“When the soul is troubled, lonely and darkened, then it turns easily to the outer comfort and to the empty enjoyments of the world.” St. Francis of Assisi
When I was young, I would serve on the altar. We would go to midnight mass at Christmas as a family and return home to sleep and get up early to open presents. It was an exciting time for me as a child. Whenever I would do charitable work with the less fortunate in my city, I always wondered about their lives outside of the centre where they would come for help. Our house was always full of people and my mom and dad were great hosts. Everyone was welcome at our home and since we were Italian, there was always something great cooking in the kitchen. No one left our house with an empty stomach. It was the house on the street that everyone came to. I try to replicate that now, but the pandemic made that difficult for me. But, sometimes, I cannot get the image of the patrons where I volunteer out of my mind.
“Until I was alone, I never really lived. Until I was alone, I was not with myself. Until I was alone, I never drew near to my Creator.” Blessed Paolo Giuslaniani
I have been reading the book, “The Shattering of Loneliness,” by Eric Varden. He recounts the story of St. Mary of Egypt, who went to Jerusalem for reasons other than a pilgrimage. However, on that journey she experienced a profound conversion. At the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she found that she could not enter. At this point, she noticed the statue of the Virgin Mary above her. She arrived at this huge turning point in her life and realizing what kind of life she was living begged Our Lady for help. She was granted permission to enter the Church. After that, she spent much of her life in isolation in the desert alone with Our Lord. This is being physically alone but not loneliness. Such a beautiful story to remind me that it is Christ who fills our heart in a lonely world.
"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." St. Mother Teresa
I encounter people often who are searching for solace in a complicated world. Wars, pandemics, economic problems, and the list continues; all these cause us to become anxious and not know where to turn. During the pandemic’s worst in 2020, I would work at home and drive to a different part of the city every day after work to go for a walk. The city where I live has many places to walk and enjoy nature. One Saturday during that time, it was still cool and rainy for a spring day. I went for a walk but came home early. The streets were empty, and few stores were open and there was no place to go anyway. It was surreal. But this pushed me to spend time with the Lord even more. The only home I would visit was my parents’ home to keep them company.
"And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, Pray." St. Padre Pio
While I was reading the book I mentioned before, I researched the author who was Lutheran and now a Catholic and he is the first Native bishop in Norway in ages. I wondered about his journey and experiences he might have had in his return to the Catholic Church. He lived in a Trappist Monastery in England and likely spent a lot of time with Our Lord in silence. This is a great example for us to learn from. Only Christ can fill that void in our lives. Only Christ can be our fuel to do great things and it is important to spend time with our Lord and allow Him to work with us. When I visit one of the monasteries near my home, I can sense in the silence how Christ fills the monastery. The Lord accompanies us in silence and prayer. For me, it is in these examples that I learn how important solitude is. It is how God can speak to us. There are a great many examples of how the Lord fills our hearts. We could talk about them and learn more about them. Maybe our search to fill that void would be satisfied in a more real way.
“Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives!” St. John Paul II