By Michelle Powers
New York City is reopening, but one woman is choosing to remain in quarantine — for the rest of her life.
“I was drawn to the enclosure,” said Sister Susan Marie, a cloistered nun. Her confinement mirrors Americans today.
She finds the silence nourishing, and the distance enlightening. The governor’s stay at home order has nothing to do with it. It hasn’t been only 100 days, for her it’s been decades.
“Last place I went to was Jones Beach, and then I never went again,” she explained.
Just outside those 20 foot walls is the heart of the pandemic, Brooklyn, New York, where people only leave their homes for necessities, grocery and pharmacy runs.
But the outside world isn’t something she misses, it’s just something she remembers.
“I remember smells, nostalgia,” Sr. Susan Marie told Currents News.
Her order — the Visitation of the Holy Mary — have been living apart from the secular world since the 17th century. She joined the order in Bay Ridge when she was 36, having already lived a life, working for years at NBC.
She “said little goodbyes along the way,” she recalled.
But the life Sister Susan Marie left behind outside those walls doesn’t compare to what she found inside.
The sisters follow a strict routine each day, rising early to pray, work and mediate.
They share a meal — and silence — together.
It’s a “presence behind solitude,” she said. “You can hear God.”
Silence is not something found by many Americans in the last three months. Right now a perfect storm of civil unrest brewing, fueled by George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, racism, the coronavirus crisis and massive unemployment.
But, Sr. Susan Marie. Says the conditions don’t have to be perfect to hear God.
“Even if angry, express it to God,” she advises. “Ask for strength, beg for it.”
And even if you don’t find God, she believes, you will still find yourself.
“Sit with a sentence and say it over and over again,” she adds.
Whether you try it or not, Sister Susan Marie says something mystical is happening right now.
“Right now, the whole world is on the same cross.”
Perhaps then, we are locked in, but not locked out.