This Lent is the most unique I have seen in my lifetime. Apart from our usual Lenten practices, the Corona Virus quarantine has imposed a slowing down, or halting, of our daily activities. Schools and businesses have closed, travel is restricted, and social distancing is the norm. Many people, and entire families, will be spending a great deal of time at home.
God always seeks to draw good from adverse conditions. Beyond the general goal of our conversion, what specific ‘goods’ might our Lord be seeking from this situation? Who knows the mind of God for sure, but two ideas come to my mind: a strengthening of the spiritual life and of family.
Following is a recommended spiritual strategy for dealing with the Coronavirus quarantine. Attitudes and actions will be the main categories, with do’s and don’ts for both.
Fear; it is destructive. It is not synonymous with caution, which is important in times of crisis. Fear keeps us from thinking rationally, instills panic, and frequently harms charity.
Despair; it is another danger, the origin of the word literally means ‘without hope.’ A Christian is never without hope. God’s Providence is always at work, perhaps especially in times of crisis.
Give in to boredom; it is pernicious. It can lead to frustration, anger, sloth or even immoral pursuits just to stay entertained.
Have hope born of faith. This crisis will pass in God’s time. He remains the Lord of history. Turn to him to nourish that hope through daily prayer.
Keep vigilance or keep active and disciplined during the long periods of ‘downtime.’ If idle hands are the devil’s tools, then keep your hands busy.
Stay connected with others as a form of charity. Respecting the necessary health precautions, we cannot cease to build community – even if by phone or internet.
Remain determined to contribute constructively to the practical and spiritual needs of others. This resists both boredom and despair by creatively seeking solutions.
Live one day at a time. Each day has enough worries of its own. It also contains sufficient grace. Focus on what is, not what might possibly come.
Watch too much entertainment. There is nothing wrong with watching a movie, a show or a sports event. However, it would be a poor Lent if the effect of the quarantine simply translated to countless movie marathons. The cancellation of sports events seems to be an imposed fast of one of our more common distractions. Let’s not fill the void with merely other forms of non-stop entertainment.
Waste time. Yes, you should rest and relax, but do not squander all the time given you with mere distraction and disorder. You may never get another such chance again.
Argue with others due to stress. When worried, those closest often bear the brunt.
Pray. Pray for an end to Coronavirus. More importantly, however, deepen your prayer life. Treat the imposed downtime as an opportunity to have a miniature retreat. Pray more than you otherwise would in ordinary life.
Exercise. In addition to maintaining your physical conditioning, exercise greatly contributes to keeping calm during stressful times. After a good bike ride or run, it is hard to stay stressed.
Give Priority to Family Time. Family games, walks, longer meals and conversations could be wonderful ways to reconnect. Renew those family relationships.
Schedule you time. Continue some kind of daily routine to protect your priorities of work, prayer, family and exercise. An ordered daily schedule is one way monastic communities cultivate peace. A disordered schedule increases stress.
Help others. Be careful but creative.
This virus will pass.
Life will eventually return to normal.
The moment presents a singular opportunity to live Lent in a profoundly fruitful way. We will pray for the virus to end, but we will also pray to seize the grace offered.
Fr. John Bullock, LC