JONATHAN F. SULLIVAN
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
Ours is an incarnational faith: a faith rooted in the goodness of creation and in the conviction that God, by taking on material form, has imparted on the ordinary things of the world the ability to pass on supernatural grace and reveal spiritual truths.
Even as we use new technologies for catechesis, communication, and to live-stream liturgies for the benefit of those who cannot be present with the assembly (or, when public liturgies are canceled, with the priests who continue to celebrate the Mass on our behalf), these technologies should always lead us to a greater fellowship and faith in the real world.
With that in mind, here are some ways in which we can root our Domestic Church (our family home) in an incarnational practice of the faith while practicing social distancing and living under stay-at-home orders.
Adopt a New Devotion
Use this time as an opportunity to learn a new devotional practice. If it has been a while since you’ve prayed the Rosary, offer it every Friday for those who are sick and those who care for them. You might try the Divine Mercy Chaplet (which, if you have small children, has the advantage of being shorter than the Rosary) or the Stations of the Cross.
While online tools can assist in participating in these devotions, don’t become a passive spectator. Root your prayer in the physical by lighting candles, holding the Rosary beads, and gazing on a real crucifix.
Pray with Your Body
Within the Church’s liturgy, there are certain patterns of prayer — certain postures and gestures we adopt when performing certain parts of our common prayer. We stand when praying; we sit to listen to the Sacred Scriptures, except for the Gospel when we stand; we kneel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; we begin and end with the Sign of the Cross.
As you pray at home, use these gestures to engage your body in prayer. Making use of the Church’s patterns of prayer will keep us connected to the whole Body of Christ and keep us prepared to celebrate the liturgy again in our parish churches.
Offer a Sacrifice
Through the Mass, we offer the perfect sacrifice — the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ — to the Father. But we are also asked to offer our entire lives to the Lord:
For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it;
a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.
All of us are enduring hardships and sufferings we never would have dreamt of when we began our Lenten journey this year in addition to the usual practices of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Uniting this suffering with those of Christ transforms them into graces that can be given for the sick, healthcare workers, those in positions of authority who must make difficult decisions, and for the salvation of the world.
Write Letters to Family and Friends
In our age of texting, email, and 280-character tweets, a real letter is a sign of love and care. Write a letter or have children draw pictures, and then mail them to loved ones, friends, your parish priests and deacons, and anyone else who could use some encouragement or the knowledge that they’re loved and prayed for.
Make a Procession
Catholicism is a faith that moves. We process into the Mass; we process with the Book of the Gospels; we process with the Blessed Sacrament on Corpus Christi; and we process with statues on important feast days. Encourage children to devise their own procession for a saint or with a crucifix. Open with a prayer and reading from Sacred Scripture, have the kids pick hymns or chants, and then process around the house raising your voice to the Lord! End by naming the family’s intentions and praying the Lord’s Prayer.
Jonathan F. Sullivan is the director of parish ministries, services, and catechesis for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. He and his wife are expecting their ninth child this summer.
PHOTO: Halfpoint, Shutterstock