Solitude in Christ

This article was posted on: July 8, 2024

Reversing the Epidemic of Loneliness

Reversing the Epidemic of Loneliness

Every person, at one time or another, will experience loneliness in their life. This stems from the fact that it is part of our human nature to both need and want to be with others and enjoy spending time with them. This is the way God created us. God has revealed to us that He is a relationship of perfect love between three Persons in one God, and we are created in His image. This is why we long to share our lives with family members and form bonds of friendship with other people. Therefore, we feel lonely when a friend moves away, children grow up and move out of the home, a family member dies, or a multitude of other situations. We will always experience some degree of loneliness until we are in heaven with God. There will be times of great joy in our lives, and yet there will always remain an underlying experience of loneliness, which can be expressed as a “hunger” or longing for God, which arises from the deepest desire written in our hearts. This is the price of our dignity as we have been created to be in union—in perfect relationship—with God forever.

With this in mind, it is worth looking at why the Surgeon General recently declared loneliness an “epidemic” in the United States. Research used for this study shows that we are becoming increasingly disconnected by not joining meaningful small groups or having neighborhood involvement. Frequent moving, common divorce, and lack of family cohesion contribute to this. The more televisions in a home, the less likely family members are to make outside connections or even watch television with another person. Cell phones and social media, with such things as the category of “friend” on Facebook, can cause superficial relationships that crowd out real ones. We need to stay grounded in reality by not allowing technology to draw us away from true relationships because distancing ourselves from others definitely contributes to loneliness.

This is not to say that cell phones and social media are bad; in fact, there are various ways that these forms of communication are beneficial, but balance is needed. We need to keep first things first by making sure that our real-life relationships are meaningful and in the proper order. Our friendship with Jesus Christ is to come first, followed by family and then friends.

Solitude versus loneliness

It is interesting to note that some individuals can feel lonely even when plenty of people are around, while other people do not feel lonely even though they are by themselves, in some cases for long periods of time. I came to understand how this is possible during a difficult time in my life. The first time that I experienced real loneliness was as a young adult. My life had become overly busy. I was always on the run from work to activities with family and friends while attempting to take care of the home front but setting aside very little time for myself to stop and just “be.” I felt an interior sadness and wondered if this was all there was to life.

At a certain point, due to the prayers of family and friends and the grace of God, I decided to start spending some quiet time each day, seeking to learn how to pray. Shortly after, a friend introduced me to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. A chapel at her parish was open 24 hours a day. I started going to the chapel regularly and enjoyed the quiet. As this friend and I drove by the chapel one day, she asked, “How many people actually know there is a Person in there?” I understood the words but not their meaning. My friend was saying that Jesus was present in the chapel in the form of the consecrated host, the holy Eucharist. This consecrated host is Jesus, the living resurrected Christ, even though it continues to look like bread. She explained that the Eucharist is always reserved in the “gold box”—the tabernacle—and in the case of this adoration chapel, placed in a monstrance for people to come and “see” and be with Jesus.

During quiet prayer and silence, I gradually began to experience an interior solitude. Solitude is an invitation from Jesus to be drawn into a deeper relationship with Him, to be focused only on Him without distractions. As St. Augustine famously said, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Inner restlessness actually stirs us to seek Him. However, we may choose to ignore this restlessness or unsettledness and distract ourselves with various activities or try to find a cure through other means. But the only true remedy for our restlessness is found through a relationship with Jesus, who patiently waits for us in the stillness of our hearts.

Finding solitude in Jesus Christ

The Lord is our refuge, and the invitation to rest in this solitude with Him is a standing one. Setting aside time on purpose and experiencing silence and solitude then affects other times of the day, making life’s activities more beneficial and fruitful. Interpersonal relationships become more compassionate, decision-making is calmer, and a settled outlook develops amidst the busyness of life.

Our Heavenly Father knew what He was doing when He gave us the Third Commandment, which instructs us to keep Sunday holy. The Lord calls us each week to Sunday rest, to spend time in silent reflection and be with our loved ones. For those who have responsibilities in life that do not allow them to spend Sunday as a day of rest in the Lord, it is possible to choose other times during the week to observe moments of silence and solitude. This time of rest, when we set aside all unnecessary work, shopping, etc., prepares us with the proper disposition to enter into the heart of Sunday rest, worshipping Jesus at holy Mass on Sunday or Saturday evening. Jesus is our Savior and King, and through participating in Mass and receiving Him in holy Communion, we are strengthened to place Him at the center of our lives.

Another important factor that promotes spiritual growth is staying connected with the local church community. Joining a small group that studies the Scriptures and Catholic teachings while also forming deep friendships in Christ can contribute to a growing sense of solitude that will ground us throughout the entire week.

Jesus invites us to spend time in solitude as He desires to have a deep personal friendship with each one of us, even more than we do. By spending time in deep, quiet, settled peace with Jesus, participating in Mass and Sunday rest, and having fellowship with our parish family, we can ease the pain of restlessness and loneliness. Through this, we can have a deeper understanding and knowledge of the reality of the Lord’s treasured promise He made to us, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (Jn 14:18)

Story by Ann Lankford, Director of the Office for Catechesis and Evangelization
Published in the July/August 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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