Loneliness is a public health crisis. Catholic parishes can help.

In today’s tech-savvy, app-happy world, “friends” or “connections” are often only a few clicks away. Yet even as our global society is more interconnected than ever before, loneliness, especially among older people, not only persists but can be the cause of a host of other physical and mental challenges. This year neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published findings identifying a part of the brain that generates feelings of loneliness and is linked to depression, but researchers had already known that loneliness can cause physical pain, wreak havoc on one’s sleep and even increase one’s risk of dying. Recently, Great Britain has devoted increased public health resources to programs intended to ease the effects of loneliness, including a helpline for lonely seniors.

Studies show that feelings of loneliness may have evolved to motivate us to survive by reaching out to our communities. Yet they also show that those suffering from loneliness also can feel more averse to meeting new people, in part out of fear of rejection. Helplines and screenings can help alleviate this pain, but government programs cannot be the only solution. Catholic parishes must play a role in countering what some have termed an “epidemic of loneliness.” Creating groups to visit nursing homes or to organize transportation to and from parish events can be a big help to parishioners who may otherwise be unable or not comfortable enough to attend. Personal invitations often go a long way toward making people feel welcome. And taking the time to stop and talk with new faces at Mass can help to affirm for those who have made the effort to reach out that they are in the right place, one where all are welcome at the table.

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Bruce Snowden
1 year 2 months ago
Obviously the dominant character of the word L-ONE-ly is ONE, a reality that even God rejected without beginning, or end, preferentially accommodating the Godhead to the companionship of Three Persons, Divine Omnipresence revealing undivided unity, individuality expressed in the Oneness of One God, clearly an achievement only possible in Divine limitless potential. From the Blessed Trinity important practical human application becomes tangible helping to avoid the pitfall of L-ONE-lines. Here's a simple example. Once in a near empty Church in late morning, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, I saw a woman weeping, face buried in her hands, head bowed. I went over to her and said. "Is there someway that I may help you?" She looked at me and said, "Thank you, I'll be O.K." I walked away saying a prayer for her. Years later walking on the street the same lady stopped me and said, "Do you remember the day in Church when you stopped to asked if you could do something to help, as I was weeping?" I had forgotten having done so, but her question prodded my memory and it all came back. "Yes,I do remember. How are you?" Responding she said, "I'm good now and want to thank you for caring enough to be willing to help me. It meant very much to me!" Righteously sharing self, imitating the loving spirit of companionship, "togetherness" that holds the Godhead together everlastingly, deleting loneliness, can also hold humanity together deleting loneliness. Let's choose to do so - it's the Godly thing to do - it's the human thing to do.. Opportunities abound.
ed gleason
1 year 2 months ago
Bruce, Good story. My wife and I are walking the streets of the Tenderloin with a habited Franciscan for about an hour on weekday mornings. It's Fr John's new ministry. Just saying hello and it is working well. The Tenderloin is a poverty area of poor, drugs and homeless in San Francisco. We just started in the last few weeks and it is being well received and is working . We are being stopped to talk after many greetings of 'good morning'..Fr John is asked for blessings and some even offer spontaneous prayers along with their sad tales. My name for this is WHAT... Walking Habits Around Tenderloin. I do an Abbott and Costello routine when asked by family and friends about WHAT we are doing.''We are doing WHAT'.
Bruce Snowden
1 year 1 month ago
Hi Ed, just read your comment and say thanks. Thanks too for your WHAT Ministry - yeah I remember that Abbot and Costello scene, still good for a laugh. It is just great that you, your good wife and the Franciscan Fr. John are making Tenderloin "tender" with reciprocal love, hello, a hug, or a smile, are all that's needed to melt the ice of hearts frozen by avaricious rejection. Once I helped a poor man with a small amount of money (I should have been more generous) and he threw his arm around me and gave me all he had to give - his love - also his body odor from his soiled clothing. I went home and laundered-away his self-gift of the "unwashed" but his love I kept close to my heart and it's still there although he is now with the Lord. God bless you, your good wife and Associates in doing the Lord's work. Thanks for telling me about it!
Mike Evans
1 year 2 months ago
Yet the church's adamant requirement of celibacy destins our faithful priests who have served us all these years to fend for themselves after retiring without the comfort, care and solace of a soul mate. It's as if he is being punished for all those years of loneliness, of avoiding close friendships, of repressing all sexual urges, of being denied even something as simple as a good night kiss, or morning awakening. Is this the way to holiness? The real lonely are the young. Most do not have close friendships they can rely on. Their lives are fluid and roaming; until later when they complete studies, start a career and have the courage to begin being a family. Who is there to be their friend, to hold their hand in times of hardship?
Bruce Snowden
1 year 2 months ago
Hi Mike, Mt-19:12 answers the "why?" about celibacy but the "how?" Jesus said the charism of celibacy is meant only for those who can take it, not mandated for everyone, although St.JP II once said that married people should also practice celibacy occasionally, participating in its charism. I agree with that. At any rate loneliness does happen with married people too, not just with the celibate countered by prayerful high fives paling around with Jesus, not easy but doable. It would take a lot of rearrangement but the ideal of celibacy would be better served if it were voluntary, maybe something like the way the Orthodox Church does it. Since celibacy was recommended by Jesus, it should be honored but in a better way, somehow? Jokingly a priest friend once said, "I go to my room at the end of the day, open the door and say, 'Honey, I'm home!' then he added, oops sorry, I forgot I'm not married!"

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