How important is it to sanitize?



A few weeks ago, as a family of around 40, we did our first “window visit” with my sister Sue, who is in a nursing home. With social distancing and other protocols, I took on the task of organizing this event. Our youngest daughter, who works at the facility, used her phone on the inside with Sue; and we used my phone on the outside. I stood nearby, and after each individual family group finished their “window visit,” I wiped the phone and the window with disinfectant.

For some odd reason, Sue thought this sanitizing ritual was absolutely hilarious. It was so refreshing to hear her laugh hysterically each time as I sanitized. I am not sure why she found this to be so amusing. It may have been the fact that from her vantage point I looked quite foolish, sanitizing the same window and phone over and over – not to mention, especially in our family, the younger siblings never pass up a chance to poke fun at the oldest, which would be me.

Because of the current pandemic, sanitizing rituals are a part of our lives each day. In the factory in which I work, we each sanitize our work areas four times a day with bleach water. There are hand-sanitizer stations throughout the plant and a bottle of spray hand sanitizer in each department. They have also hired an outside company to sanitize the entire building on a regular schedule along with a company that cleans and sanitizes breakrooms and restrooms throughout the day. It is obvious that sanitizing during this pandemic is a high priority.

It is odd sometimes what can cause us to change our priorities and cause us to go to extreme lengths to meet those priorities. We have prioritized these current sanitizing rituals mainly because of the fear of contracting COVID-19; a virus that, for some, could ultimately prove fatal. While we are unsure of what would really happen to each of us individually if we contracted the virus, it likely is the fear of the unknown – and ultimately the fear of possible death – that drives us to these extreme measures to protect ourselves during this very challenging time.

While I understand the reason behind all the sanitizing and also agree that it may be necessary at this time, I have to ask: if we can prioritize this type of sanitizing, why is it that many of us, myself included, shy away from an even more important type of sanitizing, which has more to do with life and death than the current pandemic? The type of sanitizing I am talking about is the kind that will lead us to our eternal life in heaven; a life already earned for us by Jesus’ death on the cross; the type of sanitizing that many of us seem to think is really not that important. Yes, I am talking about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

This current pandemic has us sanitizing like there’s no tomorrow. It has caused me to seriously question my priorities. Why am I so passive about receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation when that should be more of a priority than sanitizing my work station? I know taking care of my physical health is important, but what good will that do me if I do not take care of my spiritual health, which ultimately will help me reach my eternal reward? Isn’t that what really matters?

Going to confession isn’t my favorite thing. Some of you know the importance, and you follow through on a regular basis in receiving this sacrament; but there are also many who, like me, procrastinate and do not seek out this sacrament as something essential to eternal life. Why are we doing this? Why is this sanitation process not more important than sanitizing for the current pandemic? Only you and I can answer that question for ourselves. I think we all need to do a little soul-searching and get our priorities straight.

Maybe a little encouragement from Pope Francis will help those of us who struggle with going to confession. The Holy Father says, “God places no obstacles in the way of those who seek him with a contrite heart because he goes out to meet everyone like a father. I have received many testimonies of joy from those who encountered the Lord once more in the sacrament of Confession. Let us not miss the opportunity to live our faith also as an experience of reconciliation.”

Maybe, just maybe, if we can get our priorities straight and go to confession on a regular basis, maybe we will experience the “joy” Pope Francis speaks of from the testimonies he received from those who have encountered the Lord in the sacrament of Confession. As my sister Sue felt some kind of joy as she watched me sanitize a window and a phone, let us pray for one another that we too may experience the joy of sanitization; the sanitizing of our souls … the sanitization that really counts.

Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.