the faith of my body, that never man shall have that office but he, while he and I live.

 

In a comment below Thomascordatus asked me what I think about this video recorded by microbiologist Sucharit Bhakdi.

My first reaction is that as the former head of the Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, Prof. Bhakdi must know about what he is talking. According to Aelianus, that is the German in me. On the other hand, as a sort of scientist myself, I know that even renowned professors have been known to tell utter nonsense about a topic related to their field. Here are my thoughts:

It is true that we cannot know the true mortality rate, because we do not reliably know the number that is infected (which leads to overestimates, because those seriously ill are far more likely both to be tested and to die). It is also true that the mere presence of a virus infection in a person who then dies does not prove that they died FROM that virus. As is the case with influenza, it seems we will only be able to estimate Covid-19-related deaths after the epidemic is over, namely through ‘excess mortality’, i.e. deaths beyond the background mortality.

These arguments, however, do not explain away the fact that a number of regions experience a surge of severe respiratory illness that requires ICU care, to such an unprecedented extent that hospitals in these regions (first Hubai, later Lombardy, the northeast of France, Madrid) are utterly swamped . There must be some reason for this, and if a large number of these patients tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, this seems to indicate some causality.

So we have an easily spread virus (easily spread particularly since (still) asymptomatic patients can transmit it) in a population with little if any immunity against it. I have not yet heard any experts who claim that it will not infect the majority of people (although I stand to be corrected). Even if the proportion of infected people requiring ICU treatment is much smaller than current infection number suggest: As long as the virus spreads exponentially (which it appears to do, and what you’d expect it to do), the number of these cases should also increase exponentially. In Italy, currently 0.1% of the population have been tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Even if this underestimates the actual infections by a factor of 100, there would still only be a 10% infection rate and rapid growth of infections as well as severe cases should still be expected. Incidentally, according to this, while 22.7% of Italian tests were positive as of 20th March, this was true only for 3.9% of tests in Germany (15th March) or 5.3% of tests in the UK (20th March). In all cases, tests were restricted to probable cases (symptoms and/or close contact to infected person), so the proportion in the general population should be far lower.

For me, it is the very real risk of overwhelming the health care system that makes it sensible to slow down the spread of SARS-CoV-2 at this point. A Spanish report of 22nd March looks at the age distribution of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections, of deaths among these, and of treatment in the ICU. Of the infected, 62% were younger than 60; of the deaths, only 3.3%. However, 32% of the ICU patients were younger than 60, and the majority of these, apparently, did not die. In fact, hardly any of the over 80-year-olds, who made up two thirds of the fatalities, had been treated in the ICU at all. This indicates to me that having sufficient ICU capacity for all severe cases will save lives, and that especially among younger people, among whom it is far more likely that any acute severe respiratory illness is actually caused by SARS-CoV-2 and who would not ‘have died anyway from something else’.

Related to this, I have not found out where Prof. Bhakdi gets his number of 99.5% of infections of whom he says that they may be ‘infected’, but they are ‘not ill’. The only numbers I found are from a WHO report based on data from 55924 confirmed infections up to 20th February. Of these, 80% were ‘mild to moderate’ – which, however, does include pneumonia, unless it requires hospitalization. A proportion of 88% had a fever, about two thirds a dry cough. This may not be dangerous, but I still would not say that they are not ‘not ill’. The same report speaks of 13.8% of ‘severe’ cases, which means ‘dyspnea, respiratory frequency ≥30/minute, blood oxygen saturation ≤93%, PaO2/FiO2 ratio <300, and/or lung infiltrates >50% of the lung field within 24-48 hours’, and 6.1%  ‘critical cases’, namely ‘respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction/failure’.

It is open to debate which measures will buy us the needed time to spread out the cases requiring ventilation, to increase production of needed materials and, if possible, intensive care capacity, without causing more harm socially, economically and regarding other health conditions. I just think ‘this is all utterly unnecessary’ is not correct.

