The temptation to despair when pondering the state of Holy Mother Church is all too great at the moment, especially when we see that those on whom we should be able to rely are sacrificing the Faith on the altar of humanism. It is easy to forget that we are not in fact helpless.
We as laity can neither undo Vatican II nor tell our priests how to celebrate the Mass, nor avoid strange looks and eye-rolls if we kneel for Communion, nor make our church buildings beautiful and traditional again (even if we volunteer our efforts). However, we can increase our efforts in preserving and even restoring Catholic traditions in our day-to-day life.
Bad times! Troublesome times! This is what people are saying. Let our lives be good and the times will be good. For we make our own times. Such as we are, such are the times.
–St Augustine of Hippo
As an example, we can start making a bigger deal of name days. Have a party for your saint day just as you would for your birthday, and send cards to friends and family members on theirs. Certain saints are also associated with certain foods (there is a tradition of eating goose on St Martin’s Day, for instance). Children are always happy to receive sweets in their shoes on St Nicholas’s Day. If you fancy celebrating All Saints’ Day in an autumnal way, why not invite people round for pumpkin curry and apple pie? These are all ways in which we can feast with the Church.
Making a point of having more silence in our homes during Lent, eating thin vegetable soup instead of fish and chips on Fridays, going to Confession more regularly, and perhaps only drinking water on some days are examples of how we can fast with the Church.
Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.
–St. Teresa of Avila
Christian holidays that have been hijacked and renamed in order to avoid offending people need to be reclaimed, at the very least within our own social circles. A policy of sending only religious Christmas cards and listening to a good number of carols, rather than just Slade and John Lennon, can help with this.
Concerning public witness specifically, we can pray before meals in public, go on rosary walks, even carry big wooden crosses to shrines during holy week. Of course people will jeer. Some people, though, are genuinely intrigued and want to know more about these pilgrimages. Miraculous medals worn on chains around our necks sometimes get people asking questions, aside from the graces they bring when we show devotion to Our Lady.
The Church hierarchy may often spend too much time focusing on social justice and not enough on God, but that does not mean we may forget almsgiving. It is an important part of sharing our faith, as people will recognize the good fruits it bears.
Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could.
–St. Gregory Nazianzen
Something I have found helpful in the last six weeks is praying with my housemates: waking each other early in the morning to pray the Angelus and Lauds, dragging each other to Confession on a Saturday morning and having breakfast together afterward, and praying Compline before bed. We learn to be less selfish and more obedient. A communal prayer routine gives us a taste of monasticism.
Obedience to a good spiritual director is a great interior mortification, and obedience in our everyday lives – performing all our duties as best we can – helps us to stay grounded, instead of thinking our own ideas are better than the tasks we need to perform.
A nightly examination of conscience is another extremely important way to remain humble and see in which areas of our lives we need the most grace.
You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud.
–St. Vincent de Paul
An elderly couple from Church kindly take my friend and me to the nearest Latin Mass once a month. This sort of charity from car-owning adults makes such a difference to the younger faithful who are otherwise deprived of the traditional liturgy.
Some of us might be confined to hideous 1960s-style church buildings, but what’s to stop us making space for beauty in our own homes? I have included some images of what I have in my bedroom to give an idea of what you can do with a few postcards, small wooden icons, and candles – on a student budget, too.
It’s not worth comparing this to a half-decent church building, but it acts as a constant reminder to pray, provides a designated place to do so, and allows you look at quality religious art rather than a flying figure of Jesus in the place of a crucifix or cartoon figures holding hands on an altar cloth. Also note that placing this in a position that makes it visible from your bed can help with that 6:00 A.M. start for the Angelus!
When facing specific struggles in life, making a Holy Hour and praying Lectio Divina often provide answers; consolation; and sometimes sudden, unexpected solutions.
Most importantly, we must keep our interior lives in good condition. Keeping close to the sacraments, confessing regularly (before we fall into mortal sin), praying the rosary, reading the Bible, meditating on psalms, and doing penance will keep us close to God. And God will strengthen us.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
–2 Corinthians 12:9
Jenny Roberts is a twenty-one-year-old student of German at the University of Exeter, England. She is particularly interested in the restoration of the pre-conciliar liturgy and the education of children in the Faith.