Lord Jesus, Hear our pleas, our good shepherd and divine physician. We implore your mercy…
‘Conquering Coronavirus’: New book helps readers focus on faith during the pandemic
Typically, the publication of a new book takes approximately 18 months from the acquisition of a project to the publication of the finished work. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, bestselling author, speaker and radio host Teresa Tomeo teamed with Sophia Institute Press to create “Conquering Coronavirus: How Faith Can Put Your Fears to Rest” in a matter of weeks. Tomeo spoke with Our Sunday Visitor about the inspiration for this book and its message of hope.
Our Sunday Visitor: How were you able to prioritize the writing and publication of this resource so quickly?
Teresa Tomeo: All credit to the Holy Spirit and, I also think, to my mom, Rosie, who died on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, from congestive heart failure as more and more shutdowns were occurring. I felt her encouraging me to write and finish the book in record time. I also felt that God was allowing this to happen to get our attention and help us reprioritize the “crowns” in our lives. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the word “corona” in Latin and Italian means crown. Not to mention that St. Corona is buried in northern Italy — one of the epicenters of the pandemic. The book poured out of me over just a few days. I didn’t even know if it was possible to turn a book around so quickly, but the publisher went to work and did a beautiful job of designing and editing the book. I just hope it helps those most in need.
Our Sunday Visitor: How did the experience of losing your mother during the early stages of the pandemic inspire your work on this book?
Tomeo: The experience of losing a loved one during a pandemic was enormously powerful, and I wanted to share those experiences, in particular the struggle with not being able to have a funeral liturgy or a wake surrounded by friends and family. I wanted to encourage fellow Catholics that, through it all, God is with us. The book is dedicated to my Mom. There were significant signs, especially on the day of her burial, that God gave me — signs that I was not alone. I was in a big tug of war with God over not being able to have a funeral Mass, but when I surrendered, he showed me that he was indeed with me.
Our Sunday Visitor: In this time of uncertainty and fear, you have emphasized the sharing of wonderful stories of hope and inspiration. Why do these accounts matter in our efforts to “conquer” the anxiety we are experiencing?
Tomeo: What I love about these stories is they show how the natural law works on the hearts of people all over the world. These stories serve as great reminders of the strength of the human spirit. St. Paul tells us that God’s law is written on the heart, and this pandemic was and is certainly proof of that, with folks from all sorts of different faith backgrounds or no faith affiliation at all doing what they thought was good and just because of their basic understanding of the dignity of the human person. And then — and I think there are countless proud moments for Catholics and other Christians — there are so many priests, bishops and other faithful ministering in so many unique ways. We had at least two priests in my home state of Michigan that decided to take to the skies in small planes and bless the faithful with a Eucharistic procession from above. We also had a young Chaldean priest hold adoration in the Church parking lot. He posted on social media that the monstrance would be visible from one of the main windows in the church. The photo that went viral showed the parking lot with rows and rows of cars as far as the eye could see.
People do have a lot of anxiety and fear, but we cannot let it overcome us. These stories again are reminders that God can use very troubling times for good.
Our Sunday Visitor: You speak of returning our hearts to “old” traditions even while embracing new tools to remain connected. What are a few of the ways that we can moderately embrace media tools with faith and grace?
Tomeo: First, I think so many of us are taking advantage of “going to Mass” online via the countless parishes around the world that are offering livestreaming. While the internet can never replace being in the pews for Mass, this is increasing an awareness and a deeper appreciation for the Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments in general. In “Conquering Corona,” I encourage families to use this as an opportunity to go to Mass anywhere in the world. My pastor at our parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit told me that our church alone has folks from Poland, Portugal and Guam, just to name a few places, following us online. What a great way to teach about the truly universal Church.
Also, there are so many great virtual retreats, studies, conferences and prayer events. It’s so encouraging to know that there is something for every member of the family, faith-wise, that is being offered so we can stay close to each other and, most importantly, to God.
In “Conquering Coronavirus,” I am also encouraging families to conduct a media reality check. Families should be using the media together and making wise choices as opposed to retreating to different parts of the home and allowing nonstop and unmonitored media usage. The media can and should be used wisely. Now is a great time to recommit to that.
Our Sunday Visitor: Your book confronts the need we have to lovingly surrender to God’s will. How can embracing the gift of spiritual communion and other devotional practices deepen our appreciation for the Eucharist?
Tomeo: I don’t think a lot of us in the Church, especially in developed nations such as the United States, were all that familiar with spiritual communion, because we’ve been blessed to have regular access to the Eucharist. The spiritual communion prayer is beautiful and reminds us not only of the gift of the body and blood of Christ, but also that we need to take Jesus into our hearts daily. I suggest that we offer the pain of not being able to receive Jesus physically for those around the world who don’t regularly have access to Mass and the sacraments in general, and to remember those who are unable to attend Mass because of their particular situations. From the feedback I am getting, absence is really making the Catholic heart grow fonder when it comes to realizing what we have in holy Communion as well as the countless other blessings in the Church.
Our Sunday Visitor: How can prayer and the timeless teaching of the Church aid these groups, whether it be those suffering from COVID-19, those working on the front lines or leaders who are called to rise up and serve?
Tomeo: I really feel again that God is allowing this to help us realize that we are not in control. As I say in the book, God did not cause this pandemic, but in his wisdom, he allowed it to occur. I know it is really helping me remember that I need to surrender daily by asking the Lord what he wants, not what I want.
Our Catholic faith has so much to teach us about letting go and letting God. Pope St. John Paul II tells us, “We don’t find ourselves until we lose ourselves in Christ.” This pandemic is reminding us of the dignity of each human person. It is forcing us to focus more on our families by taking away all those activities that while not necessarily bad, such as sports and entertainment, may have been taking up too much of our time.
The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are also being rediscovered and applied in so many ways. Folks are waking up to the fact that “hey, it is not all about me, myself and I.” Real “joy” comes from seeing that word as an acronym: “Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last.”
Lisa Hendey writes from California.