The Serenity Prayer for Our Times of COVID-19

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How many of you feel out of sorts with all this social distancing? It seems as if everyone’s schedules and routines are in flux. We seem to be settling into a “new normal” but are looking forward to getting back to the old normal.

A prayer that has come to mind lately is the prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

Only recently did I discover that there is more to the prayer than I initially understood! While the remaining entirety of the prayer caught me by surprise, its fullness is applicable to our current state of disruptions as it speaks to trust and establishing peace.

 Calm, peaceful, untroubled

Serenity is defined as “the state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled.” Asking God to grant us serenity in these trying times is not always easy, especially as the busyness of constant activity has been the modus operandi of the culture. However, serenity provides shelter amidst the storm of uncertainty. It requests that we “accept the things we cannot change and to have the courage to change the things we can.”

We cannot change the mandated online schooling that has been put into place in so many cities. We cannot change the reality that there are no public Masses at our churches. We cannot change the rules and guidelines that governors and mayors have put into place for the sake of public safety. The list could continue and cause even further lamentations.

Still, there are things that we can change: our attitudes, renewed trust in God, quality time with our family, and even, inner stillness.

‘By waiting and calm you shall be saved’

Once it is accepted that serenity is needed, the trickiest part is having “the wisdom to know the difference” between what I am in control of and what I ought to surrender. Fr. Jacques Phillippe, in Searching for and Maintaining Peace, spoke of this surrender and wisdom by saying: “Often, we cause ourselves to become agitated and disturbed by trying to resolve everything by ourselves, when it would be more efficacious to remain peacefully before the gaze of God and to allow Him to act and work in us with His wisdom and power, which are infinitely superior to ours.

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust your strength lies, but you would have none of it.”

  • Isaiah 30:15

One day at a time

The second part of the prayer asks for God’s help in “living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.” Imagine if we lived this reality, how much more peace we would attain? If we accept the hardships that have come with this state of living i.e., alterations in schedules, jobs, finances, etc. we can encounter greater peace or at least be on the “pathway toward it.”

Pope Francis, in his worldwide message on Friday, March 27, spoke of the serenity God provides when he said: “Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” Worry and fears isolate, but Jesus tells us that “I am with you always until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Let us pray for one another and trust in the Lord Jesus, seeking to maintain or recover that interior peace.



William O’Leary lives in Kansas with his wife and three children. He is the Director of Religious Education for a large parish in Overland Park, Kansas. For more than 20 years, his work in pastoral ministry has explored ways to draw parents and their children into the practice of their faith. His blog is

Read more articles about catechesis at home during a crisis.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

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