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Pope Francis has focused our attention on one of his familiar themes – the problem of loneliness in our contemporary culture.

The pope has written about this issue in his messages for the World Day of the Sick, for Lent and for this year’s World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated on July 28, in conjunction with the feast day of Jesus’ grandparents, Sts. Joachim and Anne.

“It is not good that man should be alone,” he wrote for the World Day of the Sick, citing the Book of Genesis. “From the beginning, God, who is love, created us for communion and endowed us with an innate capacity to enter into relationship with others. Our lives, reflecting in the image of the Trinity, are meant to attain fulfilment through a network of relationships, friendships and love, both given and received. We were created to be together, not alone.”

Precisely because communion is so deeply rooted in the human heart, he wrote, the experience of abandonment, solitude, vulnerability and insecurity associated with serious illness can be frightening, painful and even inhuman.

The theme for this year’s celebration of Grandparents and the Elderly. Drawn from Psalm 71, the theme is “Do Not Cast Me Off in My Old Age.”

The Holy See Press Office announcement noted that in choosing this verse it was the Holy Father’s desire “to call attention to the fact that, sadly, loneliness is the bitter lot in life of many elderly persons, so often the victims of the throwaway culture.”

“By cherishing the charisms of grandparents and the elderly,” the press release reads, “and the contribution they make to the life of the church, the World Day seeks to support the efforts of every ecclesial community to forge bonds between the generations and to combat loneliness.”

During the first days of Lent, I was following the traditional devotion of the seven sorrows of Mary and I was struck by how alone Mary must have felt in her sufferings.

Her vocation was so singular, and her life so unique, that no one with whom she shared her earthly journey could have fully understood her life experiences, no matter how empathetic they strove to be.

Consider how alone Mary must have felt after the angel’s announcement that she had been chosen from among all women to bear the Savior.

Or, how fearful she must have been as she and Joseph hastily packed up their belongings and their newborn baby to flee to Egypt.

Imagine Mary’s anxiety when her son was suddenly missing during their journey home from Jerusalem, how confused she must have been when her neighbors in Nazareth chased Jesus out of the synagogue and tried to throw him off a cliff, how sorrowful and lonely she must have felt after the death of her husband, Joseph, and then how lonely she must have been when her Son had left home to pursue his mission.

Finally – although there are many other examples that could be cited – imagine Mary’s heart-wrenching sorrow and her sense of abandonment as her Son suffered a hideous death on a cross.

If you are experiencing loneliness or feel abandoned – no matter the cause – ask Our Lady to help you use your suffering to draw you closer to her Son, who suffered for love of us.

And if someone you know is experiencing pain or isolation, ask for the grace to know how to pause in the presence of this wounded brother or sister and to offer them the consolation of Christ who is always with us.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us. 

 


Comments from readers

Christine Mach - 05/15/2024 02:15 PM
Thank you sister for sharing your thoughts and writings. I enjoy them your insightful views. Yes, I often think of Mary's sufferings and how she felt. She was blessed and trusted by the Lord and was surrounded by angels but at times as she was human, I don't see how she could of not been lonely and afraid.
Donna - 05/14/2024 09:29 PM
This was a very insightful blog. I am sure Mary had all those feelings like any human being but she had complete trust that God would triumph.
Nina Thurston - 05/14/2024 05:58 PM
Sorry Sister but Mary was never alone. Nor I think felt abandoned or alone. Remember angels spoke to her. Granted she may have been challenged as we as humans are but just like us, she was not given more than she could bear. While you make a good point regarding how society treats elders at times. You fail to show how a relationship with God can take that feeling away from those suffering from loneliness. I enjoy reading your posts. Your bright and cheery tone is always a blessing. Be well !
Carlos Cueto - 05/14/2024 05:34 PM
Great blog bringing us to deep reflection! It made me ponder that, perhaps in her exquisite singularity, our Blessed Mother felt “aloneness,” not loneliness. God’s calling to each of us is singular, individualized, unlike that of our neighbor’s. In that, we may experience “aloneness” but, hopefully, we should never confuse the feelings with loneliness. Created in the likeness of God who, being Triune, is relational, we were individually created to be in unique relationship with God. We may, at times, feel loneliness but we must rest assured that we live, and only because, we exist rooted in the one-and-only relational Triune God who will never abandon us regardless of our unique (aloneness) calling to relationship and Christian mission! Carlos Cueto, DMin.

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