The COVID Contemplatives
We are in the midst of a pandemic. It has uprooted just about every facet of our lives, and we are still adjusting to this new normal.
What does this mean for our spiritual lives? How are we to strive for sainthood when we can sometimes barely even plan our meals for the day? How can we build up the kingdom when we often cannot leave our homes?
The answer lies in a true, deep trust in the Holy Spirit. He is painfully, but beautifully, leading us to a spirit of detachment. “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself, sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:34) God is calling us to literally take each day at a time, relying on His grace to help us through that day. We cannot store it up for the future, but we can humbly trust in our Lord to provide for the present moment.
An essential part of this trust in the Lord is authentic humility – the kind of humility that allows us to recognize how very weak we are and how incredibly vital it is to rely on God for everything. St. Thérèse of Lisieux saw this very clearly as she practiced, taught, and wrote about the little way to heaven. She simply and clearly showed us how to offer every moment to God. “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
This sounds great in theory, but how are we to put it into practice, especially when we are not living in the cloisters? How are we to become like joyful, trusting little children when we are adults weighed down by sin who have very real responsibilities?
We are to adopt a monastic mentality, becoming “COVID contemplatives” in the midst of our busy lives. I myself, and countless others, sometimes claim that I do not have time to pray. But somehow, I find the time to check and respond to texts, to scroll through my social media account, to read the news, to spend hours perfecting a slide for a project, to watch multiple episodes of the latest show…the list goes on.
What if we were to schedule time for God the same way we schedule our meetings for work? What if we diligently committed time to pray, even when (or perhaps especially when) we “didn’t feel like it?”
For myself, an engaged woman who works a 9-5 job, this looks like getting up with the sun and incorporating prayer into my morning coffee routine. After getting up, I switch my daily saint quote calendar to the current day and begin to make coffee. As I grind the beans, I pray the Morning Offering. As the coffee brews, I bless myself with Holy Water and pray the St. Michael the Archangel prayer. I then select a mug, keeping in mind St. Therese’s story about intentionally choosing a chipped mug as a little sacrifice that she could offer to God. I finish making my coffee, then look up the Mass readings for the day. After all of that, it’s time for either spiritual reading, a novena, the rosary, or simple quiet time with God. I would never say I’m “successful” in prayer; for the very moment I become proud of a prayer, I have chosen the sinful option and have tried to claim as mine something that is God’s. Everything that I am comes from him, and when I forget that, then everything goes awry.
For the Carmelite monastics, prayer time looks quite different than it does for me. They spend hours and hours in prayer, silently reaching out to God in a community of like-minded brothers or sisters in Christ. At least during the life of St. Thérèse, they communicated with one another primarily through letters, in order to maintain the silence that is essential to the spiritual life.
For a new mother, prayer time would also look quite different. It may include prayer while breastfeeding, changing diapers, or cooking. For a retired person, prayer may look somewhere between a young professional and a Carmelite monk, depending on that person’s responsibilities. But some prayers are appropriate for any season of life: the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Morning Offering, to name just a few.
In our hectic and busy world that bristles with noise, distractions, and worries, we must create the space for silence and contemplation. By cooperating with God, we can allow him to transform our lives. We can meet him in the small moments of peace and quiet – making coffee in the morning, sitting quietly after reading Scripture, doing the dishes, holding a sleeping child, or sitting with a loved one who is in pain. We can also schedule time to spend with him, and stick to it. If we rely completely on our Father in Heaven, then he will dramatically improve our lives. It might very well be painful, for suffering is essential to Christianity. Jesus took up his cross, and we must do so as well. But we need not carry our crosses alone. We have a Savior who will help us to bear them.
Lord, help us to pray, and truly let this prayer touch our hearts: Jesus, I trust in you.
Don’t wait. Adopt a monastic mentality today. Take advantage of this time of solitude, and use it to grow closer to God. He will strengthen your soul, and will in his own time infuse your life with the grace needed to help you grow in holiness. Become a “covid contemplative,” and let God change your life.
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Emma is a dual-citizen of the U.S.A. and New Zealand who works in government healthcare consulting. She graduated from UCSD with a B.S. in Biology & a minor in Spanish Literature, and then from GWU with an M.P.H. in Environmental Health Science & Policy. She loves God, caffeine, her husband, and her family, not necessarily in that order.