An approach to loneliness

I know this post comes hot on the heals of the last one, but I couldn’t help but offer a reflection on the loneliness that some now fear in our present crisis. Loneliness is a very real problem for some people – especially those living on their own – but it is not an insurmountable problem. It is possible to be alone and not feel lonely, and the fear of being isolated is often more imagined than real. I don’t want to deny that some people will feel isolated in this present situation, and we should all be on the lookout for them. However, most of us have neighbours to whom we can turn and there are many groups who are ready and willing to help those on their own.

As a student of the monastic life, I have to say that I have always been impressed by those who can maintain a life of silence and social distance – especially the Trappists, or Cistercians of the Strict Observance – whilst also remaining inwardly content and secure. I think the reason for this is that, even in their silence and distance from one another, they still feel the spirit that connects them in prayer – the common spirit that unites each and everyone as members of the human race and God’s creation. We are never alone if we imagine ourselves to be being held in the hands of God and in each others prayers. Of course, it is impossible to remember each other in prayer all the time, but monastic communities remember one another, and especially their absent members, at certain times each day.

One of the things we can offer to those who feel lonely or alone is the assurance of our prayers. We can offer to pray for them at a specific time, or a couple of times each day, and we may even want to share in that prayer time with a phone call, email, or other kind of personal contact. Some of us may have no choice but to be alone, but we don’t need to be lonely. Prayer can connect us to one another and to the source of all life. Prayer can also be the means by which we learn how to make personal contact with one another and, as St Benedict told his monks, prayer doesn’t have to be complicated and long-winded. In fact, St Benedict says that prayer should be brief, but it should be regular, often and consistent.

For the lonely, the worried and the anxious, I offer the following prayer courtesy of the Church of Eng;and:

A prayer for us all:

Loving God,
Bless us all, particularly now.
Particularly when we are comforting others
Particularly when we are offering hope
Particularly when people are isolated
Particularly when we feel overwhelmed ourselves
Particularly when we are afraid.
Help us to remember that you are right here, now, in the midst of us
Calling us by name.

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