Faith, Fitness, and Food: Three Quarantine Necessities

So here we are, about six weeks into this very strange time of Covid-19 quarantine, and I am a little embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying myself, thanks primarily to faith, fitness, and food.

Alliteration is great for blog titles, but I didn’t have to work hard to come up with that one. It really describes my life for the past six weeks, and for this introvert, it’s all been good.

What I HAVEN’t found myself doing, surprisingly, is writing blog posts. And maybe that invites some contemplation on my part. But let me tell you what I have been doing instead to pass the time.

FAITH

We can’t go to Mass and that hurts.  I miss that more than anything.  But there are lots of other ways to practice our faith and I have doubled down on them all.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a whole prayer room, which is a great blessing all the time and especially now.  So I start off every morning there, and I spend an hour there every evening.   On Sunday mornings, I watch my parish‘s live-streamed Mass.  The rest of the family gets their “church” in the afternoon.  We read the readings, and since our pastor generously provides us with a copy of his homily and the week’s Universal Prayer, we read those as well. We recite the creed, say the spiritual communion prayer, sing the Regina Caeli (because Easter) and finish up with the Prayer to Saint Michael.

I take advantage of a ton of resources to make this time meaningful for me, many of which I have written about here and here.  I use Hallow and Pray as You Go daily.  I enjoyed the Pray More Lenten Retreat and the Be Not Afraid conference, which is still online and available.  And I’ve signed up for several other free Catholic conferences.

FITNESS

I wasn’t kidding myself in the past when I said I didn’t have time for exercise.  But I have time now and I am using it.  I was already pursuing some fitness goals when this started, going to the gym three days a week and walking 45 minutes most days.  Now, with the gym closed, I am doing the Jane Fonda workout (yes, the one from 1982) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  I borrowed some weights from my next door neighbor and I do a little with those and also do some squats and push ups (girl push ups, and not very well) on what would normally have been gym days.

But what I really love to do is walk, and there is a flat paved loop trail at the park a two-minute drive away (and before you ask, there is no safe way to walk there, which is stupid).  I walk for an hour every morning after breakfast if it does not rain. (When it rains, I suffer.) To pass the time while walking loops I listen to Hallow or Pray as You Go or a Catholic talk or podcast.  On Saturdays I switch it up by walking at the track on the All Saints Parish campus while saying the Rosary.  Every afternoon at five, my next door neighbor and I do loops around the bottom half of our street (socially distanced from one another and passers-by). All told, I am averaging over 11,000 steps and almost five miles each day.  Since 10,000 steps was the goal I had set for myself, I am pleased.

FOOD

It was Lent when all this began, as you will recall, and one of my Lenten disciplines was to do a modified Whole 30.  Thus I was unable to bake tasty treats (well I could have, but I didn’t want to bake things and not be able to eat them!) until after Easter. That was a huge blessing, because by then I had developed such healthy habits that I really didn’t feel like over-indulging on chocolate and such for more than a couple of days.  I KNOW I would have turned to food for comfort if I hadn’t been so limited in what I could eat.

But here’s the thing, limited or not, I (and my family) still had to eat.  And the fact is that I had gotten WAY out of the habit of preparing seven dinners a week (let alone all those lunches and breakfasts).  I mean, I don’t think I’ve done that since about 2009 and that is no exaggeration.  John and I go out Monday nights; Lorelei has youth group at our downtown parish on Wednesdays and so we all go our own ways for dinner; and I hang out at Panera Bread alone every Friday evening.  So that leaves four dinners a week for me to come up with, tops, and there are always other things going on that lead us to eat out, or grab fast food, or order in . . . I’m sure lots of you can relate.

But for the past six weeks we’ve eaten together, at the same time every night, primarily meals that I’ve cooked, sometimes with Lorelei and/or Emily’s assistance.  I start by doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, and I really take my time and enjoy the process.  We use Blue Apron and Hello Fresh so two nights a week the meals are planned for me, and that has been a huge blessing as far as not having to worry about having all the ingredients on hand as well.  I also schedule a regular shipment of produce from Misfits Market.  It has still been challenging to come up with a variety of meals that people will enjoy.  We have only had takeout a couple of times due to reduced income at the moment.  But despite the challenge and doing some complaining about it because it is yet another big responsibility that falls on mostly me, I am also enjoying it and don’t want to go back to how we did things before.

