Jun 24, 2020 1220 Father Joseph Gill,

Question: I feel very alone in life. I am disconnected from my family, and I have few friends. How can I find happiness if I am achingly lonely?

Answer: Loneliness is a painful, but common, part of life. A recent study published by pharmaceutical giant Cigna found that 46% of Americans feel “sometimes or always” lonely, and the highest rate of loneliness is in young people (ages 18-22). So, if you are lonely, know that you are not alone! (Pun intended).

All of us, at times, feel loneliness. As a priest, there are certainly times when I feel the ache. For me, Sunday afternoon is when I feel loneliest. The Sunday morning Masses are always imbued with such joyful encounters with devout, lively parishioners, but when they all go home to be with their families, I return to an empty rectory.

But when that happens, I try to turn my loneliness into solitude. What’s the difference? Loneliness is the pain of lacking connection with other human beings. Solitude is the peace of being intimately connected to the Lord. As painful as it may be, loneliness can be an invitation into a deeper intimacy with the Lord. When we feel that ache, that longing for human contact, we can readily invite the Lord in to fill that emptiness. He is our closest Friend; He is the Lover of our souls.

And He knows what it is like to be lonely! During His Passion, almost all of His friends abandoned Him, causing immense pain to His Sacred Heart. We can share our loneliness with Him.

But, at the same time, “it is not good for man to be alone!” (Genesis 2:18). Thankfully, we are part of a larger community: the Body of Christ, the Church. We are surrounded by our Church family at all times—not just the earthly community of believers, but the angels and Saints (“The Church Triumphant”). Their lives can inspire and comfort us. There are many Saints who I feel personal connected to: St. John Bosco, St. Pancras, Mother Teresa. They are my friends, although at this time our friendship is on the level of “pen pals”. When I petition their intercession, they reciprocate with insights as they pray for me! But some day, I hope to meet them face-to-face and enjoy their company forever.

When we pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory (“The Church Suffering”), we also connect to our loved ones who have gone before us, and those who have no-one to remember and pray for them because they suffered loneliness on earth. By offering up the pain of our loneliness for them and entreating their prayers in return, we transform our misery into merit.

In addition to our heavenly friends, “The Church Militant” (members of the Church here on earth) should also provide a community for us. Get involved in your church and you will meet inspiring, friendly people. Perhaps there is a Bible study to join. You could participate in a group for people in your stage of life (or start a group if there isn’t one). Maybe you could find friends by helping others with the Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul, Care and Concern or another service-oriented group. Sometimes we have to look outside our own parish.

Are there other Catholic churches in your town with vibrant activities and a community more relatable to you? I have been in some parishes where the community atmosphere is warm and loving, and other places where it was lacking. One particular parish, where I was assigned, was a place of very little community. Parishioners would come to Mass and leave immediately. So, in search of a community, I began to volunteer at a local Catholic school where I met some wonderful families who are still my friends today. I guarantee the community is “out there”, if we only have the courage to look!

For those who are homebound, connections can be forged in other ways. Perhaps begin writing letters to Catholic prisoners who need support and encouragement. We could always pick up the phone and initiate the contact with family members or old friends. Sometimes just sending an unexpected thank-you card can re-establish or deepen a friendship.

Although loneliness can be the catalyst which activates a deeper relationship with God, He also desires that we live in fellowship with others, supporting each other. We are made to show our love for God by developing a community of family and friends to love and care for. Seek them out—and you will find them.


Father Joseph Gill

©Father Joseph Gill is a high school chaplain and serves in parish ministry. He is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Gill has published several albums of Christian rock music (available on iTunes). His debut novel, “Days of Grace” is available on amazon.com.

Latest Articles