Read

How We Can Cultivate Communion in Solitude

Published:
May 20, 2024
April 20, 2020
Living in solitude during this pandemic is difficult if you are used to socializing. Read how this author learned to befriend it.|Living in solitude during this pandemic is difficult if you are used to socializing. Read how this author learned to befriend it.

My parents live just a few miles away from my brother’s house, and if it were any other afternoon, they would be inside providing care for my two nephews. The pictures they sent recently painted a different reality. On this day, my parents were waving to their grandkids through the front window while the kids enthusiastically waved back. The littlest one was being held by his mom and said hello by repeatedly tapping on the glass.

This story joins the experience of millions of others who are trying to find ways of connecting during this pandemic. As I grapple with the reality of this crisis, I too find myself without the closeness of community. I have great longing to be near to those I love and show my care in person. The irony of the moment is knowing that the best way to love my community is to give them the space they need to stay healthy. Even on good days, this intentional distancing for the greater good is difficult. Often it feels like I am tapping the glass in search of connection. This is hard.

I often lack the vocabulary to properly articulate the dissonance between wanting to connect and being in isolation. The best words I can come up with have to do with feeling lonely or disconnected.

The 20th century writer Thomas Merton might be of help here with his wisdom about how we think about being alone. Merton was a American Trappist monk who lived in a cloistered community, which required him to be alone for long periods of time. He learned how being alone can serve as a life-giving practice. For Merton, being alone did not always equate to loneliness. In fact, it was the source of profound connection with God and community. He had a word for this: solitude.

As I learn to grapple with this temporary reality of social distance, I’ve been challenging myself to befriend solitude. Solitude teaches me to pay attention to my desire to connect. I am learning not to be afraid of that desire for relationship within me that rises in the midst of silence. It calls me to recognize that the true connection I long for is not just socializing — it is for communion with others.

Communion is more than just physically being with someone — it is an interior disposition. Therefore, solitude can be an opportunity to cultivate that disposition, even across distance — solitude can help us grow in compassion and concern, and to make room for others in our hearts.

If we can find a way to welcome it, solitude can be a gift, not a burden. The vacancy of everyday noise is opening up new spaces within my heart. My time alone can heighten my desire for authentic connection with others, and when I see that as a desire for communion, I can direct that seeking toward God and find a connection — both with Him and in solidarity with others.

My practice of solitude in service to communion so far has led to letting go of minor grievances and giving way to forgiveness. I have surrendered my obsession with efficiency in exchange for mercy. And that has been a gift.

This difficult time shall pass and we will be free again to go about our daily lives as we once did. In the meantime, though, may we discover the lessons that solitude might teach us: to listen, to heal, to discover new ways to love.

Creators:
Christian Santa Maria
Published:
May 20, 2024
April 20, 2020
On a related note...
Priests Visiting the Sick are ‘Saints Next Door’

Priests Visiting the Sick are ‘Saints Next Door’

Grotto Shares

Sharing the Joy of Caring for House Plants

Sharing the Joy of Caring for House Plants

Grotto

How Integrity Can Triumph Over Injustice

How Integrity Can Triumph Over Injustice

Shannon Evans

How to Be the Best Kind of Sports Fan

How to Be the Best Kind of Sports Fan

John Acquaviva, PhD

What We Can All Do to End Domestic Violence

What We Can All Do to End Domestic Violence

Grotto

A Christmas Hot Take: Chicago Needs Another Walnut Room

A Christmas Hot Take: Chicago Needs Another Walnut Room

Mike Rossetti

Thanksgiving Meals for Every Dietary Restriction

Thanksgiving Meals for Every Dietary Restriction

Mariah Cressy

How Canceling My Credit Cards Changed the Way I See Credit

How Canceling My Credit Cards Changed the Way I See Credit

Renée Roden

The Kind of Beauty and Wisdom We Need in Our Feeds

The Kind of Beauty and Wisdom We Need in Our Feeds

Grotto Shares

How to Settle into a New Neighborhood

How to Settle into a New Neighborhood

Clare Rahner

Why I'm Grateful for a Community That Challenges Me

Why I'm Grateful for a Community That Challenges Me

Kelly Sankowski

5 Biographies to Read This Women’s History Month

5 Biographies to Read This Women’s History Month

Jessica Mannen Kimmet

3 Keys to Engaging With Those We Disagree With

3 Keys to Engaging With Those We Disagree With

Neil Fulton

Making the Most of the Holidays Away from Home

Making the Most of the Holidays Away from Home

Andrew Mentock

Empowering Women Rescued From Sex Trafficking

Empowering Women Rescued From Sex Trafficking

Grotto

Uncovering the Untold History of Black Nuns in the US

Uncovering the Untold History of Black Nuns in the US

Grotto Shares

Food Activist Finds Beauty in Building a Better Future

Food Activist Finds Beauty in Building a Better Future

Grotto

Planting Trees to Restore the Urban Forest

Planting Trees to Restore the Urban Forest

Grotto

Creating A Community Center to Help Raise Leaders

Creating A Community Center to Help Raise Leaders

Grotto

Assistant Principal Finds Passion in Woodworking

Assistant Principal Finds Passion in Woodworking

Grotto

newsletter

We’d love to be pals.

Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll meet you in your inbox each week.