Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.


Fear Factor

05-31-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

FDR famously said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Well, since mid-March we have been immersed in an ocean of fear in the form of conflicting, confusing, and politicized medical and scientific information. The virus is real and it sickens a lot of people and is lethal to certain groups. But today we know a lot more about the virus than we did in March and that should help reduce our levels of fear. Still we have to sort through so much conflicting, confusing, and ever-changing information to lessen our fears.

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3 Ways to Sunday

05-24-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

A question that has been rolling around in my head is why did the Public Health authorities so quickly go to DEFCON Level 1 with this novel coronavirus but not with the previous SARS, MERS, H1N1? What did they know or what did they suspect about COVID19 that made Health officials insist on such drastic actions? My guess is that they either knew or suspected this virus may have been bioengineered and somehow escaped a laboratory, making it a potential super-virus.

Maybe someday we will know the origins of the virus but now after several months of the virus spreading worldwide, we do know some things. This virus is definitely very contagious but a lot less lethal than originally feared. Based on all the data collected worldwide at this point, about 99% of those infected do recover. One thing fatalities have in common is that they all reported underlying health issues. Even though the highest rates of death were among those in Nursing facilities, it was not necessarily because of age but rather preexisting conditions. I guess you wouldn't be in a Nursing Home if you didn't have some health condition that put you there.

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Mixed Metaphors

05-17-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Now for something entirely different. Well not really. But I think we are all tired about hearing about coronavirus/ Pandemic. But it looks like the Apocalypse didn't happen. Now to something we are also tired of hearing about and another Apocalypse that also didn't happen, namely Take-down-Trump. It seems like he really lives by the saying: “I’m rubber you’re glue; it bounces off me and sticks on you.” Everything including the kitchen sink has been thrown and him and he’s still standing. At every turn we were told, “this is the 800lb gorilla in the room” but it seems to all have been a venomous melody.

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Open Wide and Say Ahaaa

05-10-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

The science of Virology demonstrates that generally the most contagious viruses are the least lethal. Think of the common cold. None of us are immune to it but none of us die from it alone. The most lethal viruses tend to be less contagious. Think of AIDS. You cannot contract AIDS sitting next to someone or by breathing the same air. There are very specific ways that the AIDS virus is contracted. And if you do contract it you might not know it for a while and it is very lethal. When it comes to COVID-19 it was initially thought that this virus was both highly contagious and highly lethal, uncharacteristic for a typical virus. At this point the data suggest that COVID-19 is very contagious but not as lethal as feared. It tends to kill the same categories of people as the Flu, namely those with underlying health conditions. When AIDS first broke out in the 1980’s, those infected were put in extreme isolation and a lot of fear and panic about how contagious it was abounded until we understood more about the virus. I remember visiting a patient in the hospital who was dying of AIDS and I had to wear a full Haz-mat suit. The same goes with COVID-19, initially lots of fear and panic but as we come to understand more about the virus and how it is spread and who it affects calmer waters will prevail.

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Abnormally Abnormal

05-03-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

If you’ve even lightly perused the prescriptions for Pandemic prevention, you probably have whiplash. Way back in February we were told that wearing face masks really won’t help much. Anyone listening to that had to scratch their head? How is that not effective, then why do medical staff wear them? The reality was that there were not enough masks to go around. That was obvious enough after every store in Tempe sold out of them after the first coronavirus case appeared at ASU. But rather than tell us, “hey save the masks for the medical people”, we got a bogus excuse. Now we are told wear the darn thing. But if we wear them why do we have to still be six feet apart? Droplets from a cough or sneeze can travel maximum 10 feet before dropping to the ground. So why the 6 feet and not 10 for social distancing?

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The How and the Why

04-26-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Two of the questions that most of us are asking viz-a-viz the Pandemic are How and Why? The How is no doubt the easier of the two. How did this start? Was it accidentally done on purpose? How is it our Public Health Systems both domestically and internationally were slow at picking up on the veracity of the virus? How was it that the domestic system didn't have the inventory needed? There may be good answers to these questions and it is important they be answered so we can improve from here on out. And let’s face it nobody really living in 2020 thought a Pandemic of medieval magnitude was possible. And yet it was.

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The Year without an Easter Bunny

04-12-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

It’s the year without an Easter Bunny! Recall the book and the film “The Year without a Santa Claus”, when Santa wakes up with a cold sometime before Christmas. His doctor, who thinks nobody cares about him anymore, advises him to make some changes to his routine, so Santa decides to take a holiday instead of delivering gifts. A big part of the story is to find out whether or not people are too skeptical to care about Santa anymore. Eventually one young boy is found who tells a disguised Santa, “I believe in Santa like I believe in love”.  Finally, things turn around and the world’s children send gifts to Santa.

