I’m not the only one to point out the resonance between the COVID-19 crisis and the spiritual season of Lent. Both seem to be desert experiences.
With Lent comes new activities and practices, some of which are quite practical. We wear different colors (purple vestments), we alter our eating habits (no meat on Fridays), and we refrain from certain activities (saying Alleluia, singing the Gloria at Mass). But we also bring into our lives other small practices that we’ve noticed can help us live healthier and holier lives.
The same is true for our current situation in this season of COVID-19. We are all adapting to new practices, guidelines, and abstinences for the health and safety of ourselves and our fellow community members.
A few weeks ago we asked our readers to share some of the practices they are engaged in during the Lenten season. In this uncertain and anxious time, we want to share with you some of the spiritual practices and graces our readers have experienced this Lent. They may not be grand or overly dramatic. However, we can trust that they are true. And any act of acknowledging God’s activity in our lives, especially during an uncertain time, can be cause for an increase in faith, hope, and love.
Multiple readers responded that they were planning to pray the rosary every day. Others said they were making a commitment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or attend daily Mass. Many included the practical ways in which they would insert this into their schedules—like praying their daily rosary on the way home from work. Others gave very specific plans for their prayer—like reading a paragraph of the Gospel of John every day.
Others are adding new habits into their existing prayer routines. One reader wrote about “taking the advice of Jake Braithwaite, SJ — Sit before the Lord, let God marvel at you as you marvel at God.”
A few readers mentioned that they were getting involved in various prayer/bible study groups that their parishes were hosting during Lent.
A lot of TJP readers are fasting from technology. One reader is fasting from headphones, another deleted the podcast app for the remainder of Lent. Another common theme was giving up alcohol. One person is giving up the use of plastic water bottles.
The most creative responses came under what could be described as almsgiving, or doing good deeds. One person responded, “I’m trying to tell one person each day about a holy thing that they have done that’s inspired me.” Another said, “Each morning, [I’m] choosing someone to pray for throughout the day.” Others responded that they are trying quite simply to be kinder.
Any Lenten practice is not an end in itself. All of our spiritual practices—penances, prayer, good deeds—are aimed at bringing us into closer relationship with God and making us more loving people. This was clear when readers told us about some of the graces they’ve received through their Lenten practices.
“My hope is that it will help me see God in the parts of my life where I wasn’t looking for him but I believe he was there.”
“I feel it’s an important way for members of the Mystical Body of Christ to support one another on the way to salvation.”
“After Reconciliation and confessing the same sins for the hundredth time, the priest had me read James 3:1-12 as penance. I felt the grace from that sacrament and have been reading the passage every day. I see a difference in my gossip and disrespect habit. I will continue during Lent and after, and hopefully replace this sin with good.”
“The feeling of being loved is at times overwhelming, all the time inspiring.”
“I was made aware of my need to forgive the smaller hurts in my life.”
“I am learning to trust God more each day.”
“The history of my life is a record of God’s seeking me out, so if I can remember that, God will faithfully do the rest.”
I hope you can find these statements, simple or profound as each may be, consoling. Many of the practices of the Lenten season, as well as the coronavirus precautions, we take on with a promise that they will aid us.
When I read these responses, I am reminded that when we make practical decisions in our daily habits to cultivate a greater sense of God in our life, God responds. It gives me consolation to hear about this process taking place in the lives of others.
Please feel free to share in the comments section more of what you are doing during the Lenten season, or during the coronavirus situation, to cultivate a deeper relationship with God.