Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Learning how to properly utilize a "day off" is doubtlessly going to be one of the most daunting tasks of this summer. It's not that they don't come often enough; it's just that with loads of downtime in between the usual activities of the day (which simultaneously tends to come at a very abrupt end, as I'm quickly discovering), it's hard to employ this time in ways that will serve to edify me spiritually as well as those around me. I haven't had any trouble finding time to pray the daily Office, and I've kept up with my daily rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. However, there's still the unexpected quiet times - the Saturday evenings following the 5:00PM mass, for example - where no one else is around at the rectory and no parish activity is there to occupy my time, either. It's times like these, I'm discovering, where extreme loneliness strikes. Sometimes even trying to "pray my way" through it doesn't quite work. I feel as though there's something that needs to be done, some unfinished task that must be completed.

It could be that I simply can't bear the thought of being alone, but as an introvert, such a diagnosis seems awfully unlikely. There's a really dreadful sort of emptiness in these moments that I can't quite explain. I don't think it's fair to call it a simple fear of being alone, and it's certainly not a "dark night of the soul" ass described by people like St. John of the Cross. It's days like today, where the only "work" I had was to attend the school dance recital and the 5:00PM mass, where it strikes the most. Is it the idea that I'm not useful? That I'm not loved? That I am not loving?

Whatever it is, I can only imagine what it must be for an ordained priest to live through this day after day. I don't know how the priests here at St. Ben's do it! I never see them really chatting with each other outside of dinner and before mass; they seem to keep to themselves. For my part, I made sure to call up another seminarian buddy for dinner to keep myself in check. We briefly mentioned this same topic and he mentioned the advice of a certain Fr. Ted Ross, a Jesuit spiritual director who specifically warned us all at a retreat this past winter about the loneliness of the priesthood. I don't think any of us quite understood what he meant at that point; I certainly didn't. Nights like tonight, however, are helping me to at least begin to understand ever so slightly.

So what is the cure to this loneliness? The "magic bullet" to any form of spiritual darkness is Jesus; people dismiss this as a cliche, "feel-good" aphorism, but there is definitely truth to it. Some people flee to bar scenes only to cry and moan from a hangover the next morning; some try to grasp a cure in money and material possessions, and it does, at the very least, give them some security for awhile. But they are rarely, if ever, satisfied, and they die off leaving behind nothing but piles of green paper in their wake.

But it isn't always easy to just "let go and let God," even when I'm cooped up in a rectory (of all places!). Having already finished a rosary and other prayers, what more can I do that will cure this ache? I can't just drown my sorrows in books and video games; that's just a slightly less scenic and slightly less individualistic version of the "bar scene" route. There must be SOME way out of it...what is it?

Dear Lord, help me find the cure to loneliness! I know it must surely be You, but finding you amidst darkness is harder than trying to find a needle in a haystack...or is it? Are these the moments in which You are "waiting in plain site?" Please, in all things, in all times, both good and bad, never, ever lead me away from You! AMEN!!!

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