By Mary Costello
In my long life I have seen three horrible periods of time … the Great Depression, WWII and now this coronavirus.
I was only 4 when the stock market crashed in 1929 but I remember some things. People were out of jobs, banks were closed and soup lines began. The government placed a moratorium on the banks so even if you had money in the bank, you could not withdraw it. Fear was all around, but people turned to God. President Roosevelt started new programs in the 1930s that put people back to work and gave us hope and recovery.
In 1939, Hitler started taking over other countries. That was scary. No one seemed to be able to stop him. I remember going to our local Roxy Theatre and seeing Paramount News of the “Maginot Line,” which was a concrete fortification above and below the earth along the border of France to keep the Germans out. The photo I remember resembled the inside of a cockpit looking out over the land, but it was really a station for soldiers to ward off the Nazis. The Germans bombed it out. We were able to stay out of the war then because the Atlantic Ocean was between our countries.
Then came Pearl Harbor and Japan attacking us on December 7, 1941 … WE WERE AT WAR! President Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!” That helped, I am sure, and everyone hunkered down and did their part. We joined our allies in Europe and fought the war on two fronts.
Again, everyone turned to God knowing that he was the only one who could help. Most of our men — family, neighbors, friends and classmates — either volunteered or were drafted into service and were constantly prayed for. My brother was one of them. I was a teenager in high school when WWII began and started college in 1943. The war went on until 1945. I learned recently that the government issued rosaries to servicemen (if they wanted them). People did without things. Nylon hosiery was impossible to get because the nylon was needed for parachutes. Food and other things were rationed and we bought bonds to support the war effort. We always cheered returning servicemen and the USO provided centers to entertain them. I went to dances at Marycrest College in Davenport where I was a student. We danced with sailors stationed at St. Ambrose College during cadet training. Some of our students met their future husbands there.
Now, after 75 years of steady growth and prosperity in our country, many have forgotten about God. They think they have the world by the tail and know how to keep on top. But the coronavirus has hit. I am 94 now and have seen crises before and know God is waiting for our call. Isolating ourselves is necessary, food shopping is often disappointing, many businesses are closing, people in service jobs are heavily stressed, churches are closed and many are without work. Having money doesn’t help. Having knowledge won’t stop it.
As in the past, returning to God in prayer is the best answer, the true answer. We need to come together (via technology), united in prayer, supporting each other and those who are doing their best to find answers. Through prayer, God will guide us and see us through this.
(Mary Costello is a member of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.)