Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Claiming our common humanity

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

To read this column in Spanish, click here.

On March 13, based on guidelines from local health departments, I announced that until further notice all liturgical services in our parishes would be suspended after Saturday evening, March 14, and all schools operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago would be closed beginning March 16. These are not decisions I made lightly.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our life as Catholics. And our schools and agencies provide essential services to many thousands across Cook and Lake Counties. But, in consultation with leaders from across the archdiocese, and for the sake of the safety of our students, parishioners and all the women and men who serve them, it is clear that we must exercise the better part of caution. How we act now will have an impact on the course of this pandemic and say much about the kind of society we want to live in.

This is, understandably, a moment of great concern and even anxiety. This virus reminds us of our vulnerability as mortal beings. Our unease only increases as restrictions limit our freedom of movement, affecting every facet of our lives.

While health care professionals and elected officials are responsible for returning us to an acceptable level of security, each of us can help others contain the contagion of anxiety, which can cause fear, panic and, yes, division in the human family.

Here are some suggestions. Let’s pay attention to what each of us is feeling. We all are afraid and may even feel panic. We are worried about the future, as there seems to be no clear end in sight. These impulses are very real. Yet, as proven spiritual guides have often reminded us, there are two kinds of movements of the human heart: those that come from God, and those that do not.

The impulses that come from God stir up strength, consolation, generosity, solidarity and tranquility. These feelings are familiar to those who lived during the Great Depression and fought against tyranny in the past century. We tapped into them after 9/11.

But there are other impulses that lead to despair, panic or demonization of others. According to St. Ignatius of Loyola, these feelings do not come from God, and in fact, move us away from God and each other. So, while we need to be honest about the feelings affecting us all, we do have the power to reject those interior voices that divide us. Instead, we should all work to reclaim our common humanity and mine the resources of our faith.

In practical terms, this means staying emotionally close to one another and recognizing that everyone is facing stress. This is a time to be gentle with one another, to care for one another as Pope Francis often says, “with tenderness.” This is a time to let ourselves be surprised by the blessings that come from honestly sharing our fears and hopes.

Claiming our common humanity should also bring us together as a nation. Can the unity we find in combating the novel coronavirus help us rethink how we defeat other ills — violence, poverty, inequality, homelessness? Our history has taught us the perils of demonizing those who have a disease. But can this moment also prompt a national examination of how we care for — rather than blame — those on the margins? 

And this is a moment to find encouragement in the example of Jesus, who taught us not to fear the sick but to make them a priority.  

We can embrace this moment as an opportunity to grow in our faith and our humanity, as we admit our common vulnerability and radical dependence on God. By doing so, we will discover a new depth to all that unites us as a human family and as a people of faith who put their trust in God, who has chosen to be “God with us.”  


  • coronavirus