I've found that if you ask a sensible priest or nun these days what might help us keep our sanity in this time of quarantine, they tend to say: The Liturgy of the Hours. It's pretty simple: You wake up and you pray. You stop at midday and you pray. In the evening, you pray, and before you go to sleep, too. When you pray the night prayer, or compline, you really take a look at your day and ask God to forgive you where you need forgiveness. You live your life, guided by prayer.
It serves as a reminder that there's something more going on than what we can see. There is something greater beyond our present circumstances.
I mention all this because never in my life have I found praying the Liturgy of the Hours to be more important. I've been praying it for the better part of a decade now, at least, and while I always find it powerful, I've never felt so obviously and consistently challenged as I do when praying it now.
The most soul-penetrating part of the Liturgy of the Hours tends to be praying the psalms. And if you read the book of Psalms at all, you realize that they just about hit upon every human emotion. And I can't be the only person experiencing just about every human emotion in quick succession these days.
The greatest gift prayer has given me this past week is hope. Easter is a time for joyous celebration. Now, joyous celebration takes a different tone these days -- and yet, what a need we have for it in whatever form we can get it. Making a commitment to the Liturgy of the Hours is making a commitment to hope. Each day, it makes you sing "Alleluia!," even if you are not feeling it. And if you are not feeling it, it is all the more important to sing it. There were definitely times after Easter where I did not want to even think about rejoicing. Again, that's probably when it's most important!
Jesus died for love of us. That's a life-changing idea -- but then so is the whole Christian story: that He was born for us, and that he rose from the dead. This is who our God is, and this is who we are in Him. But every year, I feel like those 40 days of Lent are not quite enough. I get to Good Friday and realize that there have been distractions. I get to Good Friday and I want to spend the rest of my life doing penance for all the thoughtless things I've done, all the sins that made clear why Christ's sacrifice occurred. That's devastating when you think about it too long, which is why the Church in her wisdom, as we say, does not keep us there forever. Yes, we should be reflecting on Jesus' death daily, but the whole story is crucial.
So, the priests and nuns I've surveyed are right. I'll testify to it. If you are looking for a way to pray, to help with your faith, hope, love, joy, peace and even sanity, the Liturgy of the Hours is a good way. Maybe commit to morning and evening prayer. One of the opportunities of this time is that things are being made available for free in some cases, and so much is online. Think of all the Masses and other prayer services being live-streamed. If you've been curious and want something to inspire you, take a look at magnificat.com or Divine Office or iBreviary apps -- reliable aids in my life for a long while now. If you're feeling a little uneasy, know that you are not alone, and consider believing that none of us are. We will need this habit and vision going forward.
(Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book "A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living." She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan's pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)