My faith, fitness, and food quarantine coping strategies have something in common and that is ROUTINE.  I have developed daily and weekly routines that I stick to that give a rhythm to the day. This is very satisfying and keeps me on track, not to mention sane.  I get up early every morning (although no longer before dark, which I have always hated).  I do the same things in the same order at more or less the same time every day, and because there are no longer outside commitments that schedule doesn’t get interrupted which is comforting.  I’ve created a nice balance of exercise and office work, personal pursuits and homemaking, relaxation and prayer.  This is something else that I hope I can hold onto.

As I planned this post I noticed the overlap among faith, fitness, and food.  What I am eating contributes to my fitness and my desire for fitness influences what I cook–and don’t cook–for my family.  An hour of my fitness time each day doubles as faith time.  And of course the time I spend specifically on faith in my prayer room grounds me and helps me to do all the rest of it.

I would love to hear how the rest of you are doing in quarantine.  Do you like it? Hate it? Both? Have you developed a routine or are you winging it? Is there anything you’e started to do that you want to continue when we get back to “normal”? Let me know in the comments.

Five Apps to Help Busy Catholics Pray

If you are busy like I am (and who isn’t busy these days), daily dedicated prayer time may seem out of reach.  And yet we NEED daily prayer to help us cope with our overwhelming, stressful, too-busy lives.  As Saint Francis de Sales famously said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”

For the past year or so I have struggled to develop a prayer routine that works for me.  I tried getting up earlier in the morning, which I know works well for many people; but I often fell asleep while trying to pray, or hit the snooze button instead of getting up.  The spirit may be willing but the flesh is indeed weak.

I tried other times of day too, but my schedule is unpredictable, and nothing seemed to stick for long.  Even my twice-weekly Mass and rosary walk that I kept up for an entire school year became a thing of the past once I no longer had a child in school right across the street from the church.

I realized that the best way for me to work prayer into my daily schedule was NOT to assign a definite time and place to it, but rather to make sure I fit it in any way I can.  I found some apps that are helping me do that and I wanted to share them with you.

MARY APP

You may be familiar with the practice of Marian Consecration.  I recently completed Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory program for the second time.  I wanted to pray a short consecration prayer every morning, and I keep this app open to the one I want to say.

PRAYER 2000+

This is the ultimate prayer app with just about every Catholic prayer you can imagine.  What I love about it is that you can make a favorites list and then put it in the order you want.  Here I have the next three prayers I want to say each day, and I will probably add more over time.  For now, I say the Morning Offering, the Litany of Humility, and the Prayer for Generosity.

HOLY ROSARY

There are many rosary apps available, of course.  And ideally I’d rather use an actual rosary anyway.  But I can play this one and pray along while my hands are busy doing other things.  I like that this one automatically opens up to the proper mysteries for the day, and I like that I can increase the replay speed a bit.

PRAY AS YOU GO

I have actually been using this for over a year.  I start it as I pull out of the driveway to pick up my kids from school, and it is just about the perfect length for the ten-minute drive.  This is a daily session based on Ignatian spirituality including music, scripture, reflection, and prayer.

HALLOW

This is a Catholic meditation app, and introduces you to different types of prayer, like Lectio Divina or the Examen.  I use this in the evening after dinner when I typically sit out on the front porch for some alone time.  I love that you can choose five, ten, or fifteen minute guided mediation and prayer sessions.

With the help of these apps, I find I am able to meet my prayer goals most days.  All told, I am consistently praying over 30 minutes a day now and I feel hopeful that I will be able to add more over time and will be able to continue this routine.

Have you used these apps? Do you have any other favorite prayer apps?

Five Apps to Help Busy Catholics Pray