Modern-day Martyrs?

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

Does anyone remember the story of Don Giuseppe Berardelli? Supposedly, he got infected with Covid-19 early on, and the infection took a bad turn with the 72-year old priest from Casnigo near Bergamo. Supposedly, Don Guiseppe died after giving the respiratory unit that might have saved his life to a younger patient. Supposedly, the respiratory unit had been sponsored by his church community.

Of the above, this much can be ascertained: Don Guiseppe got infected. And he died. Which obviously does not make a good martyr story.

Likewise, there are numerous stories now about Ukrainian priests. Some of them loaded their stuff and their families into their cars and hightailed it out of there. Some stayed behind. We don’t hear a lot about some of them, because they are behind Russian lines now. I hope they are alive.

By March 22nd 2020, almost 50 priests had already died of Covid-19 in Italy alone. Is this because most priests, and notably catholic priests, are elderly white males, the group that was most likely to succumb to Covid-19? However, by sheer percentage figures, this number exceeded by far the mortality rate that was to be expected. From what we know, many of these priests got infected visiting members of their church communities who had fallen sick. To comfort them. To pray with them.

Maybe they shouldn’t have. They might still be alive and able to tend to their congregations. Maybe they did not realise the mortal danger they put themselves in, or they underestimated the risk they were running. Heroism is relative.

I’d like to think that they, like the Ukrainian priests, simply hung on and did what they believed in. What they were reasonably good at. What they believed was their task, and their responsibility – not just their duty. I hope most of them survived, and will survive.

Don Guiseppe was of course irreplacable as an individual – I would reckon that there are not that many priests in Italy today who still ride around their parish, Don Camillo-style, on an old, red Moto Guzzi Galletto. Which he did, supposedly. Small wonder, really, that sentimental and heroic stories congregate around such an eccentric and apparently beloved figure. Stories that their congregations, and many others, want to believe, because they are encouraging, enabling, empowering. In a way, priests like Don Guiseppe and the brave Ukrainians give us room to breathe.

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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