If you’re like me, you’ve loaded up on spirituality aids during Lent: daily readings, more frequent rosaries, weekly Stations. I spend an hour each morning reading through various inspirational essays, prayers, videos and podcasts emailed to me from various sources, mostly Ignatian, but also including some from Franciscans, Benedictines, Mercy Center, and CSJs. I’ll list some of my favorites at the end of this piece, in case you haven’t gotten your fill.
Likewise at the beginning of the pandemic back in March, when I could no longer come to the JRC bookstore, I started loading up on videos, podcasts, zoom meetings, online classes (mostly free) as well as online masses on Sundays, prayer opportunities through the week, and some of the JRC‘s very own mini retreats and online talks. I joined an zooming Lectionary reading group at my parish, which I probably would not have roused myself to go to in person, but thanks to the pandemic I could meet with a wonderful group of women to read and discuss the word of God right from my own home. I’ve joined another small group participating in a parish-wide study called “Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible” with bi-monthly evening discussion sections— again something I probably would not have done in person. Ironically, the pandemic isolation has introduced me to numerous new friends and interests.
Now, the question for me is this: once Lent is over, will I continue these prayer practices I’ve started? And once the pandemic is over, will I continue the Bible study, prayer practices, the online courses, YouTube subscriptions, etc. that have been filling my email, my calendar, my days and months? It’s a definite “yes” to the Bible groups, partly for the living, nurturing community I’ve experienced, and partly for the new appreciation of prayer and scripture it’s brought to my faith life.
But probably the one practice started at the beginning of the pandemic that I will most definitely continue is the Laudato Si group I joined in May with six other women from my parish. At first we just read together Laudato Si by Pope Francis, because it was the fifth anniversary of that encyclical. When we met at our weekly zooms we discussed sections that spoke to us most clearly and deeply, especially how they illuminated our personal faith journey. Subsequently, wanting to know more facts about the environmental crisis we face, we read together Rachel Carson‘s Silent Spring. Some of us took an online training course to become Laudato Si animators to share the words of the encyclical, and to promote better stewardship of our planet. In September, we began writing weekly articles for our parish bulletin around the issues discussed in Laudato Si and what we can do to better protect our environment. We held a “Prayer Potluck” on zoom, and are planning prayer and action activities for Earth Day.
Every year Lent forces us to focus on our faith and prayer practices, with commitments to give something up or do something additional. And every Easter we feel relieved that “we don’t have to do that anymore.” I’m going to try to make my Lenten practices permanent (well, maybe not ALL the emails, or the fasting part.)
And Laudato Si has already changed the way I appreciate nature, make decisions, and participate in the political sphere. That’s a habit I don’t want to break.
A sampling from my inbox
Mary McCarty is a native of Southern California and has managed the bookstore at the Jesuit Retreat Center for over 4 years.