March 23, 2012

Loneliness and Communion

I grew up feeling like something of a stranger and alien in this world, as someone who felt like he didn't get what was going on or why other people were the way they appeared to be. As I got older and made good friends, I found that people became less opaque as I got to know them. I was grateful for such connections and the gift of friendship. So as a young adult I had this idea that people would become less unintelligible as I got to know them, and I would delight to find that a lot of people were quite lovable once you really listen to them.

In a certain way, years of living in religious community have made me shift once again. There's a particular loneliness that comes from living so closely with others, for the exterior intimacy of common life serves to accentuate the irreducible discreteness of each member. In other words, after I get to know the other members, a new opacity starts to emerge, and I realize how much I don't really know or understand the other, why he says the things he says or does the things he does, what really 'makes him tick,' as it were. One comes up against a core of individuality that cannot be pierced by the insight into another. Many times we don't even have the option of sharing our own since we're not even acquainted with it ourselves.

I've been thinking about how this is why the communion of saints is an article of faith. To say that I believe in the communion of saints is not just to confess my confidence that Mary, Joseph, Francis and Benedict Joseph Labré are praying for me right now, although it certainly means that, but to confess my faith that the operations of the Holy Spirit among the baptized are broader, wider, higher, and deeper than my awareness. Thus, in the life of a religious in community, it is the confession that the connections and resonances one is aware of are just a portion of the larger economies of grace. To put it simply, in our life with each other, God is up to more than we are aware of. So we might feel lonely, but a sense of isolation is an illusion.

1 comment:

Greg said...

How ironic. This weekend I met some of your Order's novitiates here at the Los Angeles Archdiocese Religious Education Congress.

All impressed me, but one in particular, with whom I had the opportunity to chat at length, made a significant impression and brought me great hope for the future of Franciscans.

All had such admiration for you... you are a "rock star" without knowing it and perhaps the Lord is not letting you know of all the love offered in your direction as it might overwhelm you...

So remain, as always, the humble friar you are, one who brings Christ to so many with a gentle touch of honesty and transparency and the heart of Francis.