Rather than giving in to a feeling of helplessness in the midst of the global pandemic, Christians are called to act. One of the fundamental ways Christians address any form of crisis – for those enduring the crisis and for its swift end – is through prayer.
Truly, for Christians, serving others through prayer is not optional.
Who and what am I praying for?
Imagine all those impacted by the coronavirus. We start with those who have fallen ill and the doctors, nurses and medical personnel caring for them. We also pray for protection from the virus for those with health problems and others who are most at risk. And, of course, we pray for the deceased.
But there are so many others to pray for, too: small business owners losing their life’s work. Employees in the service, hospitality, travel, and gig economies suddenly unemployed with no relief in sight. Parents working from home while juggling teaching their children, who are also home. The politicians at the local, state and national level trying to do the right thing. Individuals already experiencing mental illness, anxiety, and depression. Priests alone in their churches without their flock. And the Pope and our bishops who are trying to be good shepherds and good citizens as well.
There are things to pray for, too: a continued generosity of spirit from those who have resources to share. A quick end to the spread of the virus. A vaccine. A full economic recovery.
Praying to the saints
First, look to the saints. Let’s start with a group of saints known as the 14 Holy Helpers, first called on by the faithful in Germany in the midst of the Black Plague.
The 14 were chosen for their specific patronages related to illness and disease. St. Blaise, for example, is invoked against throat illness, and Saint Barbara for fever. See a full list of the saints and their patronages here. You can call on these saints, through the Litany of the 14 Holy Helpers or a novena.
Perhaps the patron of getting us through coronavirus is none other than St. Corona herself. Yes, she exists – and she’s even been invoked in times of pandemic. Not only that, but she is buried right in the middle of the pandemic, in northern Italy. Read more about her here and pray the simple prayer suggested by Church Pop: “St. Corona, please pray for our deliverance from the coronavirus pandemic!”
Here’s a great list of saints who lived through pandemic and who are surely ready to intercede on our behalf.
Turn to the Psalms
A friend recently shared with me her family’s devotion to praying Psalm 91, which seems incredibly appropriate for our time. Psalm 91 assures us of God’s promise of protection and deliverance, even from “the plague that ravages at noon.”
“No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.”
Look also at Psalm 130, which allows the pray-er to petition God directly in hope. While there is a need for prayer directed at the resolution of this crisis, there is equally a need for hopeful prayer to remind us there is an end in sight, and that all is in God’s hands.
Pray to Mary
Do no neglect your Mother or the rosary during this time! I call to mind the history of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto. Now, we have what has been called an “invisible enemy.” If she interceded for her children then, she will again, now.
Pray with Pope Francis
Pope Francis has called on the faithful a few times in the past weeks to pray together, including a worldwide rosary, and a worldwide praying of the Our Father. On Friday, March 27, Pope Francis is giving an Urbi et Orbi blessing. The Holy Father also composed this prayer for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession. And keep an eye out for ongoing calls from the Pope to pray together as the virus continues to spread.
Write your own prayer
If the classics aren’t cutting it, write your own from-the-heart prayer. That could be a litany of your favorite saints, or a novena to the Blessed Mother in your own words. Call upon the saints you’ve known in your own life (like your grandmother) to care for your family (yes, we can pray for the intercession of non-saints).
The Busch School of Business at Catholic University shared a novena written by one of their business students, which I’ve posted here. As I note there, what is special about a homemade prayer is that it allows us to harness the creative energy given us by our Maker, to enter into communion with Him – in our own words.
Pray with others – virtually
Don’t let this time of social distancing be a roadblock in praying with others. Since quarantine began, I have been praying the rosary each Friday night with a friend via Jitsi (a free alternative to Zoom or Google Hangouts). In addition to the time we spend in prayer, we eat dinner and talk about what is going on in our lives and the world. Plus, she has introduced me to a few new devotions. Our friendship has strengthened through this shared time.
Pray, hope, and don’t worry
Your individual prayers matter. Remember that it was the prayers of one man, Jonah, which saved Nineveh. It was Moses’s prayer to God that saved the Israelites.
Remember also that God willed this. We have no idea how long it will last. And while it is worthwhile to pray away the pandemic – to pray for its end – it is also important to take time to pray for what God wants you to notice or do, most likely interiorly or spiritually within yourself.
I have added to my own prayer a request that, when all is said and done, the lessons that we learned through this will remain: the importance of community, solidarity, brotherhood, and appreciation for nature, quality time, and the little things. A recognition of the dignity of work. A sense of gratitude for what I have, both in terms of physical possessions and, perhaps most importantly, health.
Something else to remember once we get past all this: how much differently would the word look, not just today, but always, if every Catholic committed even five minutes a day to prayer?
Trust that through prayer, God will lead us through this pandemic.