Last night, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national “state of disaster.” South Africa now follows what other countries have put in place, and we are essentially discouraged from freedom of movement.
You would think since I am an introvert that I would be reveling in this new state of emergency, which dictates that we are to limit social interactions and to generally stay at home during this unprecedented time, we are all facing. Funny about that, because I am feeling uncomfortable about the whole situation, and realize that when its one’s choice to self isolate, it is a whole different ball game, to being told to!
During the course of last week, the Spanish government issued a similar notice to its citizens and following that the pilgrim organizations sent a request that all pilgrims planning a Camino, postpone until further notice. I have written about how I flourish on the Camino as an introvert, so for me, this news was devastating. Since then, I have fallen into a sadness that while my head understands the reason that I have had to postpone my planned pilgrimage, my heart is reeling at the effect of this all.
I have cried watching my memories of last year’s Camino which have popped up on Facebook, and when I see pictures, it feels like my next pilgrimage is so far away, that I can’t see a way forward. This might all sound quite melodramatic, but my pilgrimage is a calling – I walk for spiritual reasons so it is not just about postponing my next vacation. It’s far deeper than that.
It’s not just my Camino that is postponed though. This goes much further than that. I am seeing photos of St Peter’s Square in Rome, where even during winter when I was there, there were devotees, pilgrims, tourists everywhere. However, these photos now show an empty square and it’s quiet must be quite eerie. In the same vein, the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is closed, and when you see photos of the gathering areas, there are no pilgrims and no tourists. Everything is postponed – postponed to a later date – a date sometime in the future.
We still must try our hardest to look on the bright side. For me, not going on Camino now is, I hope, preserving the trail, supporting the local Spanish people who I love dearly and supporting the Spanish organizations in their endeavor to curb this virus. Likewise, when I think of Italy and what they are going through, stepping back and seeing the lack of tourism, while it hurts the economy, hopefully, it gives everyone time to get ahead of the situation.
Today especially, I pray for pilgrims on their way home, trying to get home and those who have postponed their respective pilgrimages. I pray for all doctors, nurses and health care workers who are working on this health emergency. I pray for countries and their leaders to always do the best that they can do. I pray for families and friends who have lost their loved ones to this virus. And I pray for the earth and all its inhabitants
May we heal, may we learn and may we come back from this far better than we were.