Stay Home: Isolation Versus Solitude

Stay Home: Isolation Versus Solitude

COVID-19 has put me into forced self-isolation. Unless you are employed in an essential service, so are you.  As this extraordinary period of time of physical distancing and staying in our houses stretches out, I am hearing people beginning to complain about the isolation they feel. Many are becoming depressed.  

Having suffered with degenerative multiple sclerosis with its accompanying disability for over thirty-six years, I think I know quite a bit about being sequestered within my home for long periods of time. After all, I live on the western Canadian prairies where frigid winters descend for five months of the year and mountains of snow pile against the windows of my house. Wheelchairs and snow banks are not compatible. I have spent weeks at a time not leaving my home. Rather than dreading each winter, I have come to cherish those months of seclusion. They are holy times when my little house on the prairie becomes a type of cloister where I can draw nearer to God through prayer and my rosary, reading my Bible and the works of the early Church Fathers and more contemporary Christian authors. What others may think is lonely isolation is actually sweet quiet solitude.

There is a world of difference between isolation and solitude. The first is destructive, while the second is constructive. Isolation can break the heart of a man, but solitude nourishes his soul. Isolation depletes spiritual energy, solitude replenishes it.

Solitude and quietude can begin to open our hearts to the love of God.[1] His love is immeasurable, unfathomable, and inexpressible. Its beauty will surely break your hearts, as it has mine. In his letter to the Corinthians, Saint Clement 1 asked: “Who can express the binding power of divine love? Who can find words for the splendor of its beauty? Beyond all description are the heights to which it lifts us. Love unites us to God.”[2]

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He went on to say that it was out of divine love that Jesus gave His life on the cross for us and our salvation. That is the beauty of love that sweetly breaks the human heart.  

In his sermon on 1 John, Saint Augustine reminds us that the Apostle promised we shall be like Christ, for we will see Him as he is. There’s that inexpressible beauty of love again that sweetly breaks the human heart. Augustine said, “By these words, the tongue has done its best; now we must apply meditation of the heart.” He tells those who know Christ: “[W]e have received as John told us, an anointing by the Holy One which teaches us inwardly more than our tongues can speak. Let us turn to this source of knowledge and because at present you cannot see, make it your business to desire the divine vision.” 

Saint Augustine continues: “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire.  You do not see what you long for, but the very fact act of desiring prepares you, so that when He comes you may be utterly satisfied.”[3]

It is this desire that is sublimely heartbreaking. Quietude of prayerful solitude sharpens that desire for Christ. It is in stillness that we can begin to comprehend that God is with us, and that becomes more important when we are threatened by a pandemic such as the one we find ourselves now. 

This difference between loneliness and solitude is attitude and perspective. Use this time as a gift to grow and expand your interior life. Seek Jesus Christ to enlighten you. The threat of COVID19 is nothing compared to the immeasurable unfathomable, inexpressible love of God. There’s no need for wide-eyed fear. Rest in Christ. Regardless of what happens, we are under His care. Nothing can separate us from His divine love.  

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[1] Cf. Psalm 46.11 in the Catholic Bible, 46.10 in the Protestant Bible.

[2] Clement I, “Who can express the binding power of divine love?” in CHRISTIAN PRAYER: The Liturgy of the Hours, Clement I, (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 1976), p. 2021. 

According to the online publication Saints and Angels, Catholic online, “Little is known of this apostolic father beyond a few facts. He was a disciple of S. Peter, and perhaps of S. Paul. It is thought that the Clement whom S. Paul praises as a faithful fellow- worker, whose name is written in the Book of Life [Philippians 4:3], was afterwards bishop of Rome.  https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=37

[3] CHRISTIAN PRAYER, p. 2025.

Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 36 years. Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues and has received numerous awards, including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.

This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at humanlifematters.org/2020/04/stay-home-isolation-versus-solitude.html.