For the first time in the lives of most of us, we are experiencing what it is to be physically prevented from attending Mass. For many, Mass is more than just the source and summit of our Faith; it is also part of the rhythm of our week, something that has filled Sunday mornings for all our lives. So not only do we miss the devotion of Mass, there is a very real hole in the fabric of our everyday lives.
How can we fill both the physical void AND take advantage of this opportunity to deepen our faith life? Ideas for how to do this are what this blog seeks to supply.
To begin with, however, here are our top suggestions:
- I place this one first because it is far and away the best and most important thing that I urge everyone to add to their lives if they haven’t already: start praying THE DIVINE OFFICE (AKA the Liturgy of the Hours).
No matter whether you are a staunch traditionalist who will only pray in Latin, or the average Catholic who prefers being able to understand what he is praying in his own language; no matter whether you prefer an app that can guide you effortlessly through the prayers, or the sort of person who likes the feel of an old, beloved, ribbon-bookmarked book, there are options for you.
There’s the iBreviary and divinumofficium.com and divineoffice.org, or there are many sources where you can get the actual books; one that is very good for the layperson who would like to try the traditional office is the Divine Office booklet from Angelus Press…this has just Prime, Sext and Compline, which are the ideal hours for the layperson to pray…and it even includes musical notation so you can chant the hours!
- Spiritual Communion. We have become so accustomed to receiving our Lord in the Eucharist that we seldom think to invite Him into our hearts at any time of the day or night. Though we can only receive Him Sacramentally once per day (ahem, yes I know there are exceptions to this, but let’s not fuss over that right now), we can practice Spiritual Communion as often as we like. There are innumerable sources for excellent ways of doing this; here is one very thorough treatment.
- Spiritual Reading. Don’t read much? Fine. Now’s your chance to change that. Remember that reading the Lives of the Saints was what marked the beginning of a new life for St. Ignatius of Loyola. You don’t even have to go buy a book, there are hundreds of spiritual classics that can be found for free online at archive.org.
You can read anything, from an anthology of the lives of the saints, to a longer biography of one or more of those saints, to devotionals and other spiritual classics…as long as it has an imprimatur, you are sure to profit by it.
Some suggestions: The Imitation of Christ, The Story of a Soul, St. Augustine’s Confessions, The Interior Castle…I could go on, but excellent lists of suggestions abound on the net, which you can search to find something that appeals to you.
- The Stations of the Cross. It’s Lent–what better devotion to practice right now that will get you moving around and feeling like you are doing something? Print out illustrations of the Stations and post them around your home…grab your crucifix and a blessed candle or two, and move from one station to another while you pray. Again, there are many printable versions of the stations and their prayers that can be found online.
- Fasting. We are being forced to “fast” from Mass…and this a great sacrifice. Why not match this sacrifice by stepping up your Lenten fasting (anyway this will reduce your need to hoard food…!) If you are fasting only on Fridays, consider adding Wednesdays, as was done in the traditional church. Or add a half-fast on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Or do as the Eastern Church does: they abstain from both meat AND dairy throughout all of Lent, not just Fridays…
- Practice love of neighbor. St. Teresa of Avila tells us “Be sure that in proportion as you advance in love of neighbor, you are increasing in your love of God.” Social distancing is being imposed on us to contain the spread of this virus, but that does not mean we should cut off all communications or begin practicing the “every-man-for-himself” game. Find ways in your life of showing love and care for your fellow man.
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