Following a Rhythm of Prayer for the Domestic Monastery

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 20, 2020 | In The Liturgical Year

How is everyone adjusting to this new rhythm of life referred to as “self-quarantine” due to the COVID-19 virus? There is so much uncertainty that it can be hard to settle into a good pattern for the family. We are only on the first week of isolation. With the schools slowly handing out their assignments, the spring weather being so inviting, the ability to still get food and doctors’ appointments (and no run on toilet paper in this household), we aren’t feeling too much of a pinch yet. My sons are doing things together and getting along for the most part. But that is just reporting for Week One.

Knowing that I have very close family members that have lowered immunity, especially my youngest brother who at age 37 has recently entered home hospice due to the debilitating disease of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), I’m not going to resist entering into extra caution and self-isolation. Sometimes outside help is needed to slow down the spread.

Monday was my birthday, and we attended 7:00 AM Mass as a family as our usual tradition. Little did we know that was going to be our last Mass in a physical church for a while. That is the major adjustment that we are feeling. Many of us were attending daily Mass for the Lenten season, and like to attend on special solemnities, like yesterday’s St. Joseph’s Day and next week’s the Annunciation of the Lord.

With this quarantine, our families have entered into spending most of our time within our domestic monasteries or domestic churches (I also really like thinking of it as our “home cloister”). We are all following the words from the Gospel of Ash Wednesday: “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” We are all collectively following Jesus in the desert, living our Lent in forced isolation. So perhaps now is the time to focus on living together as a family and establishing a kind of routine of prayer. While each family member might have different obligations even while home (i.e., husband working from home in the office, each child checking on online work, etc.) most of our family routine can now be together. We can eat three meals together if we choose, and we can gather for times of prayer more readily because everyone is around.

We are not in a time of persecution that requires our Catholic faith to go underground. We are temporarily deprived of attending Mass in person and receiving Communion, but opportunities of living our Faith abound especially now. Just online alone there are numerous opportunities; it can be hard to narrow down choices. So many priests and parishes offering live-streaming Masses, live devotions such as the rosary, adoration, retreats, spiritual communions and Stations of the Cross. Yesterday, on the feast of St. Joseph, Pope Francis called for the whole world to pray the rosary at 9:00 PM Rome time (4:00 PM EDT). It was a beautiful moment to know that the Mystical Body was connected all at one time pleading heaven through the rosary of Our Lady. Our family tuned in and prayed along with the Vatican on EWTN.

This quarantine time can be an opportunity to have a monastic rhythm to the day for our family. The alarm bells can be set for Angelus times, 3:00 PM Divine Mercy Chaplet, rosary time with the family, etc. Holy Mass can be attended online (devoutly, not just watching) with the family praying and responding together. Mass-online.org is a wonderful resource, and our family is enjoying “visiting” churches in Ireland and Scotland and other cities of the United States for Mass. Our Diocese of Arlington is sharing the online opportunities offered by local parishes. Magnificat online is offering complimentary access to the online edition during this crisis. The USCCB also provides the daily Mass readings online or in audio form.

There is also opportunity for quiet spiritual reading and/or prayer, but also for reading aloud a spiritual book. I personally added praying along the Office of Readings for Lent, but praying along the hours of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours is connecting with the whole Church liturgically.

Time of quarantine can be used towards learning more about your faith. Besides just reading a traditional book, there are modern ways to learning. A local priest hosted a type of online Theology on Tap last night. Spiritual podcasts are plenty online, including Catholic Culture’s podcasts dedicated to the writings of the Church Fathers. I just learned that FORMED which is “a Catholic form of Netflix” by the Augustine Institute is opening up for a 40 day free access. Taking some quiet time for growth means we used this time wisely.

The Apostolic Penitentiary just issued two decrees today regarding special indulgences during this time of the pandemic crisis, which speaks exactly at this kind of spiritual life that we are living from our domestic churches:

The Plenary Indulgence decree is as follows (highlights mine:

The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.

Health care workers, family members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15: 13), will obtain the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions.

This Apostolic Penitentiary also willingly grants a Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions on the occasion of the current world epidemic, also to those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic adoration, or reading the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.

The Church prays for those who find themselves unable to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and of the Viaticum, entrusting each and every one to divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and granting the faithful a Plenary Indulgence on the point of death, provided that they are duly disposed and have recited a few prayers during their lifetime (in this case the Church makes up for the three usual conditions required). For the attainment of this indulgence the use of the crucifix or the cross is recommended (cf. Enchiridion indulgentiarum, no.12).

A plenary indulgence is one that can remove all the temporal punishment due to forgiven sin. Only one plenary indulgence can be gained per day, and can be earned for the dead but not for the living. Any other act will be partial, removing only some of the temporal punishment.

It is so beautiful that Mother Church provides for and anticipates our spiritual needs. With all of us going our separate ways with packed schedules, many of us have lost the rhythm of the prayer of the Church in our daily lives. We can take this list of possible ways to earn indulgences and plug those prayer times in our daily alarm bells. Perhaps this enclosed time will help us restore our domestic monasteries’ connection with the liturgy and the life of the Church.

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Mar. 21, 2020 9:30 AM ET USA

    Antigone: The article was a discussion of the scope of prudence and the need to rethink things in view of real damage being done by existing policies. It made no concrete recommendation, and I'm not quite sure why this would be considered "irresponsible". More specifically, I'm not sure why chronic difficulty in breathing (asthma) is not a relevant pre-existing condition; I can certainly see why this would create real problems for those with severe cases. As for statistics, worldwide so far the death rate is tiny as major epidemics go. For the Bubonic plague (which, admittedly, is to take one of the worst plagues in history), the death rate was forty thousand times higher. Assuming the numbers I have seen are correct, in China the rate of infection was about .5% (70,000 per 1.5 million), of which only 20% needed medical attention (.12%). Of these between 5 and 10 percent died, mostly those who were elderly or in poor health. So the total death rate has been something like .01%, which is in the same range as the flu.