Teresa Kelly, Member of the National Council, reflects on the challenges of this recent 'lockdown period' and the poignant words of Carmelite friar Blessed Titus Brandsma (1881-1942).
Alone With God
When Titus Brandsma was first arrested by the Nazis, he was, for a short time imprisoned alone in a cell in Scheveningen, Holland, where no one could come to visit him anymore. I came across these words of Titus Brandsma a couple of weeks after lockdown began and they resonated with how I was feeling:
“I could shout for joy because He made me find Him, again entirely, without me being able to go to see people, nor people me. His is now my only refuge and I feel secure and happy. I would stay here forever, if He so disposes. Seldom have I been so happy and content.”
This led him to write the following poem:
O leave me here but quietly alone,
Let it be chilly and cold around me,
And let no people come to me,
Being alone does not tire me,
For you, O Jesus, are with me.
Never was I so near to you,
Stay with me, Jesus, stay with me,
Your nearness makes all up for me.
Titus spent six weeks here before he was sent to the prison camp of Amersfoort and then onto the death camp of Dachau, where he no longer had such solitariness; after he was found guilty of exerting pressure on the directors of the newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda and was sentenced to imprisonment until the end of the war. Sadly he died at Dachau.
Although I was missing my family, the Eucharist and my parish family I found myself enjoying the peace and tranquillity of lockdown. No more running around trying to fit everything in, no more noise, hustle and bustle. I soon realised I was often in conversation with the Lord, increasing more and more as time went on. He became my daily companion, a close friend whom I could talk to but above all listen to Him, truly listen. I came to see things so differently. Things that seemed so important before were no longer important. I narrowed down what I truly missed as mentioned earlier. Nothing else mattered in the big scheme of things. Only the loving relationship with my Lord was important and through Him love for others. Although I thought I had this relationship with Him before it was nothing compared to what it is now. When you get all the rubbish out of the way you are left with what is important – GOD – you are more open to receiving Him in your heart – a whole surrendering.
When the world opens up again I pray I will continue to see what is important – a loving relationship with God leading me to witness his love to the world.