Pandemic Reflections: Saint Francis and the Lepers Catch Up with COVID
Dr. Geoffrey Karabin is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Neumann University, Pennsylvania, USA.
The COVID pandemic has reshaped human life, challenged assumptions, and exacerbated social divisions. With the viral threat having passed its peak, reflections upon COVID’s legacy are called for. How did we live and how ought we to have lived during COVID? What did COVID reveal or reshape with regard to what we value? Do reactions to COVID tell us something about whether contemporary humanity adopts healthy or unhealthy attitudes toward death?
The edited collection, Pandemic Reflections: Saint Francis and the Lepers Catch Up with COVID, will reflect upon such questions by way of reference to Saint Francis of Assisi; even more specifically, by way of examining Francis’ embrace of and subsequent service to lepers. Francis ministered and lived amid a pandemic. How he lived in relation to that pandemic makes him a source of insight for as well as a potential critic of contemporary responses to COVID. In turn, one can use the pandemic to question Francis. Did he exhibit a harmful form of religious devotion, perhaps fanaticism, by exposing himself and others to a lethal pathogen?
The collection welcomes Chapter contributions that bring St. Francis’ relationship with and attitude toward lepers into conversation with the COVID pandemic. Reflections upon the questions referenced above as well as those asked below are encouraged:
- Does Francis’ life with lepers offer a healthy or unhealthy approach to dealing with death and disease?
- Would Francis’ life with lepers offer a particularly promising path to reconciling and healing divisions exacerbated by the pandemic?
- What leprosies of the mind or spirit emerged as a result of COVID? How would Francis’ life with lepers help identify, address, or heal such leprosies?
- What theological, philosophic, historical, psychological, sociological, economic, political, spiritual, or other insights can be drawn from Francis having lived during a leprosy pandemic? How would those insights be relevant when assessing how individuals or societies ought or ought not to have lived during the COVID pandemic?
- Based upon the example of Francis’ life with lepers, how ought one to live or what values/virtues ought one to adopt when confronting a deadly and communicable pathogen?
- What guidance could Francis’ life with lepers provide when reflecting upon debates surrounding social distancing, lockdowns, masking, mandates, vaccination, school and business closures, and other issues related to COVID?
- How could the ethical directives derived from Francis’ life with lepers be applied to personal conduct, social policy, or institutional decision making during the pandemic?
The Franciscan Tradition
- In reference to their confrontations with disease and death, how did subsequent Franciscans, especially women, live out Francis’ call to serve lepers?
The Leper’s Embrace
- What values or worldviews did Francis adopt in embracing and then living amongst lepers? What values or incarnate forms of community became worth the risk of disease and death?
- How ought the leper’s embrace and the lifestyle that followed from it, make one think about Francis? Was he reckless, a fanatic, a holy fool, a mystic, a pre-eminent caregiver, an exemplar of Christ, or something other?
- What does Francis’ approach to the leprosy pandemic reveal about his perception of death/finitude? How was this perception shared or abandoned relative to COVID?
- What does Francis’ way of life during the leprosy pandemic tell us about his sense of the way in which reality is ordered and the place of human life within it? How was this sense of reality shared or abandoned relative to contemporary responses to COVID?
- How do Francis’ theological convictions help explain his approach to the leprosy pandemic and how do those convictions apply to the contemporary pandemic?
- What role did grace play in the leper’s embrace and what role might grace play when applied to life during the pandemic?
- What would Francis’ life with lepers have signified in the socio-political climate of his times and how would that impact how one ought to think through the socio-political climate generated by COVID?
If these themes resonate with your research, teaching, and practice, please send a chapter title and brief proposal (250 words or less) before July 15th, 2022. Completed chapters will be due by December 31st, 2022. We encourage co-authored chapters, too. We also invite doctoral students to submit proposals, co-authored with their research faculty.
A Chapter will normally be between 3000 and 6000 words, but these are not strict word limits, and can be discussed with the Editor. They should be written in English and presented to the Editor complete and free of spelling and grammar errors. Please see our Manuscript Submission Guidelines for more information.
Chapter Authors will be asked to sign a simple Contributor Agreement, and to warrant that a Chapter does not infringe any copyright or other rights, and that the Author holds the rights to publish the work.
Note: There are no submission or acceptance fees for manuscripts submitted for chapter consideration. All manuscripts will undergo a peer review editorial process prior to acceptance.
To discuss or submit a Chapter for consideration in Pandemic Reflections: Saint Francis and the Lepers Catch Up with COVID Collection, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance.