Solitude

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

I could not have imagined when I started this blog that we would be in the middle of a pandemic – but here we are in the midst of lock downs and self – isolation. So many people have died or have experienced sickness, and this may have further complicated current health issues. I pray that if you have lost a loved one, during this time, you will find comfort in the prayers and poetry on this blog. May God comfort you in your grief…

This pandemic has forced us all into isolation; whether we are isolating with family members, living alone, in nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, or other locations. For those grieving, the pain of loss is compounded by the absence of family gatherings at funerals and other support systems that are now restricted due to the pandemic.

We cannot comprehend the meaning of what is going on in our world right now, though it is easy to speculate and ponder the theories and politics. I myself have certainly got caught up reading this and that and then feeling I really don’t know where this originated and why? This desert experience in my own life has led me to look at my own mortality and death and “to get things in order” so to speak. I hope to be adding more content on “that checklist” in the coming months – God willing!

Today I would like to share some personal thoughts on solitude in the desert times in our lives. The Bible tells us that Jesus went to pray in solitude. In Matthew’s Gospel we read that on hearing the news of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus went to a deserted place. “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” Matthew 14:13. Jesus is deeply moved and grieved by the death of John the Baptist and attempts to retreat by boat to a quiet place. The crowds, however follow, Him and yet he does not hinder them or turn his back on them – he has compassion. There are other places in the Bible where we read that Jesus went to a quiet place to pray, such as in Mark’s Gospel.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:31-32).

Here is an example from Luke’s Gospel: “When [Jesus and his disciples] had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26). This was Jesus’ “usual place” to pray when he was in Jerusalem (Luke 22:39).

When trials come, it can be difficult to contemplate God in our midst – but He is there. Sometimes even one day at a time is too much and all we can do is get through each moment – especially when a loved one is dying because each and every moment is part of our treasured journey with that soul.

Jesus gives us the example of not only making time for prayer but having a place to pray. Do you have a special place to pray or maybe you have a shrine or a special corner of your house? Maybe adoration is your special place that you are able to find solace and be still…

Jesus retreats, withdraws, is moved, and desires to be alone in a quiet place – and he goes willingly! In solitude God is present and when we enter into this desert place with him – we not only encounter God but we also encounter the desert in our souls; our weaknesses, our struggles, our fears, our hopes, our needs, our pain, our sufferings, our compassion, our kindness, our sinfulness, yet it is here that we encounter Love itself….

In solitude, God is with us.

Solitude can renew us and we can be transformed through conversion, seek penance – and our souls can be cleansed by God’s grace.

I pray that in these desert times we can all find a special place to draw close to God. Living in the countryside provides plenty of quietness and the opportunity for solitude. Though not without its challenges, the quietness and being surrounded by nature is for me – healing. It is healing because spending time outside and just being quiet allows me the opportunity to encounter God. I certainly like silence and “strive” for solitude in order to be alone with God. I use the word “strive” because it is certainly a challenge to retreat, and to find that blessed silence and to enter into solitude…willingly…

If we are unable to attend mass we can make a spiritual retreat in our homes, in our gardens…and in the silence in our hearts.

In solitude, God is with us

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).

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