I spotted this sign on the door of a bagel shop near my home.

If any two words define this present moment, they are these: “Be Safe.”

They are the conclusion of every conversation, the end of every phone call, the sign-off of every letter or email or text.

I’m old enough to remember when the most popular way of saying goodbye was “Have a nice day.” I wish life was that simple now. But in a time of danger and uncertainty, having anything “nice” seems almost quaint and naive. We just want to survive.

So let these be our parting words. We wish for one another safety. Sanctuary. Protection. We seek security, shelter against any storm.

Saturday, I ventured out into the open air — a risk, I know — to pick up some dry cleaning. I thought the store might be closed. But the co-owner who took my ticket said to me, through the mask over her mouth, that they hoped to stay open another day or so. “Maybe close after Sunday,” she told me. I told her, “Good luck. Thank you. Be safe.” And then I added, because it was all I could think of: “God bless you.”

“Thank you,” she said through her mask. “You, too.”

Be safe. And God bless you. 

Last week, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles composed this prayer for our times. May it help us all to turn to the Blessed Mother and ask her to intercede on our behalf, so that we all might be sheltered, protected, safe:

Holy Virgin of Guadalupe,
Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas.
We fly to you today as your beloved children.
We ask you to intercede for us with your Son,
as you did at the wedding in Cana.

Pray for us, loving Mother,
and gain for our nation and world,
and for all our families and loved ones,
the protection of your holy angels,
that we may be spared the worst of this illness.

For those already afflicted,
we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance.
Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful,
wipe away their tears and help them to trust.

In this time of trial and testing,
teach all of us in the Church to love one another and to be patient and kind.
Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts.

We come to you with confidence,
knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother,
health of the sick and cause of our joy.

Shelter us under the mantle of your protection,
keep us in the embrace of your arms,
help us always to know the love of your Son, Jesus. Amen.