From the Pastor: Nothing About Corona Virus Here!
In times of panic and pandemic, we should be spending more time in prayer, especially in family prayer. Today I will give you some simple advice to help you get rid of the exhausting and soul-sucking “news” that is bombarding everyone 24-7. I want you to make this “lockdown” into a family retreat! Many of you are, sadly, already out of work, either completely or with fewer hours. You are already stuck at home under what is nearly marshall law. You are already denied the sacraments and even the group devotional prayers such as the Lenten Friday Stations of the Cross in church. In our parish more so than in others, since many of you travel at least 45 minutes to church, even that last item gives you more time on your hands than you normally have, since church activities are canceled. You have a choice of what to do with that time. Some will use it for immoral purposes (other people, not anyone reading this, I am sure!), such as watching porn, getting drunk or high, or committing crimes online or in “real life.” Others will simply waste it all, binge-watching movies (a seemingly morally neutral or good activity if the movies are neutral or wholesome and a morally evil activity when watching those depicting immorality as entertainment--so quit making excuses that it’s not rated X so it must be OK), or reading books (the same rules apply here), or watching news, or reading farcebook feeds, or playing computer games, just to fill the day. But what I am going to encourage you to do is to make the best use of your “free time” even as you get any necessary work done around the house. You don’t have the Blessed Sacrament at your house, so it won’t be the same as being in a quiet retreat house chapel for 4-6 hours a day. You won’t have the silence of a normal retreat, either, unless you happen to live alone. But each person and family can adapt a retreat “method” to their own situation.
I will give a few examples to get you thinking. Not to give you the mandate to do it this way, just to give you some basic ideas. Start out with specific bedtimes for each person as they need, so that there is a common wake up time for everyone. That way, as at a retreat house, everyone gets up at the same time to begin their prayer. It doesn’t have to be unbearably early, nor should it be lazily late. Maybe 6:30 am or whatever works for your family. Make simple morning rules for both adults and children, such as no electronics (TV, phone, computer, games, etc.) before 9:00 am. Everyone gets up, gets cleaned up and dressed, and sits down for breakfast together in silence as much as possible. If dad is the one making breakfast, he doesn’t even have to ask, “how do you want your eggs?” but can rather just make breakfast and place it in front of everyone, fixed as he was able, not necessarily tailored to each person’s whims of the hour. Pray together (out loud) the blessing before and grace after the meal but no other talking. During the time that the children wash, dry and put away the dishes (ignore your dishwasher), whichever parent didn’t cook could read part of the Bible, or Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, or some other favorite spiritual classic, and perhaps even give some reflection on how that passage could be applied to the family that day. When the dishes are put away and the kitchen is cleaned, if there is homeschooling or virtual schooling to be done, do it as normal. Pray the family rosary just before lunch, so that everyone is awake, they have already been working and need a break, yet are not yet too exhausted from schoolwork. (Those of you without school-aged children could, of course, spend much more of the morning in prayer and spiritual reading.) Lunch could be a time when the older children could take turns each day fixing sandwiches and doing the reading/reflection as the dishes are being done. Most good retreats include quite a bit of getting outdoors, slowly walking around the retreat center’s secluded grounds, praying and meditating. Do something similar as you are able. For instance, in the afternoon maybe you could go outside to pray the Stations of the Cross (daily, not just on Fridays of Lent). Maybe the kids could draw the Stations on paper plates and they could be taped to trees, fences, the house, and the neighbor’s cat. (Trying to catch up with that last-named Station in order to pray would certainly keep everyone’s interest!) At the evening meal, instead of being completely silent, dad could lead the discussion about what each person learned that day, how their prayer or the spiritual readings affected them, or if there was anything in particular about the after-meal reading/reflections that caught their attention. Once everyone has spoken their piece and had their fill and before the dishes get done, light a candle and pray the Guardian Angel prayer on behalf of all those dying alone (of anything), often without the last sacraments, and, especially, those with wavering or no faith. Then pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for them.
There you have a basic outline for a much-needed respite from the panic of today, a way of bringing back into focus our faith in God, and a reminder of the necessity and power of prayer. I hope this helps!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka