Many of you probably made a Lenten promise last month, but I doubt any of them were total isolation. Yet the first season of Lent, the original 40 days that drew Jesus into the desert, were spent in isolation.
We are in the throes of transition. This is nothing new, but currently the pace of these scary transitions has become emotional for many. We are anxious about possible outcomes and overwhelmed with the new challenges of social distancing. Parents are balancing becoming sudden homeschoolers, many while trying to keep their jobs afloat as well. Elderly people are trying to get their needs met without becoming ill. And many are feeling lonely and helpless.
In his homily Sunday, which parishioners watched online instead of in the pews, our pastor explained that we may not know what to expect, but as a community of faith we know that God does not lead us to fear. Instead, God gives us the tools we need—like patience and prudence—which lead in turn to hope.
Coronavirus has canceled so much already, but it has not canceled love, trust, faith, hope. Here are some ideas to help you pass the time at home with those virtues in mind.
A lot of us missed the physical Mass this past weekend, but check your parish website for ways to stay connected to your community. Catholic TV offers many options for online mass—you can even celebrate with Pope Francis from the comfort of your couch. YouTube can be a rabbit hole, but also a treasure trove of Sunday services and interesting church tours. We obviously can’t travel right now, but that isn’t stopping any of us from taking a virtual tour of the Vatican Museum.
Feed your soul
Even with the wonderful resource of online Mass, many are still missing out on the Eucharist during this time. Homemade bread cannot take the place of the actual sacrament, but it can be a comforting ritual to add to your daily life.
Baking bread takes patience and requires some strength and physicality—making it a great stress reliever. It is great if you need some solitude but can also be a fun family activity. The soothing smell of fresh-baked bread is sure to lift your spirits, and the reward is delicious.
Still interested in the unleavened communion wafer variety? A group of Passionist nuns in Kentucky can show you all about that here.
If you can get outdoors, please take advantage of it. Being in nature, feeling the sun or rain, and breathing in fresh air all have a long list of benefits, both mental and physical. We are social creatures, and this time of confinement is very new to many of us but being in nature can help us shift our perspective and allow us to feel connected to the world as a whole.
If you live in a community that has decided to shelter in place, you can still open your windows and watch some good nature documentaries on Netflix.
Do you have an instrument collecting dust in the corner? Now you might finally have time to learn a song or two! You could also download a music app: Both Moog and Korg Synthesizers have released free music making apps to help lift spirits and occupy time during this pandemic.
Scientific studies have proven that music can improve your mood. Don’t believe me? Watch these kids sing for Pope Francis. It just feels good.
You should sing too. The Bible tells us over and over again how God wants to hear us sing. Not only does it glorify God, but it also has the power to strengthen us, unite us, and help us find joy.
Find a hobby
When was the last time you played a board game or did a puzzle? I have spent years scolding myself for keeping a basket full of yarn and knitting needles and a box full of embroidery supplies, but this week I feel vindicated knowing they just might not go to waste.
Hobbies are important because they develop creativity, promote focus, and negate stress. If you like to knit or crochet but don’t know where to start, check in with your parish. Perhaps they have a prayer shawl ministry or are looking to start one.
If you aren’t the crafty type, there are plenty of hobbies to go around, and if nothing else: read. Most libraries are closed right now, but many offer free digital downloads or audiobook options.
Learn a language
Learning a new language is not only a great exercise for our brain, but it is a great way to keep us connected. These past few weeks have been humbling for humanity as a whole and have opened our eyes to different cultures. Learning a new language can be like that too, and it is a way for us to show respect for our common world.
Once again, the Internet is a treasure trove of resources. There are many free websites and apps to help you learn any number of languages. Even YouTube, Spotify, and Netflix have options.
Our rhythms and routines might be a bit displaced right now, but this is no time to neglect our bodies. Exercise gives us a sense of purpose, keeps us agile, boosts our immunity, and builds strength. It is also a great way to add some physical prayer to our spiritual routine. Soulcore is a great way to marry prayer with movement and is easy to do right at home.
Quiet your mind
If your mind is racing right now, chances are those pressures are leaving us anxious and agitated. Meditation is a proven way to quiet your mind, and walking a labyrinth is a beautiful way to meditate.
Although many of us can’t get out to a public labyrinth, there are many options we can do at home. If you have enough space, consider building your own labyrinth. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, and you can find some ideas here. If you are limited to the inside but have an open space, you can make a DIY walking path with post-it notes or string.
You can also print out a finger labyrinth—tracing the lines with your finger is a soothing and effective way to clean out the stresses that are cluttering your mind.
We are a society constantly wishing we had more time, and even if the world seems to be crumbling around us, it’s okay to take advantage of this time. Use it to relax, reconnect, and even have some fun.
On Monday, Pope Francis spoke of those cooped up in his homily, saying, “May the Lord help them to discover new ways, new expressions of love, of living together in this new situation. It’s a beautiful opportunity to creatively rediscover affection.”
I hope we can all see this as an opportunity to rediscover affection—for our God, for our families, for those in need, and for ourselves. If you have time this week, I hope you can use it to Facetime your friends or start a group text thread and fill it with silly gifs. I hope you can get down on the floor and play with your kids or your cats. I hope we all take time to consider those who are not able to safely isolate—first responders, nurses and doctors, single parents, hourly wage-workers—and find ways we can help them through this struggle.
Let’s all take some time to check in on those that are truly isolated—those living alone, the elderly, the physically vulnerable. And please, let’s remember we are all standing together in solidarity right now, not just as Catholics, but as humanity.
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash