The COVID-19 coronavirus has created a surreal sense of normal, with social distancing, quarantines and pandemic added to our daily vocabulary. With health officials urging people to stay at home as much as possible, businesses, schools and Church officials have made decisions to curb large public gatherings and take precautions to reduce the spread of the virus.
Staying at home for an extended period of time will be challenging for many people — especially when we know that God created us to be in community with one another, said Father Anthony Gerber, senior associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Florissant.
“This goes back to the beginning of the Bible, when God said, ‘It’s not good for man to be alone,’” Father Gerber said, referring to His creation of man and woman in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 2:18.
Praying at home is a good way to remain spiritually linked with others. Watching daily televised Mass, listening to Catholic radio (such as Covenant Network Catholic Radio), and following Catholic websites and social media are other ways to stay connected. Father Gerber recommended using the time at home to call or video chat with relatives, especially elderly family members and those we haven’t seen in a while.
But even the internet is “only going to keep you entertained for so long,” he said.
This Lent, Catholics find themselves fasting from social interaction to a certain degree, he said. “We’re all going to get through this … and maybe we’ll see better the blessing of personal social interaction.
“It’s a time to thank God for the food we have to eat, the shelter that we have, and to deepen our prayer for the sick and the elderly, and for those without food or resources,” Father Gerber said.
Here are ideas of activities and resources to help families with children continue to grow in faith at home during the coronavirus outbreak:
• Have a family game night. A suggested game is SaintCards, a card game developed by a Catholic family to help children learn more about lives of the saints. See www.saintcards.com.
• Make a Mass kit and play Mass at home. (Of course, this is no substitute for attending Mass at church!) There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest. One of our favorites is this mini Mass kit from Catholic Icing.
• Pray the Rosary together.
• Magnificat, a monthly spiritual guide that monthly designed for daily use, to encourage liturgical and personal prayer, is offering complimentary access to its online version to encourage people to pray at home during the coronavirus pandemic. See us.magnificat.net/free.
• Tiny Saints is offers free downloads, including activities to study the Sunday Gospel readings, for families who may miss school, Mass and other events during the outbreak. See www.tinysaints.com/pages/free-printables.
• Dress up and put on a show acting out the lives of the saints or Scripture readings. Or, make sock puppets and put on a sock puppet show. Here’s a great sock puppet show on the Nativity, set to the tune of “Bethlehemian Rhapsody”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYh2OU4vtIk.
• Holy Heroes has a lot of resources for children, including books, CDs, DVDs, and even Lego sets. See www.holyheroes.com.
• Catholic Sprouts has resources for children, including a daily podcast and craft activities. The site also offers a program to earn patches for participating in activities such as praying the Rosary, Lenten activities and reading Scripture. See catholicsprouts.com/ChallengePatches.
• Perform small acts of service from home. Several suggestions include, making cards for nursing home residents who can’t have visitors; video chat or call or make videos for relatives and friends to say hello; make a spiritual communion on behalf of those who can’t go to Mass; research saints who died during plagues or pandemics and ask for their intercession.
• The National Catholic Committee on Scouting offers religious patch programs, including the Rosary, American saints, and Marian series, among others. A person does not have to be involved in Scouting to participate. To learn more, see www.nccs-bsa.org/index.php/religious-activities. Or contact Joe Dobrynski, coordinator of faith programs with the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, at [email protected].
• My Catholic Kids is offering free access to its library of Mass videos during the outbreak. Visit mycatholickids.com/massathome.
St. Roch, defender from illness and plague
St. Roch was born in Montpellier, along the southern coast of France in the 1300s. He was said to have had a birthmark in the shape of a cross on his chest. When his parents died, he gave his worldly possessions to the poor and became a mendicant pilgrim, heading to Rome. Arriving to an epidemic of the plague, he visited with the sick in hospitals, blessing them with the sign of the cross. He was said to have effected many miraculous cures with his blessings.
St. Roch became ill himself, but miraculously recovered. Upon his return to Montpellier, he was arrested as a spy (by orders of his uncle) and thrown into prison, where he languished five years and died, without revealing his name, to avoid worldly glory. The townspeople recognized him by his birthmark, and had considered him canonized (although he was not officially canonized by the Church until centuries later). His feast day is Aug. 16. After his death, an angel appeared where he died and said that all who invoked the saint would be protected. Here is the Prayer of St Roch, defender from illness and plague:
Prayer to St. Roch
O Blessed Saint Roch
patron of the sick,
have pity on those
who lie upon a bed of suffering
Your power is so great
when you were in this world,
that by the sign of the cross,
many were healed by their diseases.
Now that you are in heaven,
your power is not less.
Offer, then, to God
our sighs and tears
and obtain for us that health we seek.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen