How often I have heard, and reflected on the words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10), yet in the enforced quiet of our world today due to the spreading Coronavirus, I find myself restless. What an irony!
I have made many silent retreats at Manresa, in Pickering, to escape from the busy routines of everyday living. At the end of a weekend retreat I emerge refreshed and ready to tackle life again. But everything seems strange now.
The silence is eerie without the sounds of cars rushing by, people mingling in restaurants, malls buzzing with shoppers, and the usual chatter of a people rejoicing in each other’s company.
“Stay a hockey stick apart,” I am told, and I am suddenly more aware that “social distancing” is a requirement not a suggestion – and it is happening during Lent! I can honestly say that this is the longest Lent ever.
Flashing across our screens are the rising numbers of those infected by this virus, and worse still, of those dying from it. With our churches shut even for private prayer in this holy season, I have to follow Ash Wednesday’s Gospel, “When you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place…(Matthew 6:6).
I am invited to pray in the silence of my innermost being to a God who is a friend of silence. My room is now “holy ground,” as I wrestle with a new life in the trenches, fighting a battle with an unseen enemy.
As I look around, I see the crucifix, holy pictures, an icon, and candles. I recall one of my little granddaughters saying as she once glanced around my room, “Grandma, you are very religious.” But I’m not, I am just trying to follow Jesus, stamped on the passport of my life.
The flickering light of the candle draws me into a holy embrace. An Examen of Consciousness reveals moments when I have fallen down. Then I am quickly reminded of Catherine Doherty’s words, “With God, every moment is the moment of beginning again.”
Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn back to the TV spilling out more bad news for me to digest. This virus has wrapped its tentacles around our lives and seems to be squeezing us into submission.
I now reach for my Bible, and am comforted when I read, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the Lord delivers him.” (Psalm 34:19-20)
That is a brief consolation for me, as I swing back into this chaotic pandemic reality. The mystery of why this is happening, leaves me standing on the edge of discomfort watching the world spinning. St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that we have to come to our prayer space remembering that God is looking at us with love.
So like Mary, I ponder these things in my heart. I am slowly able to encounter God in these times that are really challenging.
Some of the most comforting words in the Bible are, “And it came to pass.” Yes, troubles do not come to stay. God in his infinite mercy delivers us out of them.
When I get restless again, I recall the famous quote from St. Augustine’s Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
The Coronavirus has handicapped us in many ways, but I believe in God, even when he is silent.
I am encouraged when I read Pope Francis’ words, “If you find it hard to pray, don’t give up. Be still; make space for God to come in. Let Him look at you, and He will fill you with His peace.”
Soon a song bubbles up and I sing jubilantly:
“Hush be still my heart, listen be quiet
For deep inside my God is listening to me,
Nothing moving, nothing stirring
All is quiet, for I am with my God.”