Finding the Balance Between Going Out and Staying Safe

As states across the county begin to open up after lock-down, millions of people are trying to discern the balance between going out and staying safe. But the rhetoric in our society can often pit one group of people against each other. Those who want to go back to work are accused of wanting people to die, and those who prefer to stay in quarantine are accused of living in fear. Is there a balanced way to approach this new in-between season?

Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father™ and president of Donnelly College, is in a position of having to navigate that himself. As a college president he needs to ensure his students get a quality education while also ensuring that they are staying safe if they return to campus in the Fall. He stopped by Morning Air® recently to discuss how he is approaching that, and how we can balance faith and fear, reason and respect, to navigate this challenging time.

He pointed out that the rhetoric that pits people against each other is not helpful, saying, “It’s not about shutting down versus getting the economy back up. That’s a false dichotomy. It’s not about money on one side and saving lives on the other side. That’s a false dichotomy. What we should be about as a society is pursuing the common good, and letting people fulfill as best they can their vocation in life.”

“Lock down has kept some people from being able to do their vocation and do it well, and you can’t go forever not doing your vocation,” he said. “We’re not made just to survive, and to breathe, and to live in that sense. We’re here to do something that God’s called us to do.”

Everyone understands the importance of staying safe, and that means that even as life opens back up there will still be restrictions in place to protect the vulnerable and prevent a resurgence of the pandemic. But rather than an all-or-nothing mentality, Msgr. Swetland suggested we get creative in finding ways people can live out their vocations while still staying safe.

“My family, for a lot of them, small business has been the way they’ve made their living in life,” he said. “It’s been part of their vocation. So the Scriptures are clear. Fear is useless. What is needed is faith. So this is where we also need creativity.”

“We can take what God has given us and be creative in providing goods and services to others. And so if this is going to be, as some call it, ‘the new normal’ then that creative subjectivity has to be turned to say, ‘How do I fulfill my vocation here and now under these new circumstances?'”

Another aspect of life that Catholics are having to navigate is the re-opening of public Mass and the sacraments. Some are still hesitant about going to a public gathering like the Mass, while others are frustrated at the restrictions still in place for public worship. When it comes to matters of faith, Msgr. Swetland suggested that we trust in our pastors, that they know how essential the sacraments are, and are also making staying safe a priority.

“When it comes to our responsibilities to our pastors in each diocese, the supreme pastor is the Bishop, the ordinary of that diocese,” Msgr. Swetland said. “And we owe obedience in matters of religion to the request of and the orders of our religious superiors. So we can’t go wrong by following obediently those legitimate requests.”

“We can always petition,” he noted. “Canon law gives us that right, and sometimes requires us in duty, to petition for redress if we think something is wrong. But in obedience to our superiors we’re showing an aspect of faith. It really is like unto faith when we’re obedient unto God. And God’s representatives on earth are the apostles and their successors. And so we should show a docility to their legitimate requests.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.