Information Bulletin 86

March 2008

This Information Bulletin is also available to download as a PDF: 200803.pdf

Dear Brothers in Ministry

While with some colleagues recently in Adelaide, I flipped through a book two of them had just bought. It was Ronald Rolheiser's The Restless Heart: Finding our Spiritual Home in Times of Loneliness. Since we were having afternoon tea, I only had time to look at the headings page-by-page; they alone told a powerful story - though not complete by any means.
My occasional reference to loneliness during retreats or conferences is at times challenged: ‘aloneness' I am told, not loneliness! Sure, a wonderfully deep and enriching spirituality with "Christ as the definitive answer" is such a blessing. We all strive for that daily.
On the other hand, Rohleiser insists, "No person has ever walked our earth and been free from the pains of loneliness. Rich and poor, wise and ignorant, faith-filled and agnostic, healthy and unhealthy have all alike had to face and struggle with its potentially paralysing grip. It has granted no one immunities. To be human is to be lonely." Today, he says, people in the West experience it with much greater intensity than ever before.
For our own pastoral awareness and effectiveness, I thought it may be useful to print those eye-catching headings-pointers only to a fuller description given in his 2004 book. The topic touches everyone; it is both a "danger and opportunity." Remember Augustine's insight: "our hearts are restless until ... (Confessions, 1:1).

Best wishes for the Paschal Season.
Frank Devoy, Director

{/slide} {slide=Nature of Loneliness}


The Hidden Cost: the Dangers of Loneliness
1. Loneliness, if not understood, can be destructive of human intimacy and love:
· Loneliness can lead to over-possessiveness in relationships
· Our loneliness often leads us to over-exert ourselves in relationships
· Loneliness can also be destructive of human intimacy and love as it leads us to over-expect in relationships

2. Loneliness can cause us to be unable to channel our creative and effective energies in a meaningful and disciplined way:
· Because of our loneliness, we often find it hard to make ourselves present to the moment
· Because of our loneliness, we find it difficult to make choices
· Our loneliness often prevents us from entering into any type of creative solitude

3. Loneliness can and often does drive us into many premature and irresponsible decisions.

4. Loneliness can, if it is not faced and grappled with in a meaningful way, lead us to become a hardened and desensitized person.

5. Loneliness, if not understood, can be the cause of much inexplicable unhappiness and tension.
6. Ultimately, loneliness can be totally destructive of our human personality:
· We become "Wearied and Tired."
· We become "Tormented and Afflicted."
· We will become "Darkened and Blind."
· We become "Defiled and Stained.
· We become "Weakened and Lukewarm."

Need for a Definition / A General Definition
Specific Types of Loneliness
Psychological Depression
Bringing the Problem into Theological Focus

{/slide} {slide=Christian Understanding}


A Universal Story of Struggle
Reasons for Loneliness

1. The Loneliness That Is Caused by Sin
2. The Loneliness That Is Caused by the Transitory Character of All Things

3. The Loneliness That Comes from the Very Nature of the Human Person

· Our nature is such that our desires and appetites continually outstrip our accomplishments
· Our nature is such that we have a certain "timelessness" within us
· Our nature is such that we have within us an unquenchable thirst for God

Toward a Resolution to Loneliness

1. Stoicism
2. Conversion
3. A Community of Life with God and Others


Christ as the Definitive Answer

Reasons for Loneliness

1. The Loneliness of Sin
2. The Loneliness of Being a Pilgrim on Earth

· Jesus' Understanding of the Human Person
· Jesus' Understanding of the Time Framework of Salvation History

Toward Resolution: Definitive Directions

1. Away from Sin
2. Toward the Gospel

{/slide} {slide=Summary: "As Through A Glass, Darkly"}

Some Christian theologians on loneliness
The Value of Tradition
Augustine (354-430)
Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)
· Loneliness is not just a thirst for God, but a thirst for other persons in the world, as well
· Loneliness is what makes us dynamic beings
· Loneliness, if listened to tells us of God's purpose for us
John of the Cross (1542-1591)
· There is an immense danger in loneliness
· In order to arrive at our real depth, we must enter into our loneliness
· When we first do enter into our loneliness, we enter into the pain of "purgatory."
Karl Rahner (1904-1984)
· Loneliness is co-extensive with our personality
· Loneliness is what motivates us and makes us dynamic beings
The Hidden Benefits of Loneliness
Loneliness can be helpful in spurring us on towards both greater commitment and greater creativity
· Loneliness can help us to become more under-standing and empathetic
· Loneliness can be a force that helps to sensitise us to the needs and the yearnings of our heart
· Loneliness, if listened to, puts pressure on us to pay the price of love, namely, self-sacrifice
· Loneliness is God's way of drawing us towards the end for which He made us, namely, union with God and with our fellow human beings
· Loneliness can help lead us to make a commitment of faith
· Loneliness can teach us that we are pilgrims on earth
· Loneliness is an invitation to share in the loneliness of Jesus.
Toward a spirituality of loneliness
No instant solutions
a) Handling "Alienation": In Search of Integration

1) Risk; 2) Vulnerability; 3) Free Space
4) Playfulness; 5) Self-sacrifice.

b) Handling "Restlessness": In Search of Solitude

· Giving Up False Messianic Expectations
· An Inward Journey
· A Lifelong Struggle
· Affective Prayer.

c) Handling "Fantasy": In Search of Truth.
d) Handling "Rootlessness": In Search of the Still Point.

· Movement toward That Which Is Beyond Time
· Commitment
· Renewing Our Sense of History
· Finding a Still Point Inside a Community of Faith

e) Handling "Psychological Depression": In Search of an Ad Hoc Solution

{/slide} {slide=Toward a final solution: in search of the community of life}

{xtypo_quote_left}"We should recall
that no man is an island,
entire of itself. {/xtypo_quote_left}

Our lives are involved with one another,
through innumerable interactions they are linked together.

No one lives alone.
No one sins alone.
No one is saved alone.

The lives of others continually spill over into mine:
in what I think, say, do and achieve.

And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse.
So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death.
In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other-my prayer for him- can play a small part in his purification ....
It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.
In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too." -- Spe Salvi (2007), no. 48

  • Created: 01 March 2008
  • Modified: 29 April 2009