Coronavirus Quarantine Advice from a Cloistered Nun

Coronavirus Quarantine Advice from a Cloistered Nun

I came across a great article recently which offered ten inspiring suggestions for surviving and thriving during the COVID-19 / coronavirus quarantines. The article was written by a contemplative Carmelite nun, Sister María Teresa de los Ángeles, who lives with other cloistered nuns in Cádiz, Spain. Here is a link to the actual article, although it’s in Spanish. What follows below is the English translation for you.

For those who are not familiar with what “cloistered nuns” are, they are religious Sisters who live in a community that is essentially isolated from the rest of the world in order to focus their lives on God as much as possible. Thus, they know a thing or two about being cut off from the rest of humanity for long periods of time. Below are her ten suggestions.


#1 – Maintain an Attitude of Freedom

“What is most basic is the attitude with which you live and the interpretation that you have of the situation, the consciousness that it is not a defeat. Paradoxically, this can be a way of discovering the truest and greatest freedom – the interior freedom that no one can take from you, which comes from within. While it is true that officials can ‘make’ us stay home, your liberty consists in willingly obeying, knowing that it is for a greater good.”

#2 – Cultivate Peace that Broadens the Soul

“Look inside yourself. The biggest space where you can expand and be happy is in your heart. You don’t need space outside but to go calmly within your world. Perhaps you have still not discovered that peace of soul from which life wells up. Life is a creation of more life, communication of joy and love. When you are accustomed to living peacefully within yourself, you will not want to leave.”


#3 – Take Care of Yourself

“You have to work at peace. Exercise virtues that require concentration and self-knowledge, which are those that we typically set aside to attend to a thousand outside tasks. Remember, how you confront your emotions and thoughts, the managing of your senses and passions, will depend on whether you live in Heaven or Hell. Gauge and overcome yourself, because if you are carried away by fear, sadness or apathy, it will be difficult to cut the cord because there will be little escape. Discipline your heart. When a thought does you no good, discard it. Try to incline yourself always to whatever you note has given you peace and joy. Don’t forget, harmony takes work.”


#4 – Love

“Because of the pandemic, we are weaker and susceptible to irritability. You will have to be very patient and use your common sense. Everybody is different, and every person can be sensitive for any number of reasons. Accept and respect others’ opinions and feelings. It is very normal, when we are at home, to desire control over everything. Try not to do this – it can be the cause of many confrontations and frustrations. The only person you can control is yourself – your thoughts, words, and emotions. Don’t seek to control others, but control yourself. With love, you will find understanding and empathy, a willingness in giving, and a gratefulness in receiving. Respect admits frailty, lessens drama, lives and lets live.”


#5 – Don’t Kill Time

“Nothing else can cause such a tremendous sensation of emptiness as spending time uselessly. It is a terrible enemy that can rid you of peace and push you into depression. Make a plan for these days and stick to it. Rest and work are not opposed, so take the time to engage in activities that are relaxing or stimulate your good humor. Take your time with simple things — dice the onions nicely, cook beans on a low flame until they are tender. We have time! Even though a stew can take two hours to cook, do it with joy. But do things well, regardless of how simple, so that they have value and purpose. Allow no senseless waste of time: Killing time is killing life!”


#6 – Broaden Your Spiritual Horizons  

“How many times do we complain about everything we haven’t done because of a lack of time? Well, now we have it! Try taking up new forms of prayer and devotions, as perhaps you have exhausted everything that you knew. Why not try the Liturgy of the Hours, which can now be downloaded to any smartphone. Look up the writings of a saint and you will certainly find many things to fill your soul with a new light. Don’t be satisfied with what you already know. Now that there is an opportunity, open yourself to new things that afford wisdom and cause joy.”

#7 – Be Sensitive to Others

“Be sensitive to the psychological and emotional needs of those around you. Being realistic, not everybody controls their emotions equally. There are some who, because of their mentality, will find confinement is difficult. Emotions come not only from within but are also influenced by what we see, hear and touch. So, be selective about what you get from outside in order to avoid vicious cycles that can entrap us in desperation or make us lose control. Avoid as much as possible pessimistic conversations and arguments, frowning faces, information overload, films of horror or intrigue and disorder at home. Because it is difficult to avoid our present situation, anything that enters our brain will stay there for longer than usual, so we must be careful not to obsess or allow negative emotions to take root within us.”


#8 – Remember: You Are Not Alone

“You need not feel alone, because you are not alone. The love and affection of family and friends remain. In fact, social distancing presents an opportunity to communicate at a deeper and more intimate level. Reach out to loved ones frequently and speak calmly and unhurriedly when engaging them. Listen to them until they finish, and allow dialogue to foster trust and the sharing of trust. Say what you have had no time to say, and say what you always wanted to say. Talk about everything or nothing but always with love, which reaches the soul and makes its home there. Answer that Christmas card that you ignored, the letter that gratified you but which you haven’t acknowledged, the e-mail from an old friend. Find the most fitting words and try to express your noblest sentiments. Speak from the heart and establish even stronger ties to your folks. You will find that distance is not absence.”


#9 – Make Time for Reflection 

“Find moments of silence and solitude to avoid being overwhelmed. How many times have I heard people say: ‘How I wish I could spend a few days at a monastery!’ Well, now is the time to do it at home. Usually, we get tired of the pace at which we live, as if we are carried away by the daily routine without time to assimilate what we live. We expect big changes in society. We hear a lot of, ‘Things cannot go on this way.’ Well, now we have this opportunity to go into a cocoon-like the little caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. Reflect, think, meditate. What can I change about myself to be better after these days have passed? Our separation from the things that we ordinarily have in our hands will help to see if we are really putting emphasis on the things that do matter, on things we can do without, and those which are irreplaceable. A firm conviction to improve will make these days useful and create new men and women out of this crisis.”


#10 – Pray

“Only prayer (which is our link in friendship with God) can strengthen life at any time, especially in adverse circumstances. Prayer means opening up to the ‘other’ who will come to my aid when I need help. This is the most universal experience of love. Pray, talk with God and the hours will go by unnoticed. Tell Him everything. He won’t tire of hearing you – empty yourself in Him with your need. He is your Father, Brother, Friend. Above all, exercise your faith and trust. If you abandoned God, try again while you have the time and serenity to talk to Him. Maybe you don’t believe in Him because you haven’t tried. Will you?”


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