Isolation. If words had a temperature this one would be thirty below zero—frigid. It gives me goose bumps and stirs up feelings of loneliness and emptiness. This word has become a part of our daily vocabulary as people all over the world are placed in isolation due to the coronavirus. Hearing the word “isolation” made me shiver until I discovered within it the warmth of the flame of God’s presence and His love.
A few weeks ago I woke up with a sore throat and found out that I was going to be placed in isolation. I gathered my prayer books and stopped in the chapel to pray for a minute (and to sanitize my chair). As I left the chapel and made my way upstairs to my room, my eyes welled with tears. In my heart I felt the deep pain of saying good-bye to a loved one—the pain of separation, of leaving, of letting go. I settled into my room, tidied up my desk, and arranged a little spot where I would be able to see my crucifix on the wall while I prayed. Then I stopped and sat down in the silence of my room. My mind was bouncing around like a pinball machine. I did not know what to think of this sudden situation. The next two weeks would be spent in my room in isolation. What was it going to be like? What was going to happen? How was I going to feel physically, emotionally, spiritually? What about the rest of my sisters? What would be happening around the convent? Not finding any immediate answers, I went from my mind down into my heart and heard in the silence, “I am with you always.” And the Lord proved this to be true.
Over the days of isolation I experienced a variety of feelings physically, emotionally and spiritually, but the Lord remained faithful to His word. He revealed Himself to me time and time again. “I am in your sisters caring for you. I am in your other sisters also in isolation. I am in the countless other people in solidarity with you in hospitals, nursing homes and apartments. I am here in the stillness of your room. I am in the silence of your heart. It does not matter what you feel or if you experience my presence. The truth is that I am with you always.”
Isolation is a time of separation, letting go, and saying good-bye. We could stop there in the frigid pain and suffering or choose to go deeper in search of the warmth that can be drawn from the flame of His love that never burns out. In searching I found that the gift of isolation is a gift of greater intimacy with the One who promises each one of us, “I am with you always.”
Sr. Mae, CFR