What could be a more necessary pick-me-up during this pandemic time than a good dose of hope? That’s exactly what Teresa Tomeo gives readers in her new book, Conquering Coronavirus: How Faith Can Put Your Fears to Rest (available via EWTNRC.com or 800-854-6316).
She reminds readers that fear is an idol which we often find ourselves struggling against.
Tomeo, who is familiar to national and international listeners on 500-plus stations with her daily show Catholic Connection on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network and Ave Maria Radio, guides readers to “take comfort in the fact that God is not asleep while this storm threatens our lives and livelihoods — far from it.” She spotlights that God’s people are not asleep, either, through stories filling the pages in the book, because “He is busy working through them.”
Tomeo spoke about Conquering Coronavirus with Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen this week via email.
What was your goal in writing this book?
To help Catholics, Christians and those searching for hope and faith see that God is with us through all of our circumstances, no matter how difficult they may be. I was especially moved by the loss of my mother during the pandemic. She did not die of the virus, but it was still an extremely challenging time to lose a loved one. God, in his great mercy and grace, revealed himself to me through two very close friends on earth and a third friend in heaven, St. Teresa of ávila — and just when I needed those “spiritual hugs” the most.
For the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, I hope folks will pick up the book. I was also coming across — through my work on EWTN’s Catholic Connection radio program — so many amazing stories of charity and self-sacrifice. We all have short memories, so I thought it would be a great resource to collect some of those Christlike examples to help us remember that we are God’s hands and feet.
How do you keep anxiety and fear at bay at this uncertain time?
I think about all the miracles God has done and continues to do in my life: saving my marriage, giving me an entirely new way to use my communications skills, leading my husband to the diaconate, giving me an amazing platform to teach about the saving power of Christ and his Church.
We’re all suffering at some level right now. Some have more to deal with than others, but if we’re open and ask God to show us how to use this suffering for our good and the good of others, when we look back, I believe we will see the Lord’s hand all over — not only the big picture of the pandemic, but the smallest of details in our own lives. That’s the kind of God we serve.
Your book also brings a great deal of hope. Did you purposely plan it that way?
Absolutely. That was one of the main reasons I wrote the book. Our Italian brothers and sisters, who certainly have had their share of extreme loss and suffering along with the rest of us, have been encouraging each other through this pandemic with a simple phrase — andra tutto benne, or “It’s going to be all right.”
Despite all the bad news, we know that God is in control and is allowing this crisis to happen. If we turn it over to him and ask him what he wants us to learn from this, it will not only be “all right,” it just might be a blessing in disguise.
What is your favorite hope-filled bit of advice?
Never give up on God and how he may be using difficult situations to make a difference, not only in our lives but in our country and our world.
Please share with us just one of the practical guidelines for overcoming fear and for growing in faith.
Spend more time in Scripture and prayer and less time watching the evening news.
You counter the idea of this lockdown being the “the new normal” beautifully when you write, “I submit to you today that it is not a new norm. It’s the old norm revisited.” How so? Please share one of your examples.
I wish I could take credit for this beautiful idea of the “old norm.” But it's attributed to an excellent homily given by our associate pastor at my home parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Father John Bettin. He spoke of the good old days when families gathered together to eat dinner, play games; and when they did use the media, they were careful about their choices and chose to watch a program or television movie together, and not on separate devices all over the home. Many families are rediscovering each other, by simply doing what was done years ago: They spend actual face time, or real time, together. While all the great events being offered online are great for our spiritual growth, nothing can replace that precious family time within the domestic church.
What can happen with families and with communities in parishes if people follow your simple examples and counsel?
As Jesus tells us in the Gospel of St. Matthew 19:26, “with God all things are possible.” Pope St. John Paul II reminds us, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. What we’re going through currently is a crisis which we have never seen before. God willing, we won’t see another pandemic in our lifetime, but we will have a pandemic or crisis of another sort, as we live in a fallen world. If we can strengthen our relationship with God and each other during this time, the positive fallout could be tremendous.
Do you think people will start to come back to God and return to church once the threat eases off, as happened after 9/11?
There are a number of studies already showing a renewed interest in matters of faith and spirituality. There are also other surveys showing sales of Bibles, and Bible-study programs have skyrocketed. We're seeing spikes, as we did in 9/11, but the numbers, as far as attendance at Mass and other services, went back to what they were before the terrorist attacks once the one-year anniversary rolled around.
I quote Catholic evangelists who say we need to make the most of this opportunity by meeting folks where they’re at but not leaving them there. We need to reach out and extend invitations to go back to Mass or to help them come into the Catholic faith. I’m optimistic, but we can’t just expect a renewed interest, and a long-term positive outcome, without being willing to do our part to evangelize.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I'm hoping and praying that Conquering Coronavirus will be seen as an evergreen resource, as we deal with not only the current crisis but other struggles that might come along. The book has two chapters toward the end, dedicated to countless resources both secular and Catholic, along with a special devotional section packed with prayers for different circumstances. We also have a special section dedicated to those on the front lines, those unemployed, as well as prayers and guidelines for those diagnosed with COVID-19. The information is a wealth of hope and practical advice, all of which I could not have done without the great teams at Sophia Institute and Teresa Tomeo Communications.
Teresa Tomeo has a virtual weekly talk series on her book called Conquering Coronavirus — How Faith Can Put Your Fears to Rest. The series began May 13 at 7pm (Eastern time).
Talks will be streaming every Wednesday and also recorded for later viewing from St. Joan of Arc parish in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, as well as on the parish’s Facebook page.