 

As the Church enters in many places a strange sort of Holy Saturday (though at least the chants of Tenebrae are heard on Holy Saturday), here is a passage from St Robert Bellarmine which I came across recently, about the phrase ‘the Breaking of the Bread’ as a name for the Mass.  Some of the Tablety sort of people seem to like this phrase because they think (if truth be told) that it is a bit Protestant.  Bellarmine discusses it while speaking of the Scriptural passages that teach the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist:

The second argument is drawn from the words ‘The bread which we break’ (1 Cor. 10).  For in the mystery of the Eucharist, breaking is the same as immolating or offering.  This is clear from the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 11: ‘This is my body which is broken for you.’  For Calvin too, and Martyr [the Protestant controversialist Peter Martyr Vermigli] and many Catholics understand this of the passion, and Calvin says expressly, ‘To be broken here means the same as to be immolated’.  Therefore in this place too, breaking will be immolation: for it is the same word, of the same author, in the same epistle, and treating of the same subject.

This is confirmed by the fact that Paul speaks about the chalice with words that have to do with its consecration, not its distribution; for he doesn’t say, ‘the chalice which we drink’, but ‘the chalice which we bless’.  Therefore in speaking of the bread, he must also have used words having to do with its consecration, not with its distribution (‘Controversies on the Sacrament of the Eucharist’, Bk. 1, chapter 12).

O.K. Some numbers from Germany:

  • From 2001/2002 to 2017/2018, influenza caused 7.800 annual deaths on average, and 25.100 deaths in the worst season.
  • Germany has 28,000 intensive care places. With 0.34 per 1000 inhabitants, this is apparently one of the highest relative numbers worldwide.
  • During the influenza season, influenza patients require araound 60% of ventilator capicity, although this may reach up to 90% in a bad season.

So: yes, influenza is a real problem, even in a country with a good health care system. But: Covid-19 IS considerably worse.

Just an extremely rough calculation: Deaths from Covid-19 show textbook exponential growth in most European countries. In Germany, currently the country with the lowest case fatality rate among the major affected European countries, doubling time of Covid-19 deaths is 5.5 days, based on the past 10 days. If this continues, we will exceed 68,000 deaths within less than two months – which is well before the peak of the epidemic. The number of 68,000 deaths in Germany assumes mortality rates will remain at their current low level – which they won’t, as by that point, hospital capacities will be well exceeded.

Or bit more exactly: Modelling by the Robert-Koch-Institute, using reasonably optimistic parameters, estimates that at the epidemic’s peak, between 3.5 and over 10 million people in Germany will be infected simultanously – depending on the seasonality of the virus and whether a proportion of people (one third) has a pre-existing immunity. At that point, between 40,000 and 1.125 million intensive care places will be needed. If no measures are taken, between 250,000 and 350,000 persons are estimated to die from Covid-19. In a country with very good health care. Using very optimistic disease parameters.

 

It is debatable how reasonable it is to close churches BEFORE restaurants. And of course it must be possible to have children baptized. And confessions taken. And Masses to which the public is not admitted still need to be said (I have my doubts that this really happens in Germany, but that is not a fault of the evil oppressive state). Of course there should be a stronger spiritual response to this crisis from the clergy. And of course not being able to attend Mass, especially during Lent and Easter, IS a great tribulation and sorrow. But whatever the motivation of the decision-makers might be, I believe prohibiting all larger congregations of people, including during Mass, is an eminently reasonable decision at the moment.

 

Bishop Schneider speaks.

And Chris Ferrara makes a reasonable request: “Show me the numbers that justify worldwide panic and suspension of civil liberties over a virus that has not killed even a tiny fraction of the people who are dying of the flu all over the world right now.”

See the whole article.

 

 

Bede: The Life and Miracles of Saint Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindesfarne (721)

CHAPTER XXXIII

HOW, AT A TIME OF SICKNESS, HE RESTORED A DYING BOY IN HEALTH TO HIS MOTHER

AT the same time the plague made great ravages in those parts, so that there were scarcely any inhabitants left in villages and places which had been thickly populated, and some towns were wholly deserted. The holy father Cuthbert, therefore, went round his parish, most assiduously ministering the word of God, and comforting those few who were left. But being arrived at a certain village, and having there exhorted all whom he found there, he said to his attendant priest, ” Do you think that any one remains who has need that we should visit and converse with him? or have we now seen all here, and shall we go elsewhere? ” The priest looked about, and saw a woman standing afar off, one of whose sons had died but a little time before, and she was now supporting another at the point of death, whilst the tears trickling down her cheek bore witness to her past and present affliction. He pointed her out to the man of God, who immediately went to her, and, blessing the boy, kissed him, and said to his mother, ” Do not fear nor be sorrowful; for your child shall be healed and live, and no one else of your household shall die of this pestilence.” To the truth of which prophecy the mother and son, who lived a long time after that, bore witness.