How My Spiritual Life Has Changed Since COVID
Daily life has not been the same since early this year. COVID has upended our churches, schools, recreation, and work. Is there an area of life it hasn’t disrupted? Sometimes forgotten on that list, but definitely needed, is our spiritual life. Here’s where the rubber meets the road in our practice of the faith. Faith is meant to be with us always, but it is even more important during times of trial.
View of the World
So much of the world that we knew has been stripped away. Movie theaters closed-- one large chain closed all of its theaters across the United States. Restaurants reduced capacity and offered takeout, but are closing at an alarming rate. Professional sports are played in protective bubbles. Many of the distractions that I had before are simply not available. That led me to realize even more than ever before: what did the world offer more than distractions? I doubt many Christians would say they believe that the world saves them—but what testimony would their lives give? I certainly place myself in that category.
On top of the superficiality, the world grows increasingly hostile to religion. There has been no secular outcry against the desecration of churches or statues of saints. Religious gatherings—even funerals—are liabilities rather than vital spiritual nourishment. I am lucky that I live in a state that allows singing at Mass. I’m also lucky to be able to attend Mass inside the church building. That isn’t possible in some states. Dioceses are starting to sue for the right to hold Mass inside their churches, and with a reasonable amount of capacity. If we traveled back in time eight months to relate life in the COVID world, would anyone have believed it?
American culture carries a considerable Christian influence. Unfortunately, the days of the culture aligning with Christian values are over. The battle lines are drawn, whether we realize the war has started or not.
“Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19, RSV-CE)
“For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:26)
Looking in the Mirror
The first point precedes and informs the rest of the points on my list. Seeing more clearly the spiritual battle brings out the need to respond. The next step is a long, hard look in the mirror.
One of my initial reactions was to shrink into fear. Is this the great apostasy that St. Paul mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? Prayer takes more effort and good feelings from prayer happen less and less. Can I truly prepare my soul for whatever is coming next if I can’t catch my breath? The societal lockdown during the pandemic, shootings, protests, riots, and catastrophic wildfires on the west coast occurred in quick succession. Election day looms on the horizon, promising greater division regardless of the outcome. Some divine consolation would really hit the spot right now.
It’s not wrong to ask for consolations (see: https://spiritualdirection.com/2013/03/18/what-is-spiritual-consolation) from God. Our loving Father wants to give us good things, but He knows how quickly we latch onto consolations. What child wouldn’t ask for cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Here’s the hard question to ask, returning to the mirror: do I want consolations in order to be closer to God and more in line with His will? Or do I want God in order to receive the consolations? It’s a distinction between love and selfishness that could get lost in the pursuit of consolation.
Suffering, uncertainty, and chasing consolation shouldn’t distract us from the one purpose of our spiritual lives: growing in a relationship of love with Jesus.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
It doesn’t hit often, but some days I’ve been overcome with anxiety about the events in the world. Mental prayer has become tougher as a result. Dryness in prayer is supposed to draw us into a more energetic pursuit of God, but that’s not very helpful in the middle of the desert. Two things have sustained my prayer life recently, besides the encouragement and example of my wife: the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours.
The rosary (see: https://www.coraevans.com/blog/article/rosary-john-paul-leo) is a tremendous gift to the Church. It’s a prayer with a rhythm, which helps in times of rudderless, dry prayer. Even better, the rosary is a simple avenue to meditate on the gospels. Our Blessed Mother knew the difficulty of trusting in God. She knew suffering and how to persevere through it. Praying the rosary lifts our hearts to Mary and joins us to a tradition that has enriched the faithful for 800 years.
In its current form, the Liturgy of the Hours consists of the office of readings, morning prayer, daytime prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer (see: https://catholicexchange.com/what-is-the-liturgy-of-the-hours). Clergy and those in religious life pray the entire “office” each day as part of their vocation. The Church encourages the laity to participate in this as well, as it is a prayer of the universal Church. I haven’t tried to pray the whole daily Office in a long time, but I have picked up praying morning or evening prayer as my day permits. I have found a lot of comfort in praying ancient words and uniting myself with the Church at prayer. It has given me a sense of stability while the world shakes.
The End Times
I find it fascinating that the events foretold in the Scriptures (see: https://catholicstand.com/is-jesus-back-yet/) and through private revelation (see: https://www.countdowntothekingdom.com/) could possibly be coming to pass in our lifetimes. That can serve as motivation to live a well-ordered, Christ-like life. And it’s entirely possible that one could slip into obsession about it. Jesus did not shy away from telling the apostles about the End Times in Matthew 24-25, so this message/teaching is not dangerous (see: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2017/01/worried-end-world.html). For all we know, our end could be tomorrow or next week.
A closer look at the End Times reminds us to turn toward Christ and away from the world. It also encourages us to take that look in the mirror. It may or may not be in a biblical persecution, but every one of us will die one day. When we arrive at the throne of God for our judgment, will we know Him? One of the primary ways we get to know Him is through prayer.
There can be only one conclusion on the changes in my spiritual life. I need more Jesus! More of His love, so I can show greater love for my family. More prayer to get through the times of the Eucharist-less lockdown. More charity toward those that are suffering. More union with Christ, more solid union with His Church. The world holds its breath in terror of contracting COVID, but let us remember what Our Lord teaches:
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:26-28)
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)