Loneliness is a plague of our instances, however it may be a present if we permit God to work inside it.
This yr, like yearly, I disappeared to a secluded wilderness to be alone for a five-day non secular retreat. And this yr, like yearly, I struggled with loneliness. Some folks, I think about, are fairly completely satisfied to be alone for stretches of time far longer than 5 days. I’m not one in every of them. I miss my kids an excessive amount of they usually chaos they create. I miss my pals. I miss the exercise, the folks within the workplace, and the rhythm of each day Mass and acquainted faces on the parish. I even miss social media and texting. It is rather, very troublesome to be alone.
I’ve a melancholic character, so after just a few days of being on my own, I find yourself sitting by the pond, watching my reflection mingling with that of the clouds as they unfold throughout the glassy floor. I write unhappy poems and attempt to let myself really feel no matter it’s I’m feeling and wrestle to precise it. Drifting into existential angst is type of my factor, so I lean into it. I really feel the absence and permit myself to be unhappy.
In a world that insists on the idea of relentless unending consolation by means of leisure, selfishness, and distraction, this means to really feel unhappiness is the present that loneliness brings to me annually. Each now and again, I want house to ponder my limitations, to recollect how deeply I’m formed by and indebted to the presence of my spouse and youngsters, to consider the wrestle that it may be to reside as an genuine human being, and confront the angst of residing a life during which time slips by means of my arms all too rapidly. It isn’t essentially enjoyable. Happening a non secular retreat is tough work, however I’m a greater individual for placing within the effort annually. So as to take action, I should be alone. I need to have the ability to relax and breathe.
The feast day of St. Peter Chanel is developing this week, and as I used to be studying about him it occurred to me simply how lonely he should have been. The final years of his life should have felt like one lengthy non secular retreat. Born in France in 1803, as a younger man he became fascinated with the letters of missionaries from America that might be learn aloud in class. When he later turned a priest, he joined a mission society, the Marists. Ultimately he traveled to Futuna Island, which is within the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Fiji. His bishop dropped him off promising to return in six months. He didn’t return for 5 years.
Peter was left roughly alone – I believe he had one buddy with him a few of the time – to reside in a international tradition, amongst strangers, and study a brand new language. Every day was a wrestle for survival, however he maintained a affected person outlook and persevered. Over time, just a few indigenous folks turned Catholic and had been baptized, however the native chieftain reacted with violence to the conversions and Peter was clubbed to dying. That first missionary effort of his, which led to tragedy, however planted a small seed that ultimately blossomed when all the island later turned Catholic.
To me, the best wrestle that Peter should have confronted was loneliness. Not figuring out the language meant that for fairly some time he actually couldn’t speak to anybody. That feeling of being remoted was most likely compounded by a scarcity of success in his mission and the truth that he had stepped into a completely new place as an entire stranger.
His loneliness, as troublesome as it might have been, was one of many vital steps in his final success. To me, that’s an actual encouragement as I proceed to confront the issue — I’d even say concern — that I’ve of being alone.
Being alone is like coming into into the sanctuary of a deathly quiet church within the night, the evening sky filtering by means of the stained glass home windows, an historical presence lingering simply previous the brink of the altar rail. It’s simply you and God. It’s a profound second, however not essentially a cushty one.
That’s how I really feel once I sit alone by that lake annually on retreat. It’s the type of feeling that makes you are taking your sneakers off as a result of the second is holy and also you don’t fairly know the way to react. I’m completely satisfied to take a seat and really feel that presence, really feel my humanity, sure even really feel a bit bit unhappy and nostalgic, however, in the end, to really feel as if I — the true me for higher or worse — am wrapped within the arms of a loving mom.
Maybe anytime you and I really feel lonely, we are able to recall to mind St. Peter Chanel and the present that loneliness may be if we permit God to work in it.