I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit “goggle-eyed” after staring so much at the computer screen, or my telephone looking at the news, keeping in touch with folk on Facebook, answering text messages, and the such like. Social media is a great thing at such a time as thing, we’re to be thankful to God for it as a means of keeping us all in touch with each other, but I’ve found it all a bit exhausting recently – I’ve not really much to complain about, have I? All of this, the situation we’re in, the way we have to adapt to it and change our lives can be draining and challenging, and that’s without addressing the real serious issues such as the challenges to people’s health, their welfare, and their employment. Maybe, I’m just feeling sorry for myself, which can be easy to do at a time like this, and really I have nothing to worry about at all.
Isolation can make one selfish, or self-centred, and this isn’t a good thing. Even if we are by ourselves we should be thinking of others, reaching out to others, connecting with others, and most importantly praying for others. If God is giving us this time for reflection, which undoubtedly He is, it is so that we can see, in part, how much we are to love Him and to love others and to stop the selfishness that can so easily take over. As we focus on Jesus we see that love is lived in self-sacrifice, service, generosity, the outpouring of oneself for others. But how do we do that when we’re obliged to stay away from others?
I think holding others in prayer is vital, no isolation, as I’ve said before, can stop this. Maybe you want to think of people you know from church, or family members, friends, work colleagues, the marvellous people who are keeping the NHS and other vital services functioning. You will know who you need to pray for. Make a list, perhaps, and offer each day your prayers for the intentions of this particular person or group of individuals, maybe offer a decade of the Rosary for them, light a candle for them in front of a holy statue or image that you have at home. Keep with them in prayer, bringing them and their needs before the Lord. This is where we can truly exercise the priestly vocation that we all received in Baptism, by positively interceding for the needs of others. This way we can be less selfish, focussed on God, and generous to our neighbour.
We priests, and religious, are bound, as you will know, to pray each day the Divine Office, it’s a duty we take on not only for our own sanctification but for the sanctification of the Church and the world – each day we bring before the Lord the needs of all people in this great prayer of the Church. It is to be recommended to all. I’ve only recently started trying, and I emphasise trying to say the old Breviarium Romanum, in Latin, the 1962 edition – it is definitely more demanding, but also greatly rewarding. For those who are interested in saying either there are great online resources, Universalis and Divinum Officium (http://universalis.com/) (https://www.divinumofficium.com/). In both the modern Breviary and the old Divine Office there is a beautiful antiphon at the Nunc Dimittis at Compline (Night Prayer): Salva nos, Domine, vigilantes, custodi nos dormientes; ut vigilemus cum Christo, et requiescamus in pace – Protect us, Lord, while we are awake and safeguard us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ, and rest in peace. This is a beautiful prayer that each of us could say every day for ourselves and for others, praying for protection day and night, and praying for the peace of Christ in our hearts, minds, and entire being at this moment. I pray that that protection and peace and Christ will be over you and yours and this time, and always.
God bless you and let us pray for each other!
Please remember in your prayers Maurice O’Hare R.I.P. whose funeral I celebrated today, and his family, and pray too for Jo Atkinson R.I.P. whose funeral I will celebrate soon in Auchtermuchty, and her family. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Below a wee video version, if your eyes can still stand it, of the Nunc Dimittis, the prayer of Simeon from the Divine Office: