“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” These words described the situation during the French Revolution in Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities.” But these words also reflect the situation we find ourselves in today due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Feelings and thoughts run the gamut: “I feel helpless;” “I am scared;” “How can I help?”
A sneeze can bring fear of being sick. We worry about those we care about. For those suffering from the virus and for those who are caring for them, we can pray. And pray we must! But, wait; churches are closed! And we also have a stay-at-home order.
The Bible assures us of the power of prayer and teaches us that we can pray anywhere. In my home?! Have they seen my home?! I look around; dust, dirty dishes, laundry, toys, etc. It can be hard to pray in a mess.
But take another look around, this time with the eyes of faith. What do you see now? Persons – all in the process of growing and maturing, who form a unit, a family. The Church calls this family, this household, the “domestic church” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1656-1657). Our households live the dynamics of the Church at large. Daily, we strive to live the Christian ideals of respecting the life of each member, forgiving repeatedly, joy, sorrow, work, sacrifice, prayer, etc.
We can pray in our homes because our homes are holy. As baptized Christians, we are baptized into the Body of Christ. What dignity we have! We are to be Christ to one another. This vision of faith brings a more life-giving reality to our families, to our households. With faith-filled eyes, we see the holy in the ordinary.
So, where are the places we can pray at home? There are many times and situations: mealtimes, morning prayers, night prayers. This is also the chance to designate a prayer place somewhere in our homes that provides an environment for praying. It can be a small table; or part of a shelf where we can place a candle, a Bible and other items the family chooses – like pictures of the family, slips of paper for prayer intentions, a plant or flowers.
The candle represents for us the light of Christ, who dispels the darkness. The Bible, the Scriptures, also bring to us the presence of Christ, the Word of God. The Catechism tells us that “…the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body” (CCC #103). God is present in his word. We meet Jesus in the Old and New Testaments.
Our faith nurtures our relationship with our God in so many ways; in sacrament, in word, in the Body of Christ. And our prayer space can remind us of these realities, these mysteries we live. The designated prayer space can serve as a reminder of our need to pray, to turn everything over to God.
We cannot come out of this present crisis unchanged. We will be better for it or worse; the choice is ours. We are lifted up when we allow faith to lead the way and to see things differently. Then, we can turn these “worst of times,” these days of stress, into the “best of times.”
Sue Grenough is from Jeffersonville, Indiana. She serves as a consultant to the Diocesan Office of Catechesis.