It's a media mogul’s dream! They thought they had addicted us to their 24-hour news cycles, but now they really have us. The 2011 apocalyptic thriller Contagion has become the 2nd most watched movie on streaming sites, but now the outbreak is actually happening, for real! But how “real” is it?
I don’t know how real it is, since I gave up entertainment for Lent: that includes “the news,” which is mostly entertainment. The problem is that some of the news is real. How much is real and how much is marketed hysteria? How much of the “news” is an apocalyptic thriller fantasy, produced and packaged to make a few men rich, but also used by darker forces to keep an entire people enslaved in fear?
How much should I “know” about the pandemic? I know that the streets of San Francisco are much quieter than last week. I know that I cannot allow my people to attend our Masses, and I cannot visit my parishioners in their homes. I know that the grocery shelves at Target are half empty. I am told that 3000 people have died in Italy from this virus, and that San Francisco has 51 known cases of the virus and zero deaths.
To write these lines I had check the news, which violates my Lenten resolution to give up media. To some degree we must check the news, but the question is to what degree. It’s hard not to turn on the radio in the morning, or check my favorite news sites several times a day. It is hard to be content with silence. But, as Mother Teresa said, “in the silence of the heart God speaks.” I think you and I should not watch Contagion at this time. I think we should wait a few months to check our stock portfolios. I think we should keep our car radios and personal devices off most of the day. I think we should read good books and take brisk walks outside with our families, as in fact I see many San Franciscans doing (now that schools are closed). It’s lovely to see Golden Gate Park full of families for a change! We should spend an hour a day in the silence of our churches rather than in front of hysterical news cycles, now that we have the time. I think we should manfully resist media hysterics; we should keep calm and enjoy the quiet that has descended upon our cities.
I get to offer two Masses for St. Joseph today! Happy and blessed feast day of blessed Joseph, loving father of Jesus and spouse of Mary, and our own protector here on earth.