Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Catholic Hermit: Loneliness, Solitude

The other day, came across a small piece of old holy card or such.  Had pasted it on a postcard, thinking would send it to someone, sometime.  It was in a box stored in attic garret, amidst some stationery.  The citation cut off, the quote seems to be a private message from His Real Presence to someone.

"I shall lead you through the loneliness,

the solitude you will not understand;
but it is My shortcut in your soul."

How appropriate for a hermit, or anyone, really.

The definition of "loneliness" has with it the suggestion of sadness and of a state in which a person does not want to be--left to oneself, without company, sadly alone, or even desolate.  The definition of solitude is similar but also includes the essence of peace and tranquility in being left to oneself or alone, as if more a choice to be so.

Last week a friend from far away visited with an adult son.  They brought their lunch, and with the hermit ate our simple fare on the back deck among the cut wood ends, sawdust, compound miter saw and bench, and garden supplies.  The friend mentioned how we are made to be with others, to have community, and that perhaps the hermit needed more to be around people.  The comment was relative to a discussion of the area and the past two years, and the irony of neighbors here staying to themselves and the difficulty with hired help returning to finish what are tail ends of jobs and instead go off to larger, more lucrative work.

It all seemed fine with the hermit, once it understood that more than the finishing of a hermitage and above any temporal affect, the Lord wishes the hermit to learn various virtues, particularly that of total and complete faith, patience, and perseverance in hardship.  So it seemed humorous, when viewed with God's plans and goals for this one here, at this time of life, to see the irony in God's providing for the greater good of an exile experience.

At other times, the solitude can veer more to a feeling of the sorrowful aspect of "loneliness", or of a sense of desolation--IF the hermit loses the view of goodness in being graced with and cooperating with, striving with, some great virtues, particularly faith.  And it is not just faith, but total and complete faith--a high degree of faith, a degree nearing perfection of faith as an ultimate desire.

The friend commented that it does not seem "right" that the hermit have this much solitude, which seems rather extreme to some, for sure.  Yet there really are no options.  It is not as if the hermit can pick up and move back into civilization, for the hermitage remains unsalable, and the finances do not allow chucking it.  In our time period, money is needed for a hermit to live elsewhere, to rent a room or live in a campsite!  We don't have the option of finding some cave to move into.  The caves are on private property or on government park property; it all takes money and an approval of the land owner, and then there are such realities as health codes governing living with running water and having heat, trash disposal, paying taxes, and so forth.

When the friend emphasized that it does not seem right for a person to live in such solitude, and that God made us to be with others in a community--the hermit said it had recently pondered that, as well.  Jesus did not exemplify or advocate a hermit way of life, as his going off for 40 days was a suggestion of such, or spending nights alone in prayer, but he was not a hermit by vocation.  But then, the hermit commented to the friend that He did not live a married vocation, nor was he a temple priest.

The friend smiled and said had not thought of that.  The friend had been in the married vocation, and Jesus had not.  But Jesus knew of those who were essentially hermits:  many of the prophets, including John the Baptist.  They lived lives of solitude to varying degrees and for varying lengths of time. Some returned more to people, or people sought them out, or they came upon people like Elijah had, or Jeremiah--sent to deliver messages--or John the Baptist to prepare the way for people to recognize and turn to the Messiah.

They were called prophets, not hermits, back then.  Many were called other words, as well, by those who did not understand how God would utilize such rather extreme-type humans, their sights set on God above all things, with a stricter separation from the world, more hidden from the eyes of men and some very hidden so much so that there are no doubt many who did not find mention in Scriptures.  The names of the Essenes (John the Baptist's and Jesus' forbearers) are for the most part buried with their bones in the desert or mountains.

The friend and son left after meaningful conversation and some manual labor help (so grateful!).  The hermit then uncovered this bit of post card upon which years ago it had glued the little quote and image with it; and God spoke to the hermit this reminder and reason for the seeming enforced solitude and nuances of loneliness.  Again: "I shall lead you through the loneliness,

                               the solitude you will not understand;
                               but it is My shortcut in your soul."

Yet the hermit does understand the solitude to a point--in that it has become obvious through circumstances these past couple or more years of exile.  (And, the hermit's friend and friend's son visited; and the hermit's adult daughter and her family visit once every month or two.)  God has ordained and set forth the circumstances and allowed that there is really no way out of this degree of solitude in exile, until such time as the hermit dies or loses ability to function, or is slowly able to have the place livable to most human's desires...and salable by current, real estate market standards. 

What the hermit had forgotten, in part, is the reason for God's choosing and allowing this time of exile, of a greater degree of solitude, silence--and at times seemingly to the nuance of current defined loneliness as desolation.  Rather, "The solitude is His Real Presence's shortcut to the hermit's soul."  It is in the solitude that He will teach, hone, convert, conform, and unite the hermit's soul to His Real Presence.

Thus, the solitude, the loneliness, are most welcome guests here.  The loneliness loses that aspect of definition as desolate and forlorn as if not acceptable to others or shunned.  No, the solitude and loneliness of a hermit is not even so much of its own efforts or choosing and in fact ought not be other than its total surrender to God's will.  The solitude and loneliness of a hermit, in genuine aspects as result of going with God's flow, is that of God's choosing and orchestrating the silent sounds of His Real Presence in the soul.

God bless His Real Presence in us!  Little children, let us love one another and remain together in His Love.  In His Love is our conjoint spiritual communion and community mystically lived.

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