The incident, however ridiculous, did remind me of a few Advents ago when I spent 30 days in silence praying St. Ignatius Loyola’s spiritual exercises. It was largely an involuntary lockdown, as it were, in Assisi, Italy. There was, however, no day during that month that I went without Mass or Eucharistic adoration. At the time, I thought it was a sacrifice that I rarely went to Mass in English. It seemed the only Italian words I had down were for “impossible” and “mercy.”
It was the first time that I really noticed how the sky looks like a different painting throughout the day. I watched the sunrise and sunset. I had never previously given a moment’s thought to how birds interacted, and yet there I was. I savored the region of Umbria, which is nothing like New York City or even Rome. To this day, I can remember the wintry smells. I can remember the delightfully maze-like steep hills (and how I never mastered walking up the hills, only down). If you took the escalator from the Bridgettine Sisters, who were housing me, to St. Clare’s shrine, you would almost always hear music from the 1980s — and God even worked with the pop songs of my youth to show me how he had always been present, always will be and how he always has a plan.
There was a lot of social-media joking early into this new shelter-in-place reality about America (and much of the world) suddenly morphing into an introvert’s utopia. Remember that old “Twilight Zone” episode, “Time Enough at Last?” A bank teller locked himself in a vault during his lunch hour to read in silence. His life was spared during the nuclear strike that happened on his break and he found himself alone — his wife and his whole community had been annihilated. The story didn’t exactly end the way he hoped — that he would have the rest of his life reading all the books in the local public library. Many of us are not only finding we don’t have time enough at last for all those things we always said we would do when we had the time, but maybe we’re also finding that we are surprised by what brings us joy.
As I write, I’ve been in isolation for nearly 20 days. What I value the most is getting as close to the Blessed Sacrament as I can, seeing the sun in the morning and holding onto it into the evening, pleading in prayer for people and truly having in-the-heart-of-the-Trinity kinds of conversations. I love everything about God’s creation more and more each day.
I think there are lilies blooming nearby, and they are magnificent. They won’t let any virus from hell stop them. Resurrection is their song. Can it be ours, too? I think that needs to be the lesson of this time. Jesus has won, and nothing is going to rob us of that joy. Don’t let it. Not coronavirus or anything else. Death is not the last word. My Lord and my God! Sing it every day until we meet the Father in heaven — please, God.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.