For most of us, the spread of Coronavirus has changed our lives dramatically in the last few weeks–and probably not for the better.
As things continue in these strange times, we have reminders everywhere of possible doom and gloom, impeding disasters for our health and finances, and a general lack of hope.
Personally, I saw this widespread lack of hope in a much clearer light the other day during a zoom conversation I was having with an acquaintance. We were discussing how we were struggling to find motivation to do things that we normally find easy or even enjoyable.
She related to me that a famous novelist she was connected to, a man who had said in the past that he was only happy when writing, is having the same difficulty right now. For the first time in years, he’s struggling to write.
So, what are we to do, as we all wait for something to come along and make all this craziness better?
It turns out that Saint Padre Pio once said a famous quote that has a lot of good advice for people living in dismal (or even hopeless) times like we are now:
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
Here are three ways this awesome St. Padre Pio quote can help inspire us in these trying times.
1. Dive into a deeper prayer life
I’m sure it’s no accident that Padre Pio’s famous quote begins with the instruction to pray.
If you’re struggling with feelings of hopelessness in the midst of this isolating time we’re living in, start with the most fundamentally helpful thing you can do. Begin to focus on your prayer life.
In a lot of ways, the quarantines and shutdowns have impacted our spiritual lives momentously. The sacraments aren’t readily available for us right now in most places, and some churches have even locked their doors because of civil instructions.
There is no shortage of Catholic websites with ideas and resources for keeping our spiritual lives thriving right now.
But none of these types of resources are a cure-all to feelings of hopelessness or even feelings of distance from God that we might be experiencing.
We need to ask God to speak to our hearts in the midst of these feelings. Bring these feelings to God, ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, and be ready to respond.
It could be that God is calling us to something new in our prayer life right now. He might be leading us closer to himself in ways we weren’t expecting.
We can’t expect that watching a streamed Mass will make us feel the same way that it feels to physically receive the Eucharist each week. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t grow in our spiritual lives in new ways right now.
2. Find a way to cling to hope
St. Padre Pio’s advice to pray isn’t that hard to follow, even if looks different right now. But hope? That’s difficult. Will things ever be the same for us, when these protective measures in society are all over? What do we have to look forward to?
It can be hard to answer these questions with any certainty. But we can do a few concrete things to help us grow in hope during these times.
For one, make plans. How can any of us make plans when we don’t know what the future holds?
It’s true that it might not be wise to do something like book a non-refundable trip somewhere for the end of May. But we can definitely make some hope-inducing plans on a smaller scale.
Get in touch with some friends and plan a night out. Maybe pick a favorite restaurant and plan to get together there on the first Saturday night after their dine-in seating reopens.
Or make plans for an even more casual get-together with friends for as soon as lock down or quarantine measures for your area are lifted.
Another thing that might help foster hope in your life is to spend some time working on your online dating profile.
It’s true that you probably can’t go out and have a first date in person with someone in the very near future, but working on online dating right now can give you the possibility of something to look forward to as soon as things begin to go back to normal.
Last but not least, don’t forget that we’re still celebrating Easter.
If you’re struggling with hope, try meditating on how hopeless the apostles must have felt before Jesus rose from the dead. Ask God to help you enter more fully into the hope and joy of this Easter season.
3. Don’t worry, that’s all
St. Padre Pio makes it sound so simple. Just don’t worry. For a lot of us, there’s nothing simple about not worrying. Worrying comes as natural as breathing to some personality types.
If that’s you, take a good look at the rest of the quote, the part that often gets forgotten: “Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
Work on trying to catch yourself, as you worry and worry the day away. Remind yourself that this worry is useless, because God is truly in control.
A good habit to combat endless worry is to simply repeat, all day long if you need to, “Jesus, I trust in You.” It won’t immediately make the worrying stop, but it can help a lot.
Surrendering our worries to God can be very difficult, especially when it feels like our worries are legitimate and very well-founded right now.
But even when it feels impossible, we need to try our best to surrender our fears and worries to God’s loving Providence.
Work on telling God you trust Him each day, even when you’re wracked with your deepest worries, and trust that he will take care of you.