We are now two weeks into the Great Coronavirus Lockdown – no one is allowed out except for food shopping or for physical exercise. Humanity is paralysed and ultimately confined to their own ‘safe’ space because of an invisible threat that goes around causing fear, illness and tragically, in some cases, death.
Families are suddenly forced to face the pleasure and the challenge of spending extended periods of time together.
All of a sudden the family home has become a school, an office, a playground, a cafe, a gym, a pub, a church, the only place where social distancing does not apply. Everyone is in the same space 24/7 stepping on each other’s toes constantly, putting up with one another, holding our breath till this situation is finally over.
We were full of goodwill but in reality, the first week has been a bit of a disaster, and as much as some of us would like to blame lack of space, what perhaps has made the first week such a difficult experience has been our disposition towards one another.
We, the Domestic Church, are called to love one another, to serve, to die for one another and only by doing so will we find fullness of joy!
So what is it that might help us not just to survive this time together but to fully enjoy it?
1. Having a weekly routine together is essential:
A ‘new’ natural order needs to be established in the house and a shared routine is vital to bring stability to the household.
Waking up – more or less – together, having breakfast within a certain time or even together if possible and then off to work… office work, homework, university work and so on…
Stopping for lunch at the same time for a quick lunch and again meeting back for dinner.
The dinner table can become, more than ever, the common place where the family gathers to replenish the body sharing food as well as the joys and hardships of the day, where yet another ‘knock, knock’ joke is told and where more important conversations are also started.
2. Everyone needs some quiet time alone
After lunch or before dinner taking a half an hour to rest alone, everyone in their bedrooms or in different rooms can do much good to the whole family. It is lovely to be together but it is also right to respect each other’s need to find a moment of peace alone and in silence if we are lucky…
3. It’s Ok to go off schedule and improvise
Although having a ‘new’ routine is important… life happens and the plans that we might have made for the week or even for the day might suddenly have to change. Don’t panic! There is no need to feel like a failure… you are doing just fine…EVERYONE is struggling … be like a Sat Nav…and patiently reroute your journey using the new itinerary taking the new turn together!
4. The family that prays together, stays together
This is true, now more than ever. The Family is the Domestic Church where the faith is passed on from generation to generation. This is your time to shine… Setting some fixed moments during the day for communal prayer helps the Christian family to be reminded that we need the help of God – both the parents and the children- to carry out even the smallest task. At Noon, the calling of the Angelus and daily Rosary should be the strength of every family. Yes, discipline is required and perhaps it will seem mechanical at first but the more a prayer routine is practised the more it will become a very important part of family life. In prayer the family is called together in humility, putting God at the centre and many graces are received.
The Angelus is the perfect routine prayer for a family with children of all ages. Families with children of different ages may find praying the Rosary together easier, as the smaller children imitate the older siblings. Younger parents may find it extremely difficult and get easily discouraged by the disruption of the little ones. Perseverance is the key to establishing this routine, knowing that the rewards will be reaped in the future. A whole Rosary might be too much for the little ones to sit through but probably not a decade… and as they get older and another decade is introduced soon 5 decades to pray will become second nature.
5. Suspending normal activities at the weekend is important
This time together, as strange as it might appear, should be seen as a gift from God to slow down, to stop and to perhaps get to know each other more.
Family life can be so hectic at times that parents don’t even have the time to look their children in the eyes for more than 2 seconds.
The new weekly lockdown routine might be filled with plenty of work… but everything should stop at the weekend and all ‘normal’ – insofar that anything may be called normal at the moment- activities suspended to give space to some family leisure time as well as time to pursue common or individual hobbies. Older siblings might teach the younger siblings art or a song, board games could be introduced as a way to bond. Dancing together, singing together, enjoying Karaoke sessions, working on bigger projects together or simply watching a film or playing a computer game together. All these could be fun ways to stop and spend time as we have never done before… because time is not an issue anymore and there is nowhere else we need to be. Every family is unique and as such so will be their leisure time! Time to get creative people!
6. We are one body
We, as part of a family, are individuals but we all belong to the same unit. If one member of the family suffers, the rest of the family is affected. No problem, worry or suffering is too small to be addressed. Together we are stronger. Though we all play different roles in the family our input as father, mother, older brother, younger sister is unique and necessary for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the entire family. The different parts have different functions and switching places only causes malfunction… As the family begins their quarantine journey together it is important to be reminded of the wonderful place we hold in the family and how together we can work our way to heaven.
7. We, the Parents, set the tone of the household
Parents play a very important role to set the tone in the house. If the father or mother argue or are in a bad mood automatically the tension is raised and the children start reacting to this tense atmosphere misbehaving, shouting and each other, showing anger and unhappiness. So being aware of our behaviour is important.
But parents are not perfect and are, most likely, greater sinners than their children… so although it is our job to keep the family’s morale high it is also very normal that in the midst of this very strange situation we show our feelings, anxieties and struggles. This is not at all a sign of our failure or of ‘poor parenting etiquette’, on the contrary how we parents deal with our daily struggles, has a great impact on our children’s life. We should be the first ones to face the difficulties without running from them, to apologise when things get out of hand, the first ones to admit we are not perfect, the first ones to get up again and again and address our weaknesses through Christ with the help of God. The witness we will bear to our children, especially during this time, will teach them a valuable lesson the world outside our four walls can’t and never will…
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
8. Sunday is still the day of the Lord even if we cannot physically attend Sunday Mass
Yes, Public Mass has been suspended but 1. The sacrifice of the Holy Mass is still being offered for us every day and every Sunday, 2. Though we can’t attend Mass we are obliged to keep holy the day of the Lord. Setting up the room in a Church-like style when watching live Mass, wearing your Sunday best and adorning the Dining table are some ways to do so.
9. Our Faith is stronger than fear
We have been prepared for a moment of uncertainty like this for our whole life. We have believed that Christ has destroyed the sting of death and that death doesn’t hurt us anymore. It is wonderful to have been ‘forced’ to reflect upon this much more, to enter the Paschal mystery and be brought before the Risen Christ in the festivity of Easter with our families, with the closest people to us, the people entrusted to us by God. Let’s make the most of it.
May the certainty of the Resurrection show in us to our children so that we may receive the promise of the Gospel: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31