Fr. Frank Pavone says coronavirus crisis will lead to ‘deepening of faith’

Quarantine Routine is a regular feature that asks political power brokers and public figures how their daily lives have changed — and how they’re still doing their jobs — during the coronavirus crisis. 

Priests for Life National Director Fr. Frank Pavone said the current coronavirus crisis will lead to a strengthening of spirituality and a renewal of faith, among all Americans, during an interview with Fox News on Saturday.

He described how his daily routine has changed and how he is continuing his ministry in the midst of the shutdown.

Fox News: How has your daily routine changed since social distancing measures began?

Pavone: Since the social distancing measures have begun — which by the way are such a great way to help our nation and protect our families — have been instituted, my life has changed quite a bit. Because my ministry is a national and international pro-life ministry ‘Priests for Life,’ the largest in the catholic church and active in about 70 countries, I am always on the road. I sometimes joke that I spend more time in airports than in churches.

And I’m making at least four trips a week and speaking to vast audiences and having strategy sessions and meetings, and interacting with the pro-life community. So all of a sudden, all of that stopped. The events were being either canceled or postponed or transferred to virtual events. So I really miss that. Of course in another aspect, we were already, as a ministry, very present online — video broadcasting, social media.

And so utilizing those methods to reach people during the time of social distancing, for us, was not something new. Not something that we had to start learning. It was a place where we were already very well established. And that has really helped our work quite a bit.

Fox News: What are the biggest challenges in doing your job during this crisis?

Pavone: I would say that the biggest challenge in doing our job during this crisis is that no matter how effective telework is — and we do have our staff working from home — there are times when you simply need your staff at headquarters.

If they work with certain equipment that you have at the main office, or just to be able to sit down face-to-face, it really is something unique. It’s something that you can’t fully replace with things like Skype GoToMeeting, or other electronic means of communication.

So not having the staff present — the full staff that is — at all times, really is a drawback. But it’s one that every apostolate and every business, large and small, is working through at the present time.

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Fox News: What do you miss the most about how you did your job before this began?

Pavone: What I miss most is… the person-to-person contact with the pro-life people across America. Those who are familiar with the pro-life movement know that these are some of the best people in the world — the most self-giving people.

They are sacrificing themselves, their time, their resources, often their reputation — to reach out to save children that do not even know that they’re fighting for them. And interacting with these people, and seeing their faces and listening to their stories, and hearing their affirmation when I’m speaking to a big group and taking their question in person. Being with them in front of abortion facilities where we pray and offer compassion and intervention for those who feel they have no choice but abortion — those are the things I miss the most and very much look forward to getting back to.

Fox News: What surprised you most about how life has changed?

Pavone: A number of things surprised me about how life has changed with the pandemic. One of them is simply how widespread the shutdown has been. How many aspects of life, really all aspects of life, have been affected. It really was surprising. And it was surprising to see how dramatically and how quickly that happened. I mean I was going to go home for Easter to be with my parents. I’m in Florida at our ministry headquarters. They’re living in New York. And we agreed pretty readily that the right thing to do, of course, was for me to simply greet them remotely for the Easter holidays.

But when you look at all the different aspects of life — all the churches, in particular — to see the hope in St. Peters Square and the Square be empty. These are unprecedented things. And just to think about how widespread this pause has become, this state of limbo in a sense, for all these different aspects of life truly has been a surprising phenomenon.

The other thing that I guess the word is surprising, but on the other hand, we know whom we’re dealing with, is how the Democrats, unfortunately — some Democrats — have politicized… this pandemic and have not done what Americans always do. And that is to rally together. Especially when we have a strong leader like we do now in President Trump. To sit on the sidelines and criticize, to second-guess what the president is doing — you know we all understand that people have political differences but this is a time as Americans have done before, to come together in unity around those who are our duly elected leaders, and to cheer for them and to cooperate with them.

Not to sit back and criticize them as if you can do better. Or to obstruct — even worse, as Democrats in the House have been doing — measures that can bring concrete help to our fellow citizens and to try as the Democrats did for example under Pelosi in the House to try to get abortion funding into a bill that’s trying to help victims of this pandemic? I mean, it’s utterly shameful.

Again, we know what to expect from these people but their behavior during the course of this pandemic has just been astonishing to so many people.

I would also mention the abortion industry. While medical services are being limited only to those that are essential, to be able to preserve medical equipment, medical personnel, and space and to keep people from interacting unnecessarily  — the abortion industry insists that elective abortions, which they always promote under the rubric of freedom of choice, are essential? And even to the point of defying the orders of their governors and taking their orders to court? This is just reprehensible behavior and many people find it quite surprising.

Fox News: Are you concerned the virus could normalize the practice of not going to church in person?

Pavone: Some people have expressed the concern that the social distancing and the closing, therefore, of churches and not having public services could, in fact, normalize the practice of not going to church and make it harder for people to return. But no, that’s not a concern of mine.

I mean, people are going to return to restaurants. Why? Because we have a need. We have a need not only for food. We have a need for the social experience of having a meal at a restaurant. Well, similarly going to church is not a luxury. It is also a need. There’s a deep human need to worship together. And of course, in the Catholic church, we have the sacrament of the Eucharist — which many Catholics are receiving not only every Sunday but every day.

They will flock back to church, once it’s safe again to do so. And I’m not at all concerned that worshiping from home virtually will become normalized. Now more people may become familiar with the options for prayer and worship that are available online, and take more advantage of that. I think that would be a good thing, but it won’t replace their felt need, and desire, to worship together in person.

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Fox News: Do you think the virus will lead to a spiritual awakening or turn people off from faith?

Pavone: It’s an interesting question to consider whether the virus will lead to a spiritual awakening and a deepening of faith in America or a turning away from faith. I believe we already see the signs that it is leading to a deepening of faith. When we have our president declaring a national day of prayer and people including pastors, rallying around that the way that they have done. When we see people searching online more for prayer resources than they’ve ever done before and ministries, including my own, making available more and more resources online for prayer and for worship — I’ve been privileged to offer mass every day online and will continue to do so during this pandemic — we see that people turn to their faith… in a particular, strong way when things are not going well.

And we only have our faith to fall back on. The fact that this crisis has occurred, during what is the holiest time of year for Christians and Jews alike — our high holy days — were spent in a very different way this year, that really makes us appreciate the faith even more.

I was saying to Catholics who of course are missing the experience of receiving Communion in church, that every year on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the church deliberately does not have mass. We abstain if you will, from the presence of Jesus in Communion on those days, precisely to recreate the experience that the apostles had when Jesus was taken away from them, under arrest, and then crucified and buried.

Well this year, we didn’t really need any help. [We experienced] a little bit more of what those apostles experienced on the first Good Friday and Holy Saturday. And I’m confident that this entire experience will make us, who are believers, look back and say wow. We really did have a Good Friday experience. We really did have that experience of uncertainty, absence, and isolation and loneliness — with which our religion actually began This is a great opportunity for a renewal of faith. And a renewal of spirituality of America.

Our nation is based on spirituality. Our founding fathers were men of faith. And they said so. And we have a president who echoes that very effectively. Pulling through a crisis like this, as Americans — helping one another in our own country and also helping the world — can really bring about a revitalization of the faith that is at the core of our patriotism. And that’s something that’s going to be very good for America.

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