Our Lady of Quarantine
I had just finished a two-week journey walking the Camino de Santiago. I spent a couple of days in the city to tour the tomb of St. James and savor the feeling of arriving at my destination. Another pilgrim ran into me a couple of times in the plaza and sat me down for a conversation. There was something about him that robbed my peace. He had heard that I was heading to Fatima the next day while some others were heading to Cape Finisterre. He was determined to redirect my route and told me how much I would regret going to the shore and insisted that there was nothing special about Fatima. The more he urged me to change my plans, the more I was assured of the importance of staying on track.
I got into the cab to head to the bus station. I ended up waiting for the wrong bus and saw the bus that I was supposed to be on driving around the corner. Yes, I went after it on foot flailing my arms and yelling in Italian... yes in Italian! After living in Rome a decade ago, Italian seems to come more naturally than Spanish. The bus stopped for me and that's what matters. The reality of speaking the wrong language in this chaotic scene made me laugh for quite a while during the ride after I could take a breath and relax as the bus crossed the border of Spain and Portugal.
I stepped off the bus in Fatima a rush of peace came over me. I was reminded of the man in Santiago and thanked Mama Mary for helping me persevere to make this trip possible. Next to Assisi, the hometown of my patron saint, Fatima was the most peaceful place I have ever visited. There was a certainty that was made known through the senses at my arrival. I was on holy ground! My two days there were short, but abounding in fruit that will be cherished for a lifetime.
Though I could write all about the story of Our Lady of Fatima, I want to focus today on how my experience connects with quarantine.
"You will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort." Our Lady of Fatima
When I describe the story of the man in Santiago, I call him "the devil in disguise." I wonder how my response may have been different if I had not spent two weeks walking in silence trying to really listen to the still, small voice that wants to speak to my heart. I am someone who is quite busy and tries to get more done than is possible, thus I always feel overwhelmed and overcommitted.
The Camino teaches pilgrims about simplicity, solitude, and listening on the journey. People sometimes walk alone and sometimes meet up with others. Whether you are alone or not, the common understanding is that silence needs to be a part of the day. Today I can still hear the crunch, crunch, crunch of my boots and my walking stick as everything began to feel connected and familiar.
It was after these two weeks of preparation that the "devil in disguise" pulled me aside to discourage me in my plans. I'm so grateful I noticed the difference in his voice and in God's voice. I chose to follow the voice of my Savior rather than the Liar. I'm recalling this time especially today in quarantine after remaining in my house for the past couple of months. As a single young adult, I live alone with my cat. Since the news focuses on families stuck with one another, I was considering moving in with my sister and brother-in-law during the stay-at-home orders so that I would avoid the loneliness and quiet of being "stuck" at home. A dear friend encouraged me to remain alone at home because God wanted to teach me something. I am so glad I accepted that invitation because this time has been the most consoling and peaceful season in my spiritual life. I have grown to dive into my true identity as the beloved daughter of Our Good, Good Father! Prior to quarantine, my identity felt tangled up in commitments, relationship status, jobs, and whatever else the world threw at me.
The world has been given a unique experience in quarantine. We are invited to slow down and process. It's harder to numb the pain. It's harder to run from the silence. After we binge all of the shows and complete all of the puzzles, only silent stillness remains in the arms of the Father. That is where true peace remains. The peace we receive from other things is fleeting.
"Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:32-33
I believe that Jesus is giving us this time to prepare our hearts, strengthen our relationship with Him and with our neighbors and loved ones. Families are being restored. Healing is there for each one of us. No matter how much we enjoy all of the pleasures of this world, we need to be eternally fixed on the life to come. Jesus is bold in reminding us that we will indeed have trouble in this world because we do not belong here. We are not yet home. The world is just going to get crazier, but through all of the changes, we can lean on Our Father's love that never changes.
How have you been hearing God speak to you in this season?
Are you ready to encounter a "devil in disguise"? It may not be as evident as my experience, but the Devil wants nothing more to make us doubt God's promises. When you are are on the right path, the Enemy wants to confuse us and knock us off.
If you need some guidance in your prayer whether you have a few minutes of silence or a few days, I would recommend looking to the Divine Mercy Chaplet and The Rosary. Both of these prayers are easy to pray in the car, on a walk around the block, in your home or in your office (whenever we return to work). They don't take much time and are much more powerful than we will understand in this life.
Why the Rosary?