A deadly plague was spreading throughout the northeast regions of China. Within four months, 60,000 people died.
Sound familiar? Actually, the year was 1910. The Chinese government recruited one of the best trained physicians in Asia at the time, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh. Dr. Wu had studied infectious diseases in England. After performing a series of autopsies, he found a bacterium similar to the one that had caused bubonic plague in the West. Dr. Wu realized immediately that this disease was not transmitted by rats or fleas but by infected droplets humans sneezed and coughed into the air. Dr. Wu designed a face covering based on ventilators from the Victorian era: padding layers of cotton and gauze, with strings so the users could secure it to their head. The mask was simple and inexpensive to produce.
Dr. Wu had designed the modern face mask.
Dr. Wu’s mask was met with skepticism. A French physician was particularly critical of Dr. Wu’s findings and refused to wear the mask – but the doctor soon was infected and died of the disease. His death shocked the Chinese into following Dr. Wu’s advice.
Dr. Wu urged everyone, especially health care professionals and law enforcement, to wear the masks. Chinese authorities mandated that everyone mask and also followed Dr. Wu’s directions to enforce stringent lockdowns and quarantining the sick. Four months after Dr. Wu began his work, the plague ended.
Dr. Wu went on to establish teaching hospitals in epidemiology and public health.
While masks became a political flashpoint in the United States and elsewhere during the Spanish flu pandemic in the 1920s, face masks became a symbol of national pride and modern health care in China that continues today. While this is the first time that most Americans are wearing masks (however begrudgingly), the people of China and Southeast Asia have covered their faces during outbreaks of meningitis, cholera and influenza for more than a century.
For the Chinese, masking is viewed as a matter of social responsibility and care for one another.
After a year and half, most of us have had enough of face masks – but we would think of them much differently if our national experience was like that of the Chinese. Today’s Gospel challenges us to think of things like face masks as “crosses” we take up in the spirit of Jesus to bring healing and peace to Good Friday brokenness. In some of the hardest words he speaks in the Gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that real discipleship calls us to “crucify” our own needs and comfort for the good of others; to take on, with humility and gratitude, the demanding role of servant to those in need and distress; to intentionally seek the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves. Only in “denying ourselves” in imitation of the servanthood of Christ do we experience the true depth of our faith; only in embracing his compassion and humility in our lives do we enable the Spirit of God to renew and transform our world in God’s life and love.
Last week, I mentioned that a parishioner funded new steps on our parking lot. Workers replaced the wooden steps with concrete ones. I assumed that the donor wanted to remain anonymous, but I had found out while I was away that he wished to be identified. Many thanks to Robert Bradshaw for his wonderful generosity. The new steps look great and he has assured us that more improvements are on the way!
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is held in the church each Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. beginning on September 14. Look for the sign-up sheet in the Narthex or you can just stop by whenever you are free. This is a great way to spend some quiet time in prayer and meditation before our Lord. You can present Him with your needs, reflect on His Word, or simply be in His presence.
Finally, this weekend as we commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country, our thoughts and prayers for peace and for healing in our world are as fervent as ever. We continue to witness acts of violence and injustice, and there are many who continue to grieve the tragic loss of the nearly 3,000 loved ones on that fateful day, as well as those who have died since then from 9/11 illnesses. For many of us, the images of the collapse of the Twin Towers, the damage at the Pentagon, and the wreckage of the crash of United flight 93 in Shanksville, PA is burned in our memories. May our grief, fear, and frustration inspire our prayers for God’s healing and lasting peace in our hearts and in our world.
See you this weekend!
Don’t forget to use hand sanitizers in the Narthex and when you enter the church at the Food Pantry entrance.
As usual, we will continue to live-stream Mass (Mon—Thurs at 9:00am and Sunday at 9:30am) on the parish Facebook (link) and uploaded on YouTube (link), and our parish website, https://www.seaseton.org/Resources/Media. If you do not have Facebook but wish to watch our livestream, click here for instructions.