Finding God in a time of lockdown
Article by Annemarie Paulin-Campbell* published by the Jesuit Institute South Africa, March 27th, 2020
As we enter lockdown, we find ourselves in unfamiliar and daunting territory. Those of us who live alone may fear loneliness. Families with children face the challenges of keeping their children entertained and happy. Those with conflict at home may dread being confined with their partner. Some face financial anxieties.
We grapple with many emotions: the grief of not being able to spend time physically with loved ones, the indefinite postponement of events we looked forward to, the temporary loss of our familiar routines or the joy of unexpected time on our hands. Perhaps we fear our mortality or that of those we love.
This is a defining moment in our lives. So how can we find God at this time?
The idea of staying in one place is not totally unfamiliar. In the monastic tradition of St Benedict, monks and nuns make a vow of ‘stability of place’ to stay forever within the monastery walls. The wisdom behind this is the spiritual rooting of finding God where one is, rather than restlessly looking in one place and then another.
In my twenties, I made my first silent enclosed 30-day retreat. It was initially daunting to step into that space (which also involved no access to the news or internet!). It allowed me the opportunity to spend focused quality time with God. It was a once-in-a-lifetime transformative journey.
Wisdom gleaned from those who live the monastic life is to have a structure for each day. This helps give a sense of stability and calm. Keep a daily rhythm with times to eat, pray, read or work. Do something creative, get some exercise and have some quality time to connect with others.
If you live alone, your home could be a kind of hermitage in which you can be attentive to God’s presence with you. If you have others in the house, this could be a precious opportunity to be present to them in ways that are not possible in the busyness of life.
Expect that people will react differently and will grieve the loss of their ‘normal life’ in different ways. Be gentle with yourself and those who live with you. Remember to reach out to others and stay connected via technology, especially those who are vulnerable and alone.
Deepen your relationship with God, remembering his assurance: “Do not be afraid for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43). You can nurture your faith by praying the daily readings or office; saying the rosary; taking part in online Masses or services. Maybe intentionally praying for specific needs. Look out for online resources from the Jesuit Institute.
Above all, hold onto the wise words of Julian of Norwich, a hermit who lived through the time of the Black Death in the 1400s. She heard the Lord saying to her: “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”
* Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.