Like a decades-old fruitcake or that pink bunny suit from Aunt Clara, the Left’s heavy-handed overreaction to the Omicron variant is the Christmas present that nobody wanted. But that hasn’t stopped the authoritarians from giving it to us anyway, despite early indications that this variant is not as dangerous as its predecessors. Several states have already instituted indoor and outdoor mask mandates. Some restaurants are closing their doors, while some schools are proactively returning to “remote learning.” New York City is cracking down on the unvaccinated, setting a standard that other Democrat-run cities and states may follow in the near future.
We’ve seen this script play out before, so we know what to expect. As we enter what President Biden calls a “winter of death and severe illness,” our medical and political overlords will use the threat of Omicron to demand that we all lock down again for our own good. We’ll have to stay in our homes unless, of course, we attend an authorized “mostly peaceful protest.”
Like last time, the leftist state machinery will be particularly interested in targeting its chief rival for the hearts and minds of the citizenry: religious institutions. Conveniently ignoring its usual rhetorical concerns over the separation of church and state, the Left showed little compunction in 2020 about shutting down churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship. Sadly, the shepherds of these flocks (with a few notable exceptions) were all too willing to bow to Caesar’s whims and there’s little evidence that they have grown a spine since then.
We know that people with a strong religious foundation are more capable of weathering the slings and arrows of this “new normal.” Inspired by Rod Dreher’s works promoting the “Benedict Option,” here are three steps that individuals and families can take in the new year to fortify their souls at home.
Step 1: The Centrality of Prayer
In his sixth century rule for monks, St. Benedict of Nursia called upon the communities he founded to focus on three basic things: “at fixed times, the brothers ought to be occupied in manual labour; and again, at fixed times, in sacred reading.”
Prayer is central to the monastic ethos, which is why when the bells rang every three hours or so, monks would stop whatever they were doing, process to the church, and pray the Divine Office. This consistency kept God at the forefront of the monk’s thoughts throughout the day and even in the middle of the night.
Most of us layfolk are probably not able to successfully pursue so rigorous a schedule of prayer at home, but we can rethink the structure of our days to better focus on the Divine. Prayers before meals are a good foundation to build on, as are family prayers in the morning and the evening. Taking regular moments for individual prayer, even just for five minutes or so, can further strengthen the heart for the trials ahead.
Just as we should set aside specific times for prayer, we can set aside a certain place for prayer. A domestic chapel can act as the spiritual center of the home. It doesn’t have to be a fully separate room (though if you can do that, great!); a simple cabinet can serve as a “home altar” and a location for religious images and spiritual reading (more on that later).
Step 2: The Spirituality of Work
Manual labor was of critical importance to the Benedictine monastery, which was meant to be self-sufficient to keep the secular world at bay. In Benedict’s view, monks worked in the fields not only to produce their daily bread, but also to establish a sense of humility.
Although the pandemic has encouraged many people to seek a greater degree of self-sufficiency, most of us must be content to be at least somewhat reliant on the world outside to survive. However, we can still take the coming lockdowns as an opportunity to examine the spiritual dimensions of our daily labor. Seeing our work not merely as a paycheck, but as a vocation giving honor (however humble) to God can reinvigorate our careers whether we work from home or not.
Of course, not all work is paid in money. Part of our daily labor must go towards establishing and maintaining a safe and comfortable home environment. If we’re going to be trapped at home, then we might as well carve out time to take care of our homes. Setting up a daily schedule of chores is an ideal way to do this, especially if the family includes children. Our society has gotten away from the tradition of families working side-by-side towards common goals; reviving this ideal even in small ways will go a long way to re-establishing physical and spiritual stability.
Step 3: Reading for Leisure and Instruction
It was Benedict’s emphasis on literacy and scholarship that had the farthest-reaching consequences for Western civilization. By his time, both Roman government and culture had collapsed in the West, replaced by the cruder Germanic tribes. The Benedictine Order took it upon itself to preserve whatever intellectual capital they could by copying the works of both the Christian and pagan past. In doing so, the Greco-Roman legacy survived the chaos of Benedict’s era by being wedded to Christianity.
We are suffering through a similar loss today, this time at the hands of the very educational establishment which, until fairly recently, many of us trusted to teach our children. As the educrats toss true American classics onto metaphorical bonfires and replace them with more “relevant” (read: “woke”) texts, it is up to individual citizens to protect these works from the depredations of the barbarians.
Much has been written about the value of “read aloud time” for people of all ages. Sharing and discussing stories strengthens the family by establishing a common culture that all generations can appreciate and contribute to. Setting aside just thirty minutes or so a day to read great literature (spiritual or otherwise) can create memories that the average family movie night simply can’t beat.
The Powers That Be seek to use the “forever pandemic” to inspire fear and mindless obedience in the average citizen. Their ultimate goal is to wear down the resilience of the people in nations across the globe in order to create a culture of reliance on Caesar. As we slouch (or, rather, are dragged) towards another pointlessly damaging lockdown, let us spiritually arm ourselves for the battle to come, remembering the words of He who taught us how to fight: “Be not afraid.”