No, this article won’t tell you that you should go into self-isolation for three years. Yes, I know some of you were wondering that, especially those who read The Benedict Option a few years ago. No, this is a slightly different article.
As a Benedictine Oblate novice, I have embraced the Benedictine spirituality for quite some time. It has not only helped me grow in my spiritual life but it also prepared me for what we’re currently going through right now.
In his Holy Rule, St. Benedict gave instructions to Benedictine monks about how to live and grow in their faith. While most of you may not be drawn towards the Benedictine spirituality, I would still highly recommend reading The Rule (which is shorter than most of the books read these days) as I believe it can be beneficial for everyone, no matter what your state in life may be.
“Okay, but, he fled to a cave for 3 years to escape from sin. He didn’t escape from a virus. He wasn’t forced to live without the Mass and Sacraments. So, what can he teach me?” you may be asking right now. Oh, plenty, my friends. You can still learn a lot from him. Even beyond the “staying put” aspect (even us Benedictine Oblates stay attached to our communities for life if possible), there is a lot that can help all of us.
Don’t believe me? Here are four ways you can live (and thrive!) like a Benedictine during times of quarantine.
Be obedient, even when it’s hard
As someone who has always been fiercely independent and (once upon a time) valued my “freedom” and own ways, breaking out of that mentality and being obedient to those in authority over me was the first hurdle I faced when I embraced this way of life. Little did that I know that it would prepare me for what was to come. Unfortunately, I’m seeing this stubbornness from other Catholics who are angry over the cancellation of public Masses.
First of all, I understand where you’re coming from. It stinks to be deprived of the beauty of the Mass and the graces received through the Sacraments. As a (hopefully) future bride of Christ, do you think I love being away from my Beloved in both the Eucharist and in the Blessed Sacrament? Big fat no! But we must remember that the authorities (both secular officials and spiritual leaders) are placing certain rules for our safety. Yes, you have every right to be angry because you’re a strong, healthy Catholic in a low-risk group, but by obeying our bishops and dioceses, we may help prevent the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable. This is not only obedience but a work of charity!
This is not a time for fighting or uncharitably calling priests and bishops “cowards” and a myriad of other nasty things. This is a time to unite, in prayer, and try to keep the faith alive in any way we are able to. Let’s humbly submit ourselves to these restrictions (which will only be temporary) and offer up our sacrifices to those who are truly suffering – from both the virus and those who faced Christian persecution beforehand.
And a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder: remember who got cast out of Heaven for rebellion and disobedience due to their pride.
Maintain a healthy work-prayer balance
Do you know the Benedictine motto, “Ora et labora”? It means prayer and work (and spiritual studies). St. Benedict asked his monks to have time for both, a concept that seems a bit foreign to us Americans who place on emphasis on work and always being productive and active.
If you find yourself working from home, find out what routines work best for you. If you want to keep your normal work schedule, do so… if you’ve always included prayer into your routine. If you normally didn’t have enough time to pray, you can begin trying to incorporate that into your schedule. That time you usually spent on your commute? Use it to pray! Finish work early? Find a new devotion to try.
Unfortunately, many have lost their jobs during the lockdowns and “safer at home” quarantines. If you find yourself at home, still try to do something that would be considered work (e.g. chores) and try to find a good balance between that, prayer, and learning more about the faith.
It’s so easy (and so tempting!) to binge-watch Netflix because, well, we have so much time on our hands now. But let’s try to grow in our faith, especially since most of us can’t get to Mass or get together with our parish communities to pray. FORMED is currently offering an extended free trial which can be used to grow in your faith with all the downtime many of us currently have. There are other Catholic websites that are doing the same thing. The key is moderation; not too much of one thing, as good as it may be.
Be charitable and serve your community
While I may not be able to leave my house (as I am in a high-risk group), I’m so grateful to those who have been helping me out when simple yet essential things such as a grocery store run. If you’re able to help your grandparents, an elderly neighbor, or an individual who is vulnerable to the virus, please consider doing so.
For those of us who are stuck indoors, there’s still plenty we can do. First, we can offer up prayers and our various aches and pains for those who are helping us. We can (and should) also pray for those who are in the front lines of the epidemic (doctors, nurses, hospital workers, priests, etc). If you feel like that still isn’t enough, you can simply check in on your family and friends who may be having a hard time with being away from Mass and the Sacraments or who don’t do well with the lack of socializing (read: extroverts).
Grow in your faith through unconventional methods
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you where you can stream live Masses as many dioceses, priests, and Catholic channels offer a variety of sources to watch it being celebrated at various times of the day. Odds are you also know what powerful tools social media, live streams (such as Instagram Stories, Periscope, and other live-video platforms), and technology are and how you can connect with your friends to pray together. But, did you know that you can also do Holy Hours via a live stream from a perpetual adoration chapel?
While I usually use Adorecast to do mine, sometimes the feed is down. When that happens, you can search for such live feeds on YouTube and you will find them. Unsure what you can do during it? Here’s the Benedictine twist: take out your Bible or any spiritual books and do Lectio Divina while keeping the live feed from the perpetual adoration chapel in front of you. It sounds weird but, trust me, I’ve still gotten amazing results from doing this over the years.
We’re experiencing unprecedented, life-changing challenges that will go down in history as one of the darkest periods in human history. Instead of fretting (especially with all the gloomy unrelenting posts about the latest Coronavirus casualties) or being angry, let’s try to make the most out of this time. God wanted us all to be alive during this time for a reason. There are so many opportunities for us to become saints and to be a beautiful witness of what it means to be truly Catholic to those outside the Church. Let’s look to St. Benedict during these times of trial and learn how to be the best and holiest versions of ourselves.
St. Benedict, ora pro nobis!
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