St. Augustine—Letter to Honoratus: On Keeping Sacraments Available
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“Because of something uncertain, there should not be a definite abandonment of duty—for, in that event, there is certain ruin for the people, not only in things pertaining to this life, but also in those of that other life which must be cared for with incomparably greater attention and anxiety.”
In his Letter to Honoratus, Augustine writes in response to a question put to him by a fellow bishop. The question? Whether it should be permissible for bishops and their clergy to flee an oncoming persecution.
Augustine, unsurprisingly, says NO to fleeing, and exhorts bishops to place their trust in God. Augustine emphasizes the power of God to protect, as well as the primacy of prayer. He underlines that concern for eternal life takes precedence over the mere preservation of temporal life, and identifies bishops and their clergy as beholden to serve the laity in their charge. If the laity remain, the clergy are obliged to remain.
As Augustine also points out, it is during the times of most danger that the sacraments are most essential—and in most demand. Although Augustine here responds to a much different set of circumstances than that of our own, it is not difficult to see how some of his directives find application in our current situation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Translation courtesy of Catholic University of America Press: https://verbum.com/product/120446/early-christian-biographies
Alternate Translation at CatholicCulture.org: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=3143
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