BY VICTORIA N. IKEANO.
In the current COVID-19 pandemic wearing of face masks has become a norm that may be with us for quite a while together with physical distancing at work places and public places. The mask is symbolically teaching us the virtue of silence, that we should talk less, talking only when it is necessary, avoid gossips and slander. The temptation to gossip, engage in loud, effusive inanities that pass for conversations and that add no lasting value to the talking parties as such is greater when people are gathered in a mass than when they are separated as the new social distancing regulations require of us. The mask is like closing our mouths, it does not give free reign to our mouths so to speak. We are admonished by the great Teacher, Jesus, ‘Let your communication be yea or nay for whatever else cometh of this is evil’. In other words we should talk only when, where and how it is necessary. That is what closing of our mouth with face mask and social distancing are symbolically trying to imbue in us.
In southeast Nigeria where literally more money is spent burying the dead by way of funeral obsequies than when he/she was living with us, things are changing for the better, shall we say thanks to coronavirus? The Catholic church has rolled out new rules for funeral rites. According to a circular by Archbishop AJC Obinna of Owerri Diocese, they include the following, ‘the deceased will be taken from the mortuary straight to the church for the reception and holy mass; there will be no lying in state in the family house; blowing or blarring of sirens is prohibited; no external dance should accompany the ambulance; there will be no more than 50 persons in the church in order to maintain social distancing; the funeral requiem mass will not last more than 70 minutes with no more than 10 minutes homily; all should wear face masks and wash their hands; there will be no more funeral oration. A member of the family will be allowed to express the family thanks in no more than three minutes; there will be no more condolence collection’.