My goodness, but I am whelmed around here (which means I am about that far from being overwhelmed). School has been in session and that means getting up earlier ( not my favorite) meal planning (which I should always do but usually don't) choir rehearsals two nights a week, yada, yada, yada. Add that to the on going activity at the abortion clinic in town, and the fact that I am sick again, for like the forth time in so many weeks, and I just barely have time to think, let alone blog. But, a few things have crossed my mind...
Community. Family and/or a faith community are vital for healthy spiritual lives. We all know how loneliness can be one of the crosses in life, even when we are surrounded by others. Spiritually speaking, Catherine Doehrty from Madonna House, says loneliness is a desert, and we can derive the same spiritual benefit as the Desert Monks if we use our loneliness wisely. But even the Desert Monks come together for feast days, and reconnect with their community. We all need companionship in our loneliness, and without it, the loneliness could be more harmful than useful.
Offering hospitality is also a vital part of a spiritual life. Even in loneliness, giving others a comfortable place to be, offering them simple but good food and allowing others to find the ability to relax and enjoy each others' company takes the biting sting out of loneliness, if for no other reason that the desert dweller is thinking about something else for a while.
There are particular temptations when one is in the desert of loneliness, mimicking the temptations Christ underwent in the desert.
"Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him: "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to turn into bread."
The desire to make something to soothe the hunger of loneliness out of something else (any old addiction will do) will immediately come to mind when one is suffering from the ache of loneliness. Just as a hungry Christ was tempted to turn stones into bread, we are tempted to soothe ourselves with something, anything, even self destructive addictions if it would only relieve our loneliness.
"Next the devil took him to the holy city, set him upon the parapet of the temple, and said, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. Scripture has it, 'He will bid his angels take care of you; with their hands they will support you that you may never stumble on a stone.'"
Another temptation is to be reckless with our spiritual lives during a painful spell of loneliness. If the soul is convinced he is too sad to pray, too desolate to put himself in the presence if God, too alone to find communion with the Church, that is akin to falling for the temptation to throw oneself off the temple, for surely God will save us. Of course, in loneliness, God is really already there right with us. Of course He is big enough to be put to the test, but our spiritual lives often are not in good enough condition to be put to the test, and to do so is only giving in to an infernal temptation.
"The devil then took him to a lofty mountain peak and displayed before him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, promising, "All these will I bestow on you if you prostrate yourself in homage before me."
Often the desire for more importance and power raises its ugly head during times of intense loneliness. One can come to wish for more recognition, respect, or approval from others, thinking that then the loneliness will lose its grip. Again, this is a lie and a temptation, because the desire for recognition, respect and approval is counter to true love. Love, to really love, it to be concerned with the beloved. True love is sacrificial in nature, and getting glory in this world works against sacrifice as quickly as anything I know.
So then, what is the answer to loneliness? I would follow the example of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta. How was it she was able to live in the desert of loneliness all those years, and yet be so obviously joyful (not happy, mind you, joyful.) How is it that she spent her life loving, and yet being lonely? She used the desert to grow her faith, to grow her joy and to grow her trust. Or shall I say God used her sacrifice of love, mercy, compassion to turn the sands of the desert of loneliness into the most fertile soil, where Bl. Teresa's faith, joy and trust grew to sustain her, until she was able leave the desert and attend the banquet feast for all eternity with her Beloved.