Isolation…we are all experiencing it to some degree due to COVID-19. Life has shifted from bustling around between activities to creatively maintaining sanity at home. Our communities of faith, family, and friends have been disbanded leaving us in isolation with our immediate family members or home alone. How can we connect in a satiating way during social distancing? The answer may be reorienting ourselves to what is right in front of us. Although we are physically separated, we begin by looking to our fellow quarantined family members to fill our social void, and then, we turn to creative ways to connect via social media or six-feet meet-ups. Maybe even shouting to a neighbor from across the street!

The Basic Society

COVID-19 has broken down society to the barebones communities composed of immediate family members. In his apostolic exhortation on the Christian family, Familiaris Consortio, Saint John Paul the Great explains that the family is the foundation of society, and without a strong family foundation, there cannot be a functioning society. Sometimes, building community with our spouse and kids might seem more challenging than spending time with friends and members of our parish communities! However, making isolation a time of intentional connection with our families will strengthen the foundation of society. How can this be achieved?

  1. Family Culture: As parents come together to determine their hopes and goals for their family, they can begin to develop a plan of how to implement that mission within their family. Everything the parents do involving discipline, family rituals, and family values stem from the goals of the parents thereby creating a family culture. Family culture is furthered by shared activities, family discussions, traditions, and routines. A family dynamic centered around the service of one another provides a safe haven for spouses and kids to feel nurtured and valued. Here are a few ways to strengthen family culture:
    1. Pray together as a family
    2. Create special traditions to be celebrated routinely
    3. Have family discussions around meal times
    4. Set up a chore chart for sharing household responsibilities
  2. Hospitality: Hospitality is often thought of as welcoming others into your home with food and an immaculate living room. However, hospitality is primarily a disposition of the heart. It prioritizes people over projects. How easy is it to get caught up in getting chores or tasks done that the people we are doing them for are forgotten? Creating a healthy family community involves being first hospitable to the people who live within the home which means engaging wholeheartedly with the people instead of the projects. Here are some ways to be hospitable to your family members:
    1. Intentionally speak your spouse or child’s love language
    2. Play or talk with the kids without distraction
    3. Share gratitude for your spouse

Having a strong community has been proven to reduce stress and keep spirits high. Research also shows that we are incapable of sustaining more than about five very close relationships, so therefore, we have to be selective in who claims one of those coveted spots. If our family members do not occupy those closer relationships, then how can the basic society be built up? After pouring into our families, we are able to connect to others in our social community.

Building Society

What is developed within the home can be shared with those within our social communities. As Catholics, we believe that we are part of the Body of Christ, so in and through Christ, we are connected to all of our brothers and sisters within the Church community. During isolation, we are separated from the Church physically, but we can creatively connect with our loved ones. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Connect through video conferencing using Zoom, Facebook Messenger, or Facetime
  • Drop off supplies to someone in need
  • Visit a family member or friend and standing 6 ft apart 
  • Talk to people in your neighborhood when you pass them during a walk
  • Make a card to send to a friend
  • Call someone you have not talked to in a while

Challenge Moving Forward

COVID-19 is making its mark on history, and like any major life event, we are changed by it. We will not know the full social effects of COVID-19 until it has run its course, but we have an amazing opportunity to take what we have learned with us. By strengthening our family, we can bring some of those practices with us. By leaving behind acquaintances to sustain stronger bonds with a few friends or family members, we are able to more consciously pour into those who are most important to us. The isolation has been trying, but how are you going to be bettered for it?

Recommended Reading:

  • The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman: This book is helpful for learning more about how you and your spouse give and receive love and can help with regaining connection with each other.
  • The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order by Scott Hahn
  • Holy Marriage, Happy Marriage: Faith Filled Ways to a Better Relationship by Chris and Linda Padgett
  • Hold on to your kids by Gordon Neufeld
  • Prayers for the Domestic Church: A Handbook for Worship in the Home by Edward Hays–This is a book of prayers that can be prayed together as couples or families.
  • Growing Family Culture by The Messy Family Project: https://www.messyfamilyproject.org/familyculture/