As I wrote yesterday, I seem to be busier in lockdown than when life was normal. This morning I celebrated Mass in our Lower Church with one of the men who normally come to daily Mass. You may not know this, but under usual conditions a priest is not to say Mass on his own. This is because Mass is an action of the whole church. That’s why, if you visit a traditionalist monastery like Clear Creek, the monks will say their private Masses, but they always have a lay brother there to serve the Mass and pray with them. So I said Mass with just one faithful man who represents all of the faithful.
After running some errands I headed home to my bunker. Today’s task was to get the Liturgy of the Word for the weekend out to our people. I also figured out how to work the software to record my homily on video and get that loaded. We have a great team in our parish. Katie Orbon, Director of Faith Formation, Beth Jones, Parish Secretary and Donna Craft–Communications Director. I spent some time by email and phone working with them, and then got down to the phone calls. Beth compiled a list of all our parishioners over the age of 75 and my parochial vicar, Fr Richard Ballard and I are calling each one to see how they are doing and to offer the parish pastoral team’s help as we can.
This left me some time to pray the office and do some yard work. Which brings me to the monastic input for today. In his rule St Benedict breaks down the monastic day into three activities. I call them the “three tools”. They are Work, Prayer and Study. The monastic day unfolds with these three in balance. This is a brilliant idea because it’s hard to work straight through for eight hours. You get tired, your mind becomes weary and when you do get a break you just want to crash. The monastic routine is much more humane. You work a bit (and this would usually be manual labor of some kind) you study some and you pray. The monastic offices would have been seven or eight times a day in the chapel, but each office is fairly short. The day is then broken up into manageable sections. If you’re working hard and are tired, don’t worry before long the bell will ring and you can go curl up with a good book or crack open a dense theology book in the library or head to the church for prayer. If your head is about to burst from too much study, before too long the bell will ring and you can head outdoors to feed the pigs or pick apples.
I’ve always loved fitting in with the monastic regime, and in a different life I might have made a good monk. This idea may be of some help, therefore for people who are in lockdown. Be intentional. Don’t just lazy around. Set a schedule for yourself and your family. Work a little. Study a little. Pray a little. I’d add a fourth tool and that is play a little. Although it is not one of Benedict’s three tools, life in the monastery always does include recreation. However we set up the balance, the Benedictine way offers a common sense approach to life which nurtures a real genuine, down to earth approach to prayer.
When you come to prayer after working in the yard or studying in the library you are more likely to be alert and ready to give God a few minutes. If you spend all your time in prayer you will become exhausted just as much as if you spent all your time in study or work.
Finally, the three tools are brilliant because they minister to the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Work=Body. Study=Mind. Prayer=Spirit. The three are intertwined like a little Holy Trinity.
I hope this helps as you manage your time in solitude and lockdown. Maybe it will help your spiritual growth and awareness of God present not only in prayer time, but in all time. PS: If you would like to read more about the rule of St Benedict you might want to check out my two books on the subject. St Benedict and St Therese–the Little Rule and the Little Way and Listen My Son-St Benedict for Fathers. The second one is a great bargain because it includes the whole text of St Benedict’s rule broken down in daily readings.
Readings from the Divine Office for Today
Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you: the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully. My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins.
- For grocery store workers and food delivery personnel
- For pharmacy workers, researchers and scientists
- For Emergency Room workers and hospital maintenance workers
- For all those who are alone and frightened.
Ways You can Help
- Stay in touch with elderly friends and family through email and phone calls
- Keep your distance, but use social media to encourage and support
- MercyWorks is a new charity in Greenville SC started by some OLR parishioners. The Board have set up a special fund to assist OLR family members who have been negatively impacted by the crisis through unemployment. Please send checks made out the MercyWorks, c/o Our Lady of the Rosary, 3710 Augusta Road, Greenville, SC, 29605