By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

Bishop Michael G. Duca and Gov. John Bel Edwards discussed balancing fear with faith during the nationally syndicated radio program “Catholic Connection” on July 22 on Catholic Community Radio.

Host Teresa Tomeo said in regard to the coronavirus pandemic there is a sense of fear across the country that even “good Catholics” can succumb to. Noting that Edwards recently called for three days of lunch fasting and prayer, she asked the bishop and the governor how that can be an answer to the fear gripping the nation. 

Edwards said he was pleased that many people of all denominations chose to participate in the prayer initiative. He said he believed that calling for the collective effort was “the right thing to do.”

“That (fasting and prayer) is a spiritual discipline we need. Sort of like dieting and exercise in a spiritual sense,” said the governor.

When Tomeo asked, “How are things going in the state?” the governor acknowledged Louisiana is having a “tough time.” He said, at the time of the broadcast, Louisiana was second, only behind New York state, in the number of per capita cases of people who are testing positive for the virus.

He further added that more than 3,200 people had died from the virus and that the vast majority of the state’s 64 civil parishes have experienced dramatic spikes in COVID-19 cases. 

While the state made some progress in flattening the curve after the initial large spike following Mardi Gras, after the Memorial Day weekend there was another big spike in cases that the state still struggles to bring under control. He reiterated his call that if people “do not want to go backwards” and shut down the economy and get back to more of a sense of normalcy, they must wear masks, follow social distancing requirements and follow the other safety protocols.

Tomeo asked Bishop Duca about how people can balance fear with faith.

The bishop noted that fear is a good thing when people use it to have a healthy respect of current circumstances, be cautious and be aware of their surroundings and take actions to address the situation.

He noted fear becomes out of balance when it causes people to be paralyzed with a sense of panic. He emphasized that fear is taking things seriously, but also in moderation.

He said in addition to faith God has given us “the gift of knowledge and intellect” to face challenges, such as the virus.

“Fear, guided in a good way, allows us to address the issue in a way that brings hope,” Bishop Duca said.

Edwards said the Catholic Church in Louisiana has done “extremely well” in addressing the challenges of the virus while meeting the spiritual needs of their communities. He especially thanked Bishop Duca for the efforts the Diocese of Baton Rouge has given in this matter.

“It’s been done faithfully and striking a sense of balance that I wish the rest of the state would strike,” Governor Edwards said.

He noted that Louisiana’s faith community comes together in any time of trials, such as hurricanes, floods and now the virus.

Bishop Duca said in times of trials and challenges, things often become politicized in “all kinds of different ways.” He said what needs to happen is that people “go back to the Gospel.”

“In the Gospel Jesus tells us to love one another,” said the bishop.

That means people should protect and do what’s best for “our brothers and sisters in Christ,” according to Bishop Duca.

He urged people to look at virus prevention measures not from a personal freedom aspect but a Gospel aspect.

He said he loves the communal aspect of people coming together in prayer, such as they did for the fasting and prayer for the end of the virus.

“Pray for a real miracle – God does that all the time,” Bishop Duca said.