French priest Olivier Monnier broadcasts a Mass with a video chat application running on his smart phone fixed on a wooden candlestick facing the altar on April 3, 2020 at the empty Saint-Jacques church in Illiers-Combray, France. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” (Romans 8:18)
Although we are experiencing suffering and uncertainty due to the pandemic, there are also many opportunities to a grow closer to Christ and find comfort through him. A priest I know calls difficult situations like this our “holy place” where much has been stripped away leaving us feeling helpless — a place where we meet God.
Holy Hacks are ways to meet God. The term was coined in the book Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith and Get to Heaven, based on the popularity of “life hacks” as creative and easy ways to accomplish things. Holy hacks do that with the spiritual life, finding creative ways to grow closer to God and expand our capacity for holiness in everyday life. Here are a few suggestions for comfort and holiness during the pandemic.
1. Find assurance and spiritual guidance through the Quarantine Lectures, featuring such topics as Grace and Anxiety: Spiritual Growth in a Time of Turmoil and Plagues: What We Can Learn from the Bible, from the Thomistic Institute. You can also sign up for their free digital prayer book, The TI Quarantine Prayer Book: Prayers in Time of Plague.
2. Get your mind off your troubles through movies with good Catholic messages. For suggestions go here, here and here.
3. Ask St. Jacinta Marto, one of the Fatima children, to pray for those alone in hospitals. She died 100 years ago on Feb. 20, 1920, alone in a hospital at 9 years old. St. Jacinta predicted this would happen but was at peace and determined to offer her suffering for the conversion of sinners.
4. Spiritually adopt the dying. Fr. Philip Kemmy, a priest in Ireland, read the headline, “Everyone Dies Alone” and was moved to ask Catholics to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily to spiritually place themselves at the side of sick patients who can't take visitors.
5. If you are feeling shut in, read The Diary of Anne Frank, by a 12-year-old Jewish girl who hid an a small attic with her family for two years only to be discovered and exterminated. Or read Left to Tell, about Imaculee Ilibagiza’s hiding in a cramped bathroom for 91 days with 7 other women in 1994 during the Rwanda genocide.
6. Don’t test God. Practice social distancing so as not to put yourself in danger. Unite inconveniences to the sufferings of Jesus. Do the same with people irritating you at this time, including those in the media. Pray for them too.
7. Make a holy hour at your church or go to Online Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration for a listing of 13 chapels that broadcast adoration 24/7.
8. Go to daily Mass. Watch Masses on EWTN TV online or go here for livestreamed Masses in the U.S. and a few in other countries such as in the U.K., Mexico, Australia and the Vatican.
9. Get the Vatican’s special coronavirus indulgences daily.
10. Find blessings in your life as it is now and do a Rosary of gratitude, just naming a blessing on each rosary bead. Even in hardships, there are blessings — including electricity, food, Mass online and the gift of faith you’ve received.
11. Pray the Surrender Novena and feel daily consolation praying, “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything!”
12. Offer up your sufferings, whether big or small. Don’t waste suffering. Give it to Jesus in union with his suffering for your intentions.
13. While staying connected with people by the phone or over the internet, bless them. Pray for the person calling you and pray before you call someone.
14. When tempted to complain, take a breath, offer up your complaint and say a prayer for the sick instead.
15. Pray for first responders. Consider sending a gift card, a Mass card, or a note of thanks to those you know.
16. Start an email prayer group. A friend and I started a “Mary’s Moms” group several years ago and we have more than 100 moms on the list. We pray novenas or a daily Hail Mary in between novenas and send out the saint of the day to pray for us. Do you have a book club or Bible study group unable to meet? Become a prayer group. We have only one intention — for the holiness of our families — which has now expanded to the safety and holiness of all families.
17. Comfort yourself with Scripture, especially where God promises to deliver us from fears. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). The book A Worrier's Guide to the Bible: 50 Verses to Ease Anxieties by Gary Zimak might be helpful.
18. Listen to sacred or praise music, inspirational podcasts, or turn on Catholic radio to lift your thoughts and keep out negative thinking.
19. Set up a free conference call to pray together with family or friends. A brother of mine arranged this so that my 94-year-old Dad from his assisted living home led the Rosary with all siblings present from Prague, Alaska, Michigan, Oregon, Indiana and North Dakota. It worked so well we plan do it every Sunday from now on.
20. Make a daily sacrifice for our men in women on the front line, those suffering in the hospital, and for everyone suffering right now.