Michelle Martin

Dear prudence

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Prudence, we know, is a virtue, and wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

We’re going to need plenty of both over the next several months as we negotiate the pandemic.

Now that we are more than four months from onset of the crisis, people have grown weary. They are tired of staying home, tired of making grocery lists and cooking dinner every night. Parents want to take their kids to the pool or the beach, and dear God, do parents want their kids to be in school come fall.

Young people want to go to restaurants and bars to socialize, and wearing masks has lost its novelty.

But the crisis, such as it is, hasn’t ended. While the number of new infections has dropped in many states, in others it is growing, and some states that saw numbers drop in June have seen increased numbers of people infected in July.

As doctors have learned more about how to treat COVID-19 and death rates seem to be falling, there are reports of lingering and debilitating after-effects in some survivors.

Public health officials have worked to get the word out that wearing masks is an effective preventative measure, more for the people the mask-wearers come in contact with than for the mask-wearers themselves. It seems the perfect opportunity for anyone to demonstrate that they love their neighbors as themselves.

Businesses — even restaurants and bars — have started to reopen, and most parishes in the archdiocese have opened their doors, but only with limited (and defined) seating and reservations to facilitate contact tracing if someone turns out to be infected.

Catholic schools have announced they will open in the fall, but they will look very different, with temperature checks at the door, students and teachers wearing masks all day, students and teachers grouped together in cohorts and students set up at desks as far apart as possible, rather than pushed together in collaborative groupings. Parents can choose an all-virtual option as well.

Now is the time for all of us to exercise prudence, and wisdom, as we make choices for ourselves and for our families. Which activities are relatively safe? Which are too risky? Which do we think might be risky, but worth it, whether for our livelihoods or our own mental health or that of people we love?

The calculus varies from person to person, family to family, but the choices of each person and each family in turn affect the wider community.

For me, the easiest decision is to wear a mask in public. Every day, every time. I’m mystified as to why other people don’t. Surely it’s worth a little discomfort to reduce the chance that you unknowingly pass a deadly virus to someone else.

It’s also easy to say no to eating in a restaurant or drinking in a bar, especially after J.P. Morgan Chase released data that showed increased rates of infection followed in areas where people were spending more at restaurants and bars on their Chase credit cards.

For the rest, we’re thinking about it. Thinking long and hard, and praying for wisdom and prudence.


  • family life
  • coronavirus
  • covid-19