One of the many things the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that people yearn for community. What better way to search for community than in our own parish? As baptized Christians we are called to be stewards of our parish family and August may be a good time to reflect on that call: to discern what we might offer our parish this year, and what we hope to get from our parish. As Christian disciples it is unlikely that we can keep our lives Christ-centered without community. Our commitment to attend Sunday Mass at the parish isn’t enough. We need more and our parish needs more from us. We may be surprised at new opportunities for service that have sprung up in our parish. Perhaps, as Pope Francis has suggested, you could find out what your parish’s social justice group is doing. Is there an activity in which you can participate? Find out about the social outreach our parish does on behalf of the poor. Of course, it will be more challenging to offer assistance with the social distancing and isolation rules in place, but when the opportunity presents itself, do not hesitate to jump in and serve. Maybe there is another parish activity you have long contemplated, one that calls to you, something that you feel passionate about that could use your skills and talents. Maybe the parish has a book club that interests you or a prayer group that would foster spiritual growth. What you will find is not just a chance to serve or grow, but a deepening friendship with people who share your faith and walk on a spiritual journey which demands companionship. What you find in parish involvement is community. A faith community is deeper than just the folks who are social distancing at work or the friends that meet for a virtual happy hour. A faith community asks more of us and gives us much more. Perhaps there is a small faith community within the parish that strengthens you. It goes to reason that such a group strengthens the parish, and certainly strengthens the Body of Christ. Now is the time to take a fresh look at what your parish offers this fall, and find a creative way to offer yourself to your parish and at the same time find a community that embraces you and nurtures your faith.
One of the biggest questions parents have right now is what kind of routine their children will have as they contemplate a new school year during COVID-19. One thing is for sure, however, autumn brings back a routine, a sense of order and a discipline that summer lacks. Christian stewards can take advantage of this “new routine” to integrate prayer more deeply into their children’s lives. As August begins, it is natural to begin thinking about scaling back the bedtime hour and wringing the most out of the last weeks of freedom before autumn, however we determine what the beginning of the school year will look like. Make a plan now to take advantage of this “new” school year and incorporate aspects of prayer and a heightened awareness of God into your children’s new schedule. For example, evaluate your morning routine. That short morning “journey” can be a great time for a shared morning prayer. Even a walk together can be a time to pause and ask God to bless our day. Perhaps your summer of eating sporadically will be replaced by more established mealtimes. Take advantage of these moments you have with your children to begin a new blessing at the evening meal. Along with thanksgiving for the food, each member of the family could relate one person for whom they were particularly grateful during the day. Maybe there was a particular event that occurred during the day for which your children were thankful. At bedtime, each child could be called upon to recall with a parent the best part of that child’s day, and also what was the most challenging part of the day. Then, reflect briefly on how God was present through those events. Not only is this a beautiful way to help your child be conscious of the presence of God, it’s a great way to learn more about your child’s experiences. By allowing the stewardship of your own prayer life to unfold for your children, you reveal to them that a sense of prayerfulness permeates your day, that life has more meaning and purpose when reflected upon, and that the habit of prayer, ingrained in a schedule, can be a habit retained for a lifetime.