Quarantine Quandaries: What to do with what is?

Here we are. Many of us have been affected by COVID19 and the policies in response to it—either by physical quarantine, economic stress, lack of school for children, various plans being tossed in the trash, or just not having anything to do. Many are concerned, worried, frustrated, or bored. I shall not address the policies or events that have so vexed or concerned us, at least not directly. Rather, I want to offer some helpful ideas on what to do with what’s been given us. This, in turn, will address our emotional wellbeing and our happiness. 

Listening in Silence

Regardless of how much free time we have—kids and a job that still functions will affect this—we are going to be at home more. Our lifestyle has changed, but our home life is still in our hands. It may be harder because of a lack of routine and an outside education system, but we have the opportunity to mold it, set it according to certain guidelines and principles. The first thing, the most important thing, which applies to all of us, is that we have more time for silent prayer. The excuses have been thrown out into our curfewed streets. Time for silent meditation can now fill the time we spent going out to do whatever we did, and time together as a family—which may be 24/7—can be incorporated into a daily routine of praying together, especially the Rosary. The Rosary is a meditative prayer, and just as any mother is happy when her children come together to spend time with her, so is our Mother. We all have the opportunity to set a time every day—with no football practise or dinner with friends to usurp it—and spend time hammering it into our routines so it sticks. How about this: Quiet meditation in the morning, at least thirty minutes with the Bible or another spiritual reading—perhaps the Catechism or a work by a saint—to sit with and think on and talk about with God, and really listen to what He has to say. For as St. Mother Teresa said, ‘In the silence of the heart, God speaks.’ And then an Rosary every evening, with some similar text to read a bit of before each decade and then meditate on. If you’re not familiar with the Rosary—or even if you are—Mike Scherschligt’s daily Rosary meditation podcast is a great way to pray in community over a solid and good meditative topic. 

Health, Beauty, and Friendship

For those who have kids, this is an opportunity for to spend more time together, teach a life of prayer, and give them a chance to appreciate good books. Good books are one of the best ways to form oneself—at any age—into a better human being, which is what education ought to do. Books like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, Anne of Green Gables, The Tale of Despereaux, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Dracula, To Kill a Mockingbird, Sherlock Holmes, and The Great Divorce aren’t means of escape, but of coming to understand reality in a new way, especially through beauty. These can be read aloud together as a family every evening. Take time to listen to great music by Bach, Tchaikovsky, or any of the great composers. Watch the sunrise, or the sunset—or both! Take a walk outside (this is good for your health, and will help you against the flu!) and enjoy nature. Many of us either feel aversion to these things, or we wish we had the time. Appreciating healthy food is hard if you’ve been eating junk food, but once you do, you’ll feel more satisfied. We must widen the appetites of our souls to appreciate greater beauty, and desire more good than we did before, and then we’ll be happier when we have it. And now we have the time for it, even if it means struggling to get all the kids together to quiet down for a moment. But you’ll be surprised how much they’ll enjoy it when you start! And if you make it part of your routine, whether you’re a parent or alone, it’ll get easier, to the point that you or your kids will be looking forward to it, and will prefer it to the things you did before. 

Speaking of healthy food, this is a prime time to set up a healthy lifestyle in other ways. Exercise, learn to cook and eat better food. Get your kids to help you with it and do these things together. Get a reasonable amount of sleep each night, on a consistent schedule. For those who are crowded together, get to know the people you live with. For those alone, take extra time to get to know yourself. But we all need to do this, most of all through a daily life of silent prayer and daily examinations of conscience, so we can see our pitfalls, and make a practical resolution to do better next time with God’s help. 

Sorrow & Joy, Wisdom & Love

A lot of us are without good things—friendship, accomplishments at work, the liturgy and the Sacraments. Sorrow is a proper response to the loss of a good, for sorrow is the experience of an evil—a lack of good. It’s good to be sorrowful at the loss thereof. But we can respond to and with this sorrow in three ways. First, we can take extra time to appreciate the good. Do we have a home to stay in? Family we live with? Financial means of any sort, or maybe a job still? Health? Time to read or enjoy the sunset? Do we still have sunsets, breath in our lungs, and life? Joy is the awareness of and resting in the good, and this is why gratefulness is akin to happiness. And our joy must always greater than our sorrow, for Christ has trampled Death by Death, and we who die to ourselves in Him will live forever with Him. Second, we can realise how good the things we had were, and be grateful for them if and when we get them back. We can also thank God that we had them when we did. Third, we can offer up all these things to God, uniting them to Christ’s sufferings for the good of souls and in love for God. Whatever we did not choose, cannot change, do not like, or do not understand—all these we can unite to Christ’s sufferings by virtue of our Baptism, as His coworkers, and partake in His work of redemption to save souls. This also adds to our joy and gives meaning to our suffering in a profound and beautiful way. 

As Tenzen said in Avatar: The Legend of Korra: ‘Wisdom begins when we accept things as they are.’ If we are living in the past through regret, in the future through worry and the desire for control, or constantly focussing on how we wish things were now, then we will never be able to accept what is, and move forward as we should. We can understand this concept as the fundament of wisdom according to the Wise Man: To fear God is the beginning of wisdom. To fear God is to be in awe at Him, to wonder at His majesty, for ‘what is man that Thou art mindful of him? The son of man that Thou visitest him?’ Wonder is the desire for knowledge, and the first truth we must have to be wise is this: God is God, I am not. As Jesus said to St. Catherine of Sienna: ‘Do you know, daughter, who you are, and who I am? If you know these two things, you will be blessed. You are she who is not; whereas I am He who is.’ We must accept this, and we must accept the love this God offers on the Cross. His love comes in the form of His will, which is that we have perfect happiness forever with Him in Heaven. We are little children, and we understand this even less than children understand their parents’ wisdom and love. Yet if we believe this, and trust Him, we can accept all that comes our way, offering it back in thanksgiving, as love. So Jesus did in the Garden and at Calvary, and so we can do with Him. And when we are able to go to Mass, and when we go to Heaven, we can do this in the most beautiful way, in Communion and friendship with God and others. This is what we were made for, and it begins now, today: with acceptance in trust, and joyful response in love. Then we shall have peace in the arms of our good Father, and we shall be on the way to our home in Heaven. 

Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father’s love – difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs – everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift.  

St. Thérèse of Liseux

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