It has been really weird not having to wrangle the kids together, pile them in the car (make sure they all have shoes), and shuttle them to Mass on Sundays these past few months. Even though churches are slowly opening up and we now can receive again in Georgia, while sitting in our car for the entire celebration and getting out to receive, it seems like like we are still a ways away from getting back to normal.
While the dispensations continue, allowing Catholics to forgo the Sunday obligations in order to mitigate the spread of the virus, I thought it would be good to offer a list of other prayers and practices that can help us grow closer to God. Obviously they can’t replace the Mass completely, but God looks at the heart and gives grace abundantly when it is sought, so we can at least make do with what we have.
Here’s my list, and please let me know if you think of anything else that should be included.
- Liturgy of the Hours - Meant to sanctify one’s whole day with prayer, these are small compilations of a few psalms with other parts of Scripture and prayers officially compiled by the Church. While traditionally said at specific moments 7 times throughout the day, one can pray as much of the day’s prayers as they can. I personally only do the morning and evening times. You can find a free compilation of the Liturgy of the Hours at this website.
- Meditating on Scripture - This is as simple as picking up a Bible, reading from it, and thinking about what you read for a while. There are other techniques such as placing ourselves in the story, asking God to hi-light a specific word or message for us to focus on for a while, or following the ancient prayer method known as Lectio Divina. If you feel like you want to know more about the story and context of Scripture, I recommend reading books on it by some great teachers of our time, Paul Thigpen, John Bergsma, and Scott Hahn.
- The Rosary - Really this is simply an extension of meditating on Scripture. As we pray each decade we are called to think about the Gospel events invoked in each mystery. If these terms sound foreign to you, you can find a map of how to pray a rosary here. This is what I used to learn how to pray the Rosary myself. I must share that within 6 mix after I began to pray the Rosary everyday I found a new mission for my life, I quit drugs and alcohol, I became less anxious, I grew happier, and I met my future spouse.
- Singing Religious Songs and Praise and Worship - This happens to be my favorite way to pray. The Ancient Jewish people would sing the Psalms as a part of their Temple Liturgy. I find many modern Christian songs today an imitation of that. It’s just easier for me to incorporate my whole self in prayer when I sing the words I want to tell God. A lot of songs seem to poetically express what I want to tell God as well. It might be fun to get a few members of your household together to honor God in this way for maybe 30 minutes to praise Him together.
- Virtual Adoration - Wow, this is actually much better than I was expecting. If Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, wouldn’t a live stream of Him exposed in Adoration still be powerful? I don’t have any measurements for you on just how much better in-person adoration is, but I loved my time of prayer with Jesus over the live stream. You can find a great online chapel here to experience this for yourself.
- Prayer Walks (or runs!) - Since the quarantine began in March, I have been able to go for runs around where I live and I found that the time of prayer and reflection that this has allowed has been amazing! My mind and body have no real concern other than to move myself forward and the joy of being outside is life-giving. I have been able to enjoy great conversations with God and reflect on quite a bit. Definitely something that I hope to continue doing even after everything opens back up.
- Novenas - Taking the model from the Apostles after Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit. They sat in the Upper Room and prayed for 9 days with the Holy Spirit descending upon them (as seen in Acts 2) on the tenth. This is a beautiful way to ask for guidance for ourselves and others as it shows God that we are committed to His Will, and yet we are like the persistent widow in Luke 18 going to the unjust judge for an answer to our request. I personally have received miraculous answers to novenas including one to St. Terese of Lisieux that led me to marry my wife after she broke up with me. You can find many great novenas here and even sign up for email reminders to connect you to praying specific ones as they coincide with the saints’ feast days.
- Stations of the Cross - More popular to do on Fridays during Lent, this is still a beautiful way to offer up our suffering and stay close to Jesus. We can even dedicate the whole pray to someone or thing that weighs heavy on our hearts. There are plenty of YouTube clips to watch with beautiful reflections of Christ's Passion to pray through, or you can find a beautiful version here, or if your church has an outdoor stations of the cross path you can go there and simply pray and Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be at each Station. Really however you feel like you want to pray, this would be a beautiful way to honor our Lord’s Passion during these difficult times.
- Chaplet of Divine Mercy - This truly is a tremendous time to be alive. Jesus revealed to St. Faustina during another time of crisis, the Great Depression, that the Father longs to pour out His Mercy upon us and that a beautiful way to respond to Him is by praying this chaplet. Furthermore, great grace is promised to those who pray it. Much like the rosary, there is a map for the chaplet here and you can even use your rosary beads to pray it. St. Faustina was a Polish Nun whose writing was promoted by St. Pope John Paul II. He even obeyed Christ’s request made known through Faustina to have the first Sunday after Easter declared as Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast that promises to unleash great amounts of grace on those who celebrate and those for whom they pray.
- Just spend time with God - God wants our hearts and we can give them to Him at anytime in a variety of ways. It’s not so much what we say to Him, but the meaning behind what we say to Him. The Church has provided many amazing prayers and devotions to assist us in our spiritual growth, many that I did not think to list here. However, there is always beauty in just sitting with God in silence or speaking to Him from the heart. This truly builds on our relationship with Him. That is really what the goal of this life is about, that is the purpose of Mass and all of these other devotions and prayers, to know and love God, our neighbors, and ourselves better and better.
I hope these help! It might be a good idea to schedule one or more of these throughout your day so that you can remember them and build a habit of praying. Please respond in the comments, by email, or share on social media what you think or how you have been growing closer to God during the Coronavirus Quarantine.