As we hunker down during the social distancing requirements of COVID-19, a majority of us are faced with open pockets of time that weren’t there before. With the government extending the requirements to April 30, we’re in for a long month ahead. While the extra time and quiet can be a boon to our prayer life, it can also place a burden upon it. Our prayers can become rote and lifeless. The days seem to melt together and without our Sunday-going-to-Mass marker, we can slip into the abyss. At this point, you might find yourself stuck in a prayer rut.
Here are a few suggestions for pulling yourself out of the rut and getting your prayer life back onto a fruitful track.
- Switch your methods. The online community is bursting with ways to pray, meditate, participate in Holy Mass, and attend virtual Eucharistic Adoration. To keep things fresh, use an array of prayer guides and resources. You may want to change daily or every few days – it’s up to you. National Catholic Register offers a comprehensive list of resources that’s updated frequently. Relevant Radio features Fr. Rocky’s brief yet informative “40 Lenten Lessons on the Mass” plus a wide variety of audio prayers, live broadcast of daily Mass, and more. You also can listen to the radio shows live every day. On EWTN you’ll find Mass, prayers, both radio and television programming, and live Eucharistic Adoration. I’m partial to the live Eucharistic Adoration streamed from the Schoenstatt Marian Shrine in Vallendar, Germany. You can go there at this link: https://www.schoenstatt.de/de/livestream-urheiligtum.htm
- Don’t pray at all. Sometimes forcing ourselves through structured prayer ends up being counterproductive. It’s important to keep praying during periods of spiritual dryness, but we’re facing a different ball game right now. When rote prayers become just so much verbiage, lay them aside. Sit quietly, take a deep breath, and talk to our Lord. Talk to his Blessed Mother. Unload all your fears, frustrations, and sorrows on them. Tell them you’re scared, lonely, and struggling with prayer. They’re listening to you and they will help you through this – IF you let them. Keep it up until you’re all talked out. Eventually, your heart will yearn to return to structured prayer.
- Listen to beautiful music. St. Augustine wrote, “Music, that is the science or the sense of proper modulation, is likewise given by God’s generosity to mortals having rational souls in order to lead them to higher things.” Music – especially sacred music – can lift your spirits and draw your thoughts and emotions upward toward the Divine. Classical music can be calming as well as uplifting and can sweep your imagination away from the hardship of the present time. ClassicalRadio.com has a huge stable of lovely works from a large collection of artists. The Great Catholic Music app does just that – brings you great Catholic music right from your phone. If you’re a Spotify user, Aleteia has a Sacred Music playlist that’s quite nice.
- Engage in spiritual reading. In many ways, spiritual reading is a prayer. Writings and biographies of the saints, the works of great Catholic authors, and especially Scripture can change our perspective and lift the burden of trying to figure out how to pray on your own. If you want to dig into the classics, try this list from the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. If you’d like lighter fare, try these lists from National Catholic Register, Catholic Faith Alive! , or this one from Busted Halo. Don’t forget to check the online catalogs of Catholic Publishers like Ave Maria Press, Franciscan Media, Marian Press, TAN Books, or Paraclete Press. Shipping can be problematic in this current crisis, but most of the Catholic publishers offer Audio and E-Books that you can get right away and at discounted prices. Right now on Amazon, two of my E-Books are available for just 99 cents: Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena and Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom. My recent release, My Queen, My Mother: A Marian Pilgrimage Across America is just $4.99. Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace is available in E-Book and Audiobook formats. These are just my own books; the marvelous works of other Catholic authors are available, too. For Scripture reading, you can access the entire Bible on the USCCB website.
- Listen up! Listen to edifying and inspiring podcasts. Not only will you be enlightened by them, but you’ll gain from the sound of another human voice. There are more wonderful Catholic podcasts out there than I can list in a single post. I definitely recommend Breadbox Media, where you’ll find my podcast, Simply Holy and a ton of other fantastic podcasts. Relevant Radio has a multiplicity of podcasts including podcasts of its radio shows. You’ll also find quite a selection on EWTN.
With all of these marvelous options, there’s no need to get stuck in a rut with your prayer life! I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for more resources for you and will pass them on in future posts. In the meantime, know that I am praying for you and your loved ones. I ask you to pray for my loved ones and me, too.