Monday 9 November 2020

A Catholic Survival Guide for Times of Emergency - Deacon Nick Donnelly

A Catholic Survival Guide for Times of Emergency
ISBN 9781505118698
eISBN 9781505118711

This is the third volume I have read by Deacon Nick Donnelly. It is the first from Tan books, and the first that is a book and not a booklet. I greatly appreciated the other two volumes from Donnelly I have read; Finding God in Anger and Bitterness and Finding God When Prayer Doesn't Work. But I found myself drawn much deeper into the material in this work. This volume grew out of the need and partially in response to COVID-19, Donnelly states in the preface:

“Though this book took shape in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, it has been written to help Catholics draw on the graces and wisdom of the Faith to cope with national, community, or personal emergencies.”

It is a book written in response to a specific crisis. But one that will serve us now, and in the years to come. It is an excellent resource both for these times of lockdowns and social distancing. But Also excellent for areas where Catholicism is under attack. And areas where it might be in the days and years to come. The first chapter int his book begins with:

“Recourse to the sacraments is essential to the supernatural lives of Catholics. This is even more true during times of crisis. When facing an emergency, we need the inner peace, strength, and resolve that comes from the forgiveness of our sins; we need the faithful certainty, intimate presence, and guidance of Our Lord that comes from Holy Communion.”

And I completely agree. He goes on to state:

“Witnessing the closure of churches and the laity’s deprivation of the sacraments, Archbishop Viganò is right to call it “a real unprecedented tragedy.”1 The drastic impact on the sacramental lives of the faithful cannot be exaggerated.”

The events in 2020 fell between sacramental preparation for my own three children. But I witnessed many children at my kids school and at our parish that have been devastated to not be able to receive sacraments. Especially first communion and confirmation. Both are typically scheduled in the spring in our diocese and preparation is done throughout the school year. My son who is just now entering grade 7 has mused about if his confirmation will take place next spring. And it is all unknown. And this book helps us address some of those questions and gives us tools for living the faith better. 

One of the sections that resonated with me the most is:

“Though the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of churches around the world is unprecedented, there may be other situations where parishes and members of the faithful have to face local and individual emergencies that seriously disrupt normal sacramental life. Or we may face an emergency where circumstances make it impossible for us to reach a priest. It is a frightening prospect to face the possibility of being denied the sacraments during an emergency, especially if it is life-threatening. It is highly unlikely that secular authorities or first responders will appreciate the stress suffered by Catholics unable to receive the pastoral care of our priests, especially the anxiety caused by the possibility of not being able to receive Extreme Unction at the hour of death.”

I do not leave the house without a pocket crucifix and a rosary. There was a time not that long ago, that first responders and Emergency Medical Services staff would have known about the need to contact a priest for a Catholic in their care. That day in most of the world has passed. 

But Donnelly does not focus primarily on the woes, he provides tools to help us all move forward. He states:

“Now is the time to recover the wisdom and practice of these traditional devotions. Under certain conditions, they will enable us to receive the forgiveness of our sins, and the marvelous benefit of Eucharistic graces if we are denied the sacraments and the pastoral care of our clergy—for example, due to self-isolation at home or quarantine in hospital.”

He further declares:

“Our Lord has given special supernatural signification and effectiveness to the seven sacraments as unique signs and instruments of his saving grace that are necessary for salvation. However, St. Thomas Aquinas was clear that God has not restricted himself to these sacraments (ST III. 64. a2). In the Act of Perfect Contrition, which is intrinsically related to the sacrament of confession, and in Spiritual Communion, which is ardently focused on the sacrament of the Eucharist, we receive his saving grace. The economy of salvation is much more varied and multifaceted than many Catholics nowadays assume, especially when we add in other sacramentals as well.”

And he brings it all together and states:

“For these reasons, the discipline of a daily examination of conscience, informed by Sacred Scripture and the Church’s teaching, is essential for the moral and spiritual life. It is even more important in emergency situations in which we find ourselves deprived of the sacrament of confession and the counsel of our priests. When we rely on acts of perfect contrition and spiritual communion it is vital that we practice daily examinations of conscience so as not to presume on the mercy of God but to receive his special graces through these devotions worthily.”

This book is an excellent read. It is one I play on reading with my son as his own confirmation preparation continues this year. It is one I wish I had had when I was younger and being formed in my faith. And above all it is a book we need today. The chapters in this book are:

What to Do When Deprived of Confession or Holy Communion
What to Do When Suffering Life-Threatening Situations Without a Priest
What to Do When Preparing for God’s Judgment on Your Own
What to Do If a Family Member Is Dying On Their Own
What to Do if Grieving Without the Assistance of a Priest
Sacred Scripture for Times of Emergency
Appendix One Prayers for Times of National Emergency
Appendix Two A Brief Guide to Indulgences
Appendix Three Emergency Baptism

There is a lot of material packed into this volume. As stated, this is an excellent volume. And one I highly recommend you pick up and read. It will be of immense benefit now and in the long run.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Nick Donnelly:
Finding God Series:

Finding God in Anger and Bitterness
Finding God in Doubt and Disbelief
Finding God When Prayer Doesn't Work
Finding God When a Loved One Loses Faith

Other Books by Nick Donelly:
Living with Illness and Suffering
Hope and Healing: Living with Illness and Suffering
Prayers for Grieving Parents: Help After a Miscarriage or Still Birth
Praying the Rosary with the Martyrs
Praying The Creed In The Year Of Faith
Praying the Rosary with the Saints

With Pope Francis Series:
Loving Mary: What Pope Francis Says
Finding Forgiveness with Pope Francis
Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis
Who Is the Devil? What Pope Francis Says
Our Journey to Christmas: With Pope Francis

Fiction by Nick Donnelly:
Ben Armstrong Adventure Series Series:
Curse of the Seawolf
Snare of the Demons
Faith of the Armstrong
Fury of the Dragons

Unattributed books cowritten\ghost written by Nick Donnelly:
Priesthood Today
Fit for Mission? Church
Fit for Mission? Schools
Fit for Mission? Marriage
Fit for Mission? A Guide

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