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Issue 05 – Saint Anselm 2021


The Plague And Mass

On the nature of sacrifice.


I had scheduled my retreat for mid-April last year, ignorant that the entire country would shut down a few weeks before. The sisters who offered to put me up live on a rural property, and thus could offer me a relatively sheltered place to hide from the coronavirus. However, I recognized that I could be introducing a deadly pathogen into a quarantined community and emailed Mother Superior to ask permission before I traveled out there. She told me that if her community got the virus from a priest by helping him pray and more closely unite himself to God’s will, they would happily die for the glory of God’s kingdom. This did not make me feel better. But I did decide to go to their house and stay for my retreat. As far as I am aware, none of the sisters took ill.

The precarious situation motivated me to take very seriously my responsibility to pray for the sisters who hosted me, and for the health and safety of my parishioners and the world at large. So, dutifully, on every day permitted by the calendar during my retreat, I prayed the Mass from the 1962 Missal, “Recordare, Domine,” for times of plague and imminent danger of death. The prayers are a beautiful and compelling plea to the Lord to remember His mercy towards us, and to hold back the hand of the Angel of Death. The collect begins, “O God, who does not desire death for the sinner, but repentance. . .” God has told us that He does not desire our deaths, but we see many dying around us. We know that we are sinners, and that the sinfulness of humanity could justly receive God’s wrath. But, in the tract, we find the courage to ask: “Lord, do not treat us according to our sins, nor pay us back according to our iniquity.” We know our sins merit death, but we have found the courage in God’s own testimony to His mercy to ask for life instead. And He does, indeed, have the power to give life. The Gospel records Jesus’ curing of Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus merely “commands” the fever, and her health is restored. To this God, who could justly condemn us, but instead desires to give us life, I offered the Mass day after day. I asked, along with the Secret prayer during the Offertory, “Let the sacrifice which we now offer assist us, we beseech you, O Lord; may it wholly release us from sin and deliver us from all ruin and destruction.”

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About the author

Ambrose Dobrozsi

Father Ambrose Dobrozsi is a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. This piece originally appeared in the Trinity 2022 issue of The Lamp magazine.

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