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A Catholic perspective on loneliness as Christmas approaches
William Douglas, Contributor
With Christmas rapidly approaching, a big thing I have always looked forward to is spending time with my family. Being the oldest of fourteen children, I never felt alone. Now that I am in university, though, it really feels like I have been venturing into a new world, without a lot of the people I had known growing up. In first year, I did not really know anyone all that well, so after I had gotten all my classes and tutorials out of the way, I would eagerly get on the soonest train home. Now, I no longer commute and am living in residence for my second year (for the first time!) at U of T, but I am going back home for Christmas.
However, many students living in residence come from other countries and are not in a position to go back home, if even just for the winter break. While our small residence has a very good community, where we all know each other by name, I would imagine that not being able to return to one’s family for the holidays brings a special loneliness. It is easy to feel alone when you are not with the people you have grown up with and known all your life. While I have never spent the holidays alone, I can relate a little to their loneliness, and in light of my Catholic faith, I feel compelled to share a few insights on the matter.
First, it is important to remember and yet so easy to take for granted that no one is ever truly desolate. We are blessed to have an infinite God, a Father who knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He is always there and always has time for everyone that comes to Him. This could be through common prayer, praying in time before and after Mass or, best of all, through Eucharistic Adoration. After being in communion with the Holy Spirit, I rarely if ever maintain feelings of loneliness. However, no two people are the same, and neither is every case of loneliness among the faithful. So, let us try a different approach.
The Catholic Church, by its very name, is universal. And all within it are brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter where I am, then, there is always family nearby — barring a 40–day sojourn in the desert. This is not just a trite saying either; it really does feel that way. While living on campus, I have made many good friends in my residence and at the nearby Campus Ministry. Some friends are close enough that they genuinely seem like family. I can tell them anything. And all I had to do to meet them was branch out, something I had failed to do while commuting last year. The Church has a way of guiding us to our extended families in Christ, and so even if I must be away from the family I had known as a child, there is always another waiting for me.
The feeling of being alone is a large cross to bear, but ironically, it is one no one bears alone. All over the world, there are many people who feel the same way. A prime example would be Jesus; being fully human, he would more than likely have felt every single thing we feel in our day-to-day lives, of which loneliness would not have been an exception. As mentioned above, he was in the desert for 40 days without a soul in sight, let alone his family. He did not just feel lonely, though. There was betrayal too, and the pain of his Passion and death on the cross for us. The mere knowledge that he suffered for our sake makes me feel loved, and it is quite the funny thing — when you feel loved, it suddenly gets very hard to feel alone.
So, if any of you who are reading this are in the situation of not being able to spend Christmas with family, my advice to you is the following: go to Adoration. Meet your extended family in Christ, and remember — as cliché as it sounds — that Jesus loves you. If you happen to know someone in this situation, I further encourage you to be that brother or sister who helps that person through a dark time.
Peace be with you all. God bless, and Merry Christmas!