Catholic Teacher blog: Faith matters – isolation

Brendan Nicholl 23 April 2020

St Ignatius has much to teach us about living positively while in 'isolation'.

The impact of the COVID19 pandemic has been as devastating as it has been disruptive across the globe.

The loss of life around has been tragic and will become worse as developing nations in Africa battle the pandemic over the next few months. The disruption to people’s lives, the restrictions and financial effects, seem overwhelming. There is so much to be anxious about and yet Easter reminds us that there is nothing to fear and that we have reason to be a hopeful community.

As we journeyed through Holy Week and Easter we saw the disciples run in fear after Jesus died on the cross. They believed they were to share his fate. Jesus was dead. It was over!

On Sunday though the women found the tomb was empty – ‘He is risen’. Death had been destroyed. There is nothing to fear. Nothing could separate us from our God.

Being fearful is unhealthy and leads to great anxiety. Although it’s important to be cautious and following the advice from our government at this time, it is important we should not live in fear. Fear is a wasteful emotion guided by the ‘bad Spirit’. What was true at the first Easter is also true today. There is nothing to fear, our God will come to us; nothing can separate us from him.


The question is, ‘how do we live positively during this time?’. St Ignatius can teach us much about our current situation. His time in Manresa was transformative and life-giving. Today in ‘isolation’ we too can live in a positive manner and become more whole through the process.

Ignatius found that to encounter God he needed to be removed from daily life. Under the current restrictions, this has largely been done for us! What a positive situation we are in. When we reframe the purpose of our isolation and what may be gained from it we can reframe a negative into a new beginning. Psalm 46 calls us to, ‘Be still and know that I am God’. The early Christians knew how important solitude was for us as humans to encounter God. God is always present but in our busy lives, we often fail to recognise or hear his ‘still small voice’ (1 Kings 19:12).

During the coming weeks enter into the silence purposefully and seek God. What is it he desires to reveal to you in this period of isolation?


St Ignatius examined himself with great intensity at Manresa. He intended to go deeper and discern the reasons for his existence and his life’s true purpose. The Spiritual Exercises, based on his experience, are the most accessible spiritual texts to this day. The Exercises have been used over the centuries to encounter God and transform themselves and their lives.

At a local level, many parishes live-streamed masses on Facebook or YouTube over the Easter period. As masses continue to be suspended due to current restrictions and churches as venues are ‘closed’, remember the church is, in fact, the community. Through live-streamed masses and other online prayer experiences you can still be connected to the community.

During this period consider what process could you use to help you encounter God? Would a pattern of dedicated silence and prayer ‘fit’ your spiritual style or would a structured method such as the Exercises in a contemporary form be better for you?


The development of the Exercises was facilitated by the unique talents of the author, Ignatius, who captured what was revealed by God during his time at Manresa. Consider what is being revealed to you by God about your unique creative gifts during this time of isolation? Spend some time discerning how you best experience God through your creativity?

For some being creative is a process of literally making – music, art, gardening, writing etc. For some the process is passive – reading, listening to music, enjoying your surroundings. If your styles is more passive your creativity will manifest itself in other ways. You may be more peaceful, better able to think of new things or ‘dream up’ ways to help or connect with others. Regardless of how you engage your creativity during this time you observe how you bring beauty and love into the world.


Ignatius purposefully made time to help others. Although he had no material possessions he felt a deep calling to serve. He spent much time helping at the local hospital, which is an interesting parallel to the pandemic we are living through. The pandemic has, for many of us, affected our ability to contribute financially and also restrictions have meant fewer opportunities to ‘do’ things for others.

The situation may require innovation, but you can still give of yourself. Reflect carefully on these thoughts before you proceed. Once you discern the answers you may find that your service during this time is more true of your gifts and may become the basis for a deeper and more purposeful approach to service that helps you ‘love others’ and spread the Good News. May this time be a period where the whole human family comes together and finds a deeper unity; this begins with each of us.

Although we are experiencing a period of great upheaval there is nothing to fear and much good can come from this experience.

St Ignatius’ experience at Manresa offers us some tips that if applied could be as transformative and positive as his time of reflection. I hope you have time to reflect on these ideas and apply them over the coming weeks. I also hope that the following message from St Paul to the young church Philippi offers you peace now and always.

‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.

Brendan Nicholls is RE and liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.


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