Spiritual practice in this pandemic

We live now confronted continuously with big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why is this happening? What do I value most? Where is God in all this? From the beginning of the pandemic, we have been experiencing a collective awakening to spirituality.

At this moment of crisis, many familiar ways of celebrating our faith which provided a scaffolding are – for now – lost to us. Many people are looking for ways to connect with God or with some form of deeper meaning and purpose. We are being pushed to find new ways to encounter God and to process grief and uncertainty. Many who never attended church or had a spiritual practice, are also searching for something. They grapple with discerning what will help as there is so much on offer. People are intentionally seeking out retreats, meditation courses and podcasts from all faith traditions. Many people are looking to more secular mindfulness and psychospiritual approaches, to help make sense of this challenging time.

Not only are we individually facing big spiritual questions, but our whole society is also confronted with them. Our focus has shifted from the superficial to issues of life and death and human connection. Old complacencies have been shattered. We have been forced to pause. To live with not knowing. To stand back from our lives and re-evaluate. To think again about how we spend our time and our resources. What matters enough to give energy to and what we can go without. The fact that we are on a collective journey is particularly powerful.

As human beings, we are wired for connection. During this time, physical contact, one of our most powerful ways of connecting, is severely limited. Ironically, through our experience of the impact of the virus, we have become conscious of just how interconnected we are and how every thought and action has an effect – or a ripple beyond me.

Ilia Delio, writing about Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, in Omega Center, says he “would view this pandemic as an opportunity to harness the energies of life in new ways. Every act of suffering in his view is an invitation to a new creative moment, a wake-up call that something old is breaking down and something new is taking place in its midst.”

We are blessed with profound spiritual resources in the writings of the saints and mystics, and a variety of ways to pray using scripture, art, nature and the imagination as well as imageless ways like centering prayer. Spiritual directors who are trained to listen and help on the spiritual journey are offering conversations online to anyone wanting to explore the more profound questions this journey is evoking in us.

If we can stay attentive to what is happening within us and around us, and draw on the rich spiritual resources we have, we may discover that this radical unmooring is an opportunity to experience our connectedness with God and each other more powerfully than ever before.

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
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