"I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”
? Albert Einstein
This is truly an extraordinary year. The Church "opens wide the doors of the saving mercy of Christ."
What does this mean? As Pope Francis teaches us, it means a great deal. Here are some of the things he said at the opening Mass for the Jubilee Year of Mercy:
"How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we affirm that sins are punished by his judgment before putting first that they are forgiven by his mercy!"
"It is truly so. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in every case God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy."
"Let us abandon all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us live the joy of encounter with the grace that transforms all."
How do we encounter this grace? There are many ways. For a complete guide to the Jubilee Year of Mercy you can read Everything You Need to Know About the Holy Year of Mercy.
As I contemplate what it means for me, one idea comes to mind: solitude.
Solitude is a misunderstood word, and it is not hard to see why. It is often used interchangeably with loneliness. But in reality, there are few similarities between the two.
Loneliness carries with it a negative connotation. When we are lonely we are missing somebody, or something. We can be lonely and yet surrounded by people.
Solitude is different. It is the state of being alone without being lonely. If loneliness is a state of deficiency, then solitude is a state of sufficiency. At least that is its goal. Solitude is something desirable. From it we draw sustenance. It suggests peacefulness, not restlessness. It is something we cultivate. Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to renew and replenish.
Are you seeking solitude with God? If not, you might be feeling as I have at times: restless, dissatisfied, unfulfilled, and even discontent. How do we find solitude with God? How have others who have gone before us (saints, popes, Church fathers) sought this?
I have gathered together verses from scripture and quotes from others regarding solitude and the virtues that can be drawn from it. This Holy Year of Mercy is indeed a gift from Our Lord. I believe solitude is a necessary ingredient to making the most of this great gift we have been given.
May we seek it often and may we hunger for time with Our Lord so that He can fill us with His love and His mercy.
The following are four simple tips for seeking solitude:
1. Make time for prayer.
"How did Our Lord act before beginning the preaching of the Gospel? He prayed and lived a life of recollection for thirty years. What a lesson for us who are always wanting to get there before we start, who having only the tiniest stock-in-trade , are anxious to give out what little we have as soon as we can, and thus become bankrupt! Now Our Lord is about to start work. He is thirty years of age; the time has come. Now we shall hear Him. No, not yet. He goes off into the desert for forty days. He wishes His words to rest upon the support of silence, and in the desert, far from all noise and contact with men, He recollects Himself. Does He need it? Not at all; but He wants to set us an example." —Father Raoul Plus, S.J.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. —Psalm 145:18
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. —Matthew 6:6
But [Jesus] would withdraw to deserted places and pray. —Luke 5:16
"Prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness."—St. John Chrysostom
"When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than the proceedings from the mouth." –St. Bonaventure
"The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, 'O God, forgive me,' or 'Help me.'" —Billy Graham
2. Make silence a part of your daily routine.
“We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally; to be alone with Him—not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything—to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation.” —Mother Teresa
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech." —Proverbs 10:19
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. —Psalm 141:3
"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls." —Mother Teresa
"The Master desired always to have His Apostles by His side; and the Apostles desired always to be with their Master. Of these two desires the first assuredly remains undiminished. But what of our desire to be as continually as possible close to our Master? We have as much time as we want for the distractions and occupations of this world. It would seem that for a heart-to-heart talk with God we cannot find a minute." —FatherRaoul Plus, S.J.
"Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God—there are too many frequencies filling our ears." —Pope Benedict XVI
3. Contemplate Christ in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
"Lord, how sweet is Thy Spirit! 'I know whom I have believed, and I am certain.' (2 Tim. 1:12.) I am certain that Thou art in the tabernacle. What happiness to remain during the most silent hours at the foot of the altar! Oh, who will give me the wings of a dove, that I may take my flight of love towards Thy divine Heart?" —St. Paul of the Cross
"In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful. It is a source of comfort and light, particularly to those who are suffering." —Pope Benedict XVI
"My greatest happiness is to be before the Blessed Sacrament, where my heart is, as it were, in Its center." — St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
“Whenever I go to the chapel, I put myself in the presence of our good Lord, and I say to him, Lord, I am here. Tell me what you would have me to do . . . And then, I tell God everything that is in my heart. I tell him about my pains and my joys, and then I listen. If you listen, God will also speak to you, for with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen. God always speaks to you when you approach him plainly and simply.”
—St. Catherine Laboure
4. Have boundless trust in God.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. —John 14:1-3
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6-7
"Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices." —Teresa of Avila
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. —Proverbs 3:5-6
“I plead with you—never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” —Pope Saint John Paul II
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle...It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” —Pope Saint John Paul II
"Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You."— Jesus to Sister Faustina Kowalska (From her diary)
What are your thoughts on being alone with God?
Have you ever made a point to seek this aloneness with Him, and how has it affected you?
We'd love to hear from you, so share your thoughts in the comments below!