In the 60’s the Beatles composed a song and an album: “Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band.” World-famous for this song and album, the Beatles were placing their finger on the pulse of the modern society, a society with many individuals suffering from a crushing and almost unsupportable loneliness.
There are many ways that individuals cope with loneliness; some are excellent, others are good to a certain extent, others are bad and still others are deadly. A crushing loneliness can grip an individual in such a way that depression sets in and he/she feels life has no real meaning and questions why even live. Some, even, contemplate a recourse to suicide.
Others do not go so far as to commit physical suicide, but they do have recourse to a slow form of damaging their lives; you might even call it gradual suicide. These are the individuals that seek and escape from the crushing weight of loneliness by having recourse to vices; these escapes that we call vices are many; we will mention a few. Drugs, gambling, drinking to excess, overeating, the use of pornography as well as the use of sexuality outside the context of sacramental and marital commitment. At times individuals have recourse to more than one of these vices as an escape from their crushing loneliness. The more dense and crushing the loneliness the more they cling to one or more of these vices!
This being said, what are wholesome ways that we can cope with loneliness in our lives and maybe we can teach others proper and correct ways to deal with this modern, prevalent reality?
For believers what will be explained will not be a huge surprise! The key to coping with a heavy and crushing loneliness can be summarized in one simple word: GOD!!!
- GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE. The word “omnipresence” means in the most simple of terms: God is everywhere! No matter where we go, God is present to us. Indeed we can block God out of our lives, forget Him, be oblivious to His presence, or like an atheist deny that He even exists. Still this does not deny the fact that God exists. I can say a wall in front of my face is not present, but if I walk into it I will bruise my face or worse yet even get a concussion. St. Paul quoting a Greek poet encapsulates this concept with these words: “In Him we live and move and have our being.” The Psalmist expresses God’s omnipresence with utmost clarity and precision: “Where can I hide from your spirit? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, “surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light. Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.”(Psalm 139: 7-12)
- DIVINE INDWELLING THROUGH GRACE. One of the hallmarks of Carmelite spirituality is that of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in our soul through sanctifying grace. If we conserve grace within our soul by avoiding mortal sin then not only are we surrounded by God (His Omnipresence), but He is truly present in the very depths of our soul. If we like we can talk to this Triune God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as often as we like and as long as we like. How great is our God!
- JESUS AS FRIEND. In the course of the Last Supper discourse, Holy Thursday night, Jesus spoke very tenderly to the Apostles as well as to us. Jesus said: “I do not call you servants because the servant does not know what the Master is about, but I call you FRIENDS…” What a consoling truth and what an efficacious remedy to overcome modern loneliness: to recognize, experience and cultivate a deep and lasting FRIENDSHIP with Jesus! Engraved below a beautiful painting of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus are written the words in Spanish: “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.”Translation: “Jesus is the Friend that never fails us.”How true! We all fail Jesus every time we decide to sin, but He never fails us. For that reason we read and meditate the words from the Book of Revelation: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. Whoever opens the door I will come in and dine with him and him with me.”(Rev. 3:20) Indeed striving with all of the fiber of our being to grow in friendship with Jesus can prove to be one of the most efficacious means to cope with loneliness and if we are struggling to overcome some vice—whatever it might be: drink, porn, drugs, despair! Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Friendship with Jesus is the most consoling, solid, noble, satisfying, and capable of constant growth.
- UNLOADING TO MY FRIEND JESUS. Years ago a wonderful moive came out in Spanish with the title: Marcelino, Pan y vino. The essence of this film is this orphan-boy(Marcelino) adopted by the Franciscan community grows up with the Frailes and then Marcelino meets his best friend: Jesus as He hangs on the cross in one of the upper rooms. The little boy immediately strikes up a friendship with Jesus crucified. He talks to Jesus and Jesus responds to the little boy. Constantly, on the sly, the little boy visits Jesus and talks to Him. Not only does the little boy talk to Jesus but consoles Him with concrete gestures. Noticing Jesus’ bones jutting out, he brings Him bread and wine. Then he brings Jesus his blanket so that He would not suffer cold. The little boy seeing the head crowned with piercing thorns, he climbs a ladder to relieve Jesus of the suffering by actually taking the crown off His head. Growing deeper and deeper in their friendship, something has always weighed heavy on the heart of the little boy—the absence of a loving mother. Marcelino opens his aching heart to Jesus about being orphan to the love of a mother. Jesus responds by allowing the little boy to see “His mother”. The movie culminates with a loud noise, the little boy falling back (actually dying), so that he is taken up to heaven to rest in the arms of Mary, his heavenly Mother. Therefore, a key element of coping with loneliness, conquering loneliness is not to deny our loneliness nor to deny our problems. If done our loneliness and problems will get worse. The key is to talk to Jesus as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our dear and loving Mother about our loneliness and problems. Once a problem is shared with a loving heart the problem diminishes greatly or will even disappear.
- JESUS: YOUR EUCHARISTIC FRIEND AND COMPANION. One of the greatest remedies to cope with or conquer loneliness is to establish a deep faith, confidence, and love for Jesus (your best Friend) in the context of the Blessed Sacrament, Mass, and Holy Eucharist. Establish a habit of visiting your Friend Jesus present in the Tabernacle in His Eucharistic Presence. Attend daily Mass if you have the time. Receive Jesus in Holy Communion with great love and devotion. After receiving Him in Holy Communion spend some time after Mass; close your eyes and talk to your Friend Jesus who is now living in the very depths of your soul. Tell Him everything that is on your mind, in your soul, all that is present in the very depths of your heart. This is the closest and most intimate union that can exist on earth—the union of our heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus present in you after Holy Communion.
If we establish a deep and dynamic Friendship with Jesus and Mary in this life that crushing loneliness that we experience will be lifted like the sun that dissipates the early morning clouds, or like the dew that evaporates on the morning grass. Still more important, if Jesus is your best Friend now in time in this present world, then when we pass from this world to the next He will be our best Friend forever in heaven, where loneliness will no longer exist.
Therefore none of us have to belong to the Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band. Rather we belong to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.