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Moral Decisions and Pandemic

04-05-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

You may not have given it too much thought but you should, namely moral decision making in the time of Pandemic. One of the moral principles that we see in action right now is the principle of Subsidiarity. That is, that the higher level should not do what the lower level is competent to do. In this case the Federal government should not do what the states can do and the states should not do what the municipalities can do. The most effective responses come from the local level since a community knows its needs and how to respond to them. That’s why the state Governors are taking the lead and only asking the Feds for assistance when needed. The state should assist or provide where the municipality cannot and so on. The fact is that Arizona has different circumstances and needs from New York and Phoenix has different circumstances than Yuma so operating on the Principal of Subsidiarity would offer the most effective way for localities to help themselves and to be helped where needed without creating a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy or a one-size fits all approach.

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Disdain and Delight

03-29-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends, 

The overriding emotions of this week for me, have been disdain and delight. I had written a long diatribe on my disdain for some of our elected officials who have held up the Congressional legislation that would give us all some direction on how to proceed in these uncertain times, at least in terms of employees, payroll and healthcare. But I decided to erase that and in the spirit of Lent to practice extra charity. As is so often the case, whenever there is a free-for-all, someone will try to pick your pocket and take advantage of the situation for their selfish purposes. I understand now why St. Thomas Aquinas said that the highest levels of heaven were reserved for politicians since the temptation to self-aggrandizement and corruption is so great for them that if they can resist, it amounts to heroic virtue on their part. Doesn't look like many of them can resist the temptations. Sad.

That being said, delight far surpassed disdain. Delight at how creative so many of you are in finding ways to cope and make the best of this situation. And delight at how many businesses are stepping up and retooling to manufacture needed supplies. The My Pillow Guy has converted his pillow making plant to making face masks, many booze producers have converted to making hand sanitizer, Auto manufacturers are trying to make ventilators and lots of other creative ideas are helping us get through this.

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This is REALLY retro!

03-22-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

A friend of mine recently said to me, “you realize we are living at a point in history when there are two popes and a plague. Medieval, huh?”  That sounds right. You would have to go back to the 1300’s for the last time that convergence of events occurred. Of course, back then there were popes and anti-popes and the Black Plague. So, if you ever wondered what it was like to be a medieval man, well you’ve gotten your taste. The good news about living in 2020 despite a pandemic that seems medieval is that we will get through it quicker and with less lethality than past pandemics. But we have to get through it. And that is the challenge we all face.

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Self-service humanity?

03-15-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Maybe not my finest moment… I was in the Supermarket and at check-out time there were no Cashiers, just the Self-Service Kiosks. I do not use the Self-Service Kiosks simply because they put people out of a job. There are four kiosks and one staff person supervising the checkout process. So that means there are today, three less cashiers, three less jobs. And if we continue to use the kiosks then the store will get the message and hire even less staff.

Another problem with the kiosks is that after about three or four items there is nowhere to put additional items, except on the floor. If you try to put them back in the cart the camera sees it and tells you to “put it back in the bagging area”. So, I asked to speak with the Manager. I told him, rather strongly, that I resented having to do this self-service check-out because it puts people out of jobs. Just my principle. And since I had more items than normal my stuff was all over the floor. Not only me, but the lady behind me was holding a baby and scanning items at the same time and her stuff was all over the floor as well. Though she had a smile on her face, don't suppose I did.

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This Virus not in the Budget

03-08-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

As we approach another general election, polls say that one of the top concerns of voters is healthcare. And now with the outbreak of the recent version of the coronavirus, you can bet that healthcare will be even more prominent in this election cycle. It seems like we talk and argue endlessly about our healthcare system and you wonder what exactly happened that makes our healthcare system such a frustrating issue?

If you have ever been scheduled for surgery, you know that your medical provider will submit to your Insurance provider a request for “preauthorization”. Then you get a letter that states, “Your preauthorization is approved but this is not a guarantee of payment.” Then what’s the point, you think. It’s called bureaucratic-eeze. Now if you called your medical insurance provider and ask “under what conditions will you not pay for the surgery” you will not get an answer or at best some gobbledygook response. But you may be stuck with the bill or a large chunk of it if some insurance administrator decides afterwards that the doctor didn't color within the lines.

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Prepare Ye

03-01-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

This was a recent headline from CNN: “Germany is currently not considering closing its border with Italy, due to the coronavirus outbreak…” Brilliant, I suppose, if there were actually a shared border between Italy and Germany. You wonder if anything this media outlet tells you is accurate or true. If they can’t proof-read maybe they should just look at a map.

Speaking of Italy and the coronavirus, things have turned rather somber. Both the Archdioceses of Venice and Milan have suspended all Masses, including funerals until further notice. Additionally, the city of Venice cancelled its annual Carnivale celebration which will have a tremendous impact on the local businesses and economy. Much of that area in Northern Italy has been placed under quarantine and photos show the supermarkets were stripped bare by panicked and angry residents. Likewise, in many areas in China, all religious gatherings have been cancelled, no funerals or even sick calls are being allowed. Let’s hope that’s not what awaits us.

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