Restoring what the COVID lockdown stole
On March 21st, masks became optional in Ontario churches. Joy and a sense of freedom exploded in my soul, bringing hope that my pre-COVID depth of prayer, recollected state of soul, and devotion to Jesus could be restored.
It was during this time I noticed what was happening in my prayer life. I was forgetting Evening Prayer, neglecting the rosary, and letting my other interests displace mental prayer. I was as devoted to studying chess as I once was to deepening my relationship with Jesus. I knew my only hope for restoration was being able to receive Jesus daily in the Eucharist and spending at least as much time with Him as I used to in Eucharistic Adoration. There were a few months when the government permitted a face shield. During that period, I stopped watching Mass online. I was in tears when I got the email that shields were no longer permitted. My Protestant husband was mystified.
When online Mass and spiritual communion were the only way to “connect with” Jesus in the Eucharist, the quality of my spiritual life gradually and steadily deteriorated. My spiritual disciplines decreased. My other interests and hobbies displaced my desire for consuming spiritual content and my motivation to practice my usual devotions dwindled.
At the start of lockdown, I watched Mass, practiced mental prayer and prayed Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours every day. I spent a lot of time on spiritual reading (mostly Carmelite writings) and listened to Catholic content through podcasts and videos. After a few months, the churches were open, but I couldn’t attend Mass because of the mask mandate.
When I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation on my first day back to church , the priest encouraged me to cultivate my devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. I already had a deep attachment to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. How could I increase this from a bonfire to a forest fire?
1) Ask for it!
Jesus said: “Ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7) and James says: “You do not possess because you do not ask” (James 4:2b). Don’t stop there. Ask our Blessed Mother. Ask your guardian angel. Ask your favourite saint. Be like the widow (Luke 18:1–7) and like the friend asking for bread at midnight (Luke 11:5–13) in Jesus’ parables.
2) Attend Mass as frequently as possible.
Before COVID lock-downs, I attended Mass several days each week, then was reduced to video Masses and spiritual communions for far too long. Now that masks are no longer required, I’ve been attending Mass at least 4–5 times per week besides Sundays for the past four weeks with no intention of changing this routine. After having this taken away from me then given back, my appreciation of this privilege has grown exponentially. I doubt I could ever again take it for granted.
3) Receive Jesus on the tongue
I’ve noticed that more people do this than before COVID. In the church where I attend Mass, the priests seem far more comfortable and encouraging toward this practice than before. Until Good Friday, I received Jesus in my hand with reverence. When I approached the priest, I would genuflect, cross myself, and cup my hands. When he placed Jesus in the center of my palm, I would slowly and carefully lift my cupped hands to my mouth. I would then make the sign of the cross again, bow my head, cross my hands over my heart, and return to my pew.
I’ve been thinking about receiving Jesus on the tongue, but I felt an anxiety I can’t explain at the thought of receiving differently than I’ve done for the last 50 years. Since first being able to return to Mass before they disallowed face shields, I found myself less inclined to receive the Eucharist from a layperson. The last straw was when the gentleman wore a strong fragrance and I could taste it when I received Jesus. Now I sit where I know I can receive from the priest.
I got a push from the Lord on Easter Sunday Mass. There was only a lay Eucharistic minister distributing communion to those who wished to receive in the hand. I knelt at the communion rail and received Him on my tongue. There is something powerful and transformational in receiving Jesus this way–less of me and more of Him. I didn’t expect it to make any difference. I was SO wrong. This is the only way I’ll do it from now on. It seems fitting that this happened on Easter of all days. Talk about a fresh beginning!
4) Visit Jesus often in Eucharistic Adoration
Before Easter-octave week, I’ve had a couple of short opportunities to do this. My parish just re-opened the Adoration chapel. I so look forward to receiving divine radiation therapy for my soul every day after Mass, even if it’s only for half an hour. I would commit to a specific time, but family obligations with no set schedule make this impossible.
While there, I would sit in silence, just soaking in His loving presence. If I’m feeling distracted, there’s always the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Gospels, or daily meditations from Magnificat or The Better Part.
5) Learn about Jesus in the Eucharist
Whether in the Adoration chapel when I’m too distracted for contemplative prayer, or while in my prayer chair at home or even in the bathtub before bed, I could read about the Eucharist from such books on my shelf as:
Come to Me In the Blessed Sacrament
Catechism par. 1322–1419
The Blessed Sacrament by Fr. Frederick Faber
Eucharistic Miracles by Joan Caroll Cruz
Not By Bread Alone by Robert A. Sungenis
After just one week, I already noticed a decreased interest in chess and my other hobbies, along with a renewed hunger for spiritual reading. Instead of chess podcasts, I got caught up on missed episodes of Carmelite Conversations, Divine Intimacy, and Carmel Cast, as well as listening to articles I’d saved on Pocket from the Catholic Spiritual Direction email newsletter. Praying in the Church instead of at home makes more difference that I have words to express.
—Originally posted at Catholicism Coffee