Some of us like the solitude of social distancing and some don’t like the isolation. Some thought it was okay for a while—but now it’s getting really old. Some are busier than ever. Others surprisingly find themselves with time to fill.
Wherever we are, we’re probably spending time differently than before, which can offer a unique potential for spiritual growth.
2 Peter 3:15 asks us to “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.” That is, every second God gives us is time to get closer to him.
God is patient with us. Can we be patient enough with him to recognize the good he is doing for us in this trying time? Can we practice saying “yes” amidst all the uncertainty?
St. Paul quotes Isaiah with a timely reminder: ‘“In an acceptable time, I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
God invites us to get closer to him by taking this time to connect with what’s important.
How Linda made her connection
Linda is a wife, mother of five, grandmother of four, and a special education technician with teens with autism. With the school closed, she’s connecting with three generations and leaving a legacy for the next—by going through 12,000 family photos. (You read that right!)
“In this difficult time not working, I’m choosing to make the best of where God has us,” Linda says.
“I started the project by removing the pictures in each of 35 albums. I bagged and labelled a third for the kids to go through. Bagged and labelled two-thirds to keep.”
“Thirty-five albums took up fifteen feet of shelf space,” Linda says. “Now, stacked up, the boxes use only three feet!” And the newly organized photos will lead to future family connections: “This way, three boxes can be brought up during a family gathering and we can make an evening of it.”
When you’re not sure what to do
Not into organizing photos? Here are 10 other ways you can snuggle up to God and use this “acceptable time” to create greater peace and joy in your life and the lives of those you love.
Connect with God
No surprise here—anything that has eternal value starts with checking in with God and inviting him into our day.
My friend Lourdes has been praying a riveting 5-minute sung Litany of the Saints with her husband and two young daughters: https://youtu.be/zWauyyMbpwY. She writes, “My family prays the litany, then we open up the “Laudate” app and continue the song with all the saints of the day! If we have time, we read bios, but if we don’t, at least we said ‘hi’ :)”
The uber-popular daily devotional Magnificat is offering complimentary access to its online version to help people pray from home. Download the free app at https://us.magnificat.net/free
St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings have been the go-to resource for unpacking Christian truth for centuries. Now, everyone can benefit from his wisdom by enrolling in “Aquinas 101” (it’s free). Check out the 2-minute video that shows you why it will help you love and understand your faith as never before: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd55APptap1Ve7Jwqa8OcBA
Connect with Friends
https://zoom.us/download has a free app that lets you enter a “zoom room” in which everyone can see and hear everyone else. It feels surprisingly warm and intimate. Virtual knitting circles, prayer groups, and book clubs are using it. My friend Laura held a virtual cocktail party via Zoom: “It was so fun. We all laughed and talked and really reconnected,” she said.
Becky packed her family in the car and drove to the home of some good friends, who were expecting the visit. Becky pulled up outside their house, her family piled out of the car, and the adults and children caught up in person from the sidewalk, while their friends stayed a safe distance on the porch.
Connect with Children
This idea is going viral on https://www.facebook.com/groups/2975131139212932/: create a design with removable tape for children to paint their own “stained glass window.”
Staci shares her recipe: “Equal parts acrylic paint and dish soap. Then use a little flour to thicken so it doesn’t drip everywhere!” Staci adds: “This project allowed the boys to focus on something beautiful together. They shared paint colors and neither one of them fought with each other. My oldest did say it looked like we were in Church. The sun came out super bright that afternoon and brought beautiful colors into the kitchen. I hope one day they say, ‘Remember you let us paint that cool stained glass door?’ And I want to be able to say, ‘Yes and it was beautiful!’”
Lana and her husband Joe are reading stories for the grandkids on video. See how Grandma Lana engagingly dramatizes How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsgArLLoj4Y&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2ibXqMjFuxGVN5q4MDvSXgDcSaf0yxww-88wOeeh8jtqUOE6UyU3rKiB8.
Magnificat is offering complimentary access to www.magnifikid/free, where you can also download its colorful Sunday missalette for children ages 6 through 12.
And the Vatican is offering free downloads of its illustrated manuscripts to color. Julie writes: “On St. Patrick’s day, my younger children colored for hours, to my surprise. I’ll look at this!” https://aleteia.org/2020/03/20/vatican-converts-vast-collection-of-manuscripts-into-coloring-books.
Connect with Nature
Now that flowers are popping in many parts, take a walk in your local neighborhood or park (it’s easy to social distance outdoors)—and let the burgeoning blooms cheer you with the optimism of their rebirth.
No color yet where you live? Notice colors where you hadn’t seen them before—subtle shades of lavender, rust, and ochre adorn even the drabbest landscape. Hear the sounds that we can miss when we’re rushing around: breeze in the branches, squirrels making a ruckus in the dry leaves, or a jaybird call.
Take photos of what you find and share them. I snapped this forsythia outside my window. A friend posted what he called a “bucket list” video: a robin nabbing a worm on a rainy day!
Connect with Art
Like nature, art inspires us get out of our head and into our heart, where God can meet us.
Aleteia.org recommends 12 excellent Catholic movies at https://aleteia.org/2020/03/18/12-catholic-movies-to-watch-during-social-distancing/, including these award-winners:
A Man for All Seasons—the life and death of St. Thomas More, who loved Christ and his Church more than his own earthly life.
On the Waterfront—Marlon Brando plays an uneducated former boxer who stands up against corrupt union bosses. One reviewer appreciated the movie’s Catholic-friendly point of view.
Mission—Robert DeNiro stars as an 18th-century Jesuit missionary evangelizing the native people of South America.
Becket—Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton star in this classic film about the disintegrating relationship between King Henry II and St. Thomas Becket due to the latter’s commitment to the Catholic Church.
Liberating a Continent—real people, real lives, real consequences, and the real power of prayer during and after Pope John Paul II’s first papal visit to Poland.
Performers are posting videos recorded in their homes. Singer Natalie Grant writes the following: “Today it was all overwhelming. And so I worshipped. Because His presence is our greatest weapon. The struggle is real, as are the facts. But… worship reminds us that we are fighting from victory, not for victory.”
Get ready for major goosebumps with her in-home recording of “My Weapon:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev_prkLWlYs&list=RDev_prkLWlYs&start_radio=1&fbclid=IwAR127aUOBrPK1cdKtktt7nwY1-DYjMVlCZKCmYRaTOXZs8r9WbqwaIC2L8s
And the Toronto Symphony recorded Appalachian Spring—with each musician in his own home! https://www.ludwig-van.com/toronto/2020/03/22/the-scoop-toronto-symphony-plays-aaron-coplands-appalachian-spring-from-their-homes/?fbclid=IwAR069gEqXg-hTJoFg0Az6MhNEmcx2XQZOGzh5oMjl3BJebirZXQ9-TXaEC8
Connect with Your Inner Artist
Some of us have craft projects we’ve been meaning to get back to. I have a half-finished girl’s sweater in my basement. The “girl” is now 42 (just sayin’). Or maybe we’ve always wanted to learn to crochet or do calligraphy. Connect with an online group or order a book or video to get started. Dig out the watercolor set you used to have so much fun with. You’ve got play time now!
Carol-Ann has been taking icon-writing classes and sent a photo of two of them in progress. She writes, “If introverts get power from being alone, will we have superpowers when this is over?”
Connect with Neighbors
Justin urges his friends to “get to know your neighbors! You live near them, and are not going anywhere anytime soon. You don’t have to be within six feet of someone to talk. Maybe it’s time for community to be mostly geographical instead of online again.”
Joe, a photographer, strolls the neighborhood with his camera. When he sees a family gathered, he offers a free “front porch” family portrait.
Check in with elderly neighbors and call folks in nursing homes who are more isolated than ever. Then there’s that almost-funny meme: “I was concerned about the elderly. Then I realized I am the elderly.”
Connect with Books
Ascension Press is offering its popular Bible Timeline course at a discount: https://ascensionpress.com/collections/the-bible-timeline-the-story-of-salvation. My friend Ellen-Jane writes, “Worth every dollar and every minute that you put into it.”
Our own unread books
Most of us have books we’ve been meaning to read. It’s time to grab the one we most want to get into (or finish). I’m reading The Course of All Treasons, a new Elizabethan murder mystery by Catholic author Suzanne M. Wolfe (Shakespeare’s in it as a walk-on—did he do the deed??). It’s a page-turner as gritty as, well, Elizabethan life.
I’m making my way slowly and deliciously through On Union With God by St. Albert the Great. And visiting old favorites like Alice in Wonderland.
Need suggestions? The U.S. Catholic Book Club is at https://www.uscatholic.org/bookclub
I’ve had time to pack books I’ll never read again for the local “friends of the library” store so others can enjoy them—which clears shelf space for more new books!
Connect with Home
Whether we’re in an urban efficiency or sprawling farmhouse, home is the place that uniquely reflects our values, routines, and sense of beauty. Kass and Treva reassessed how their homes were serving them.
Kass painted her bedroom. Her new domesticity has left her “Feeling peace! And enjoying the blessings I have been given.”
Treva attacked her long-neglected storage space. “Let it be known that every closet and drawer is now so organized I CAN’T STAND IT! Please send someone to mess them up…throw stuff on the pristine floors…come feed the starving dust bunny families!”
Give it time, Treva, just give it time….
Connect with Yourself
Sue is “keeping a journal of these days with notes of my activities, thoughts, and what the Lord is teaching me through this time.” Here’s help to get started: https://news.virginia.edu/content/write-it-down-historian-suggests-keeping-record-life-during-pandemic
Despite the sad absence Mass and lack of physical closeness of people we love, many of us are, in a sense, living a more deeply human life.
We’ve cleared our head of the constant coming and going—to dry cleaner, work, and soccer games—that filled our minds and calendars. We awaken to other things neglected but needed: prayer, long walks, and reading for pleasure.
For millennia, philosophers have called “the highest good of man” things that we do for the pleasure and play of them. That’s because they enable us to contemplate the truth, goodness, and beauty that is God himself.
Let’s pray that as we eventually return to communal life, we remember to leave time for things that give us simple pleasure and connect us to what is most important. Things that help our spirit thrive. As an old woman in the grocery line said today, “Life is too short not to be joyful.”
P.S. I hope you’ll click the Facebook (or Twitter or LinkedIn) icon below to share these ideas with friends and family.