Monday, February 16, 2009

A Fortress of Solitude

Having just ticked over another birthday on my life’s odometer, I’ve been the recent object of well-wishing. From co-workers to friends and especially family, the many words, hugs and handshakes were all welcome, of course.

But after all the cards and some gifts – including dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant, Giacomo’s in Norristown, and my mom’s incomparable lasagna – something hit me late Sunday night.

As I walked the fairways and roughs of a darkened golf course at 10 p.m. with my dog, the desire for solitude became intense. Nothing but stars above, grass below my feet, the cold air and jangle of Doc’s collar occupied my attention. People, especially people I love, are great, but there is a need for aloneness, too.

It’s a personal asceticism of great value to me. A piece to be published in the Catholic Standard & Times on Thursday gives a wider sense of asceticism for the family.

This week readers of the CS&T will read Michelle Francl-Donnay’s Catholic Spirituality column about the value to a family when it “gives up” ordinary ways of living for simpler ones.

This kind of “Christian simplicity” is rooted in the baptismal call we all share, and further in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Asceticism is not an easy way, but as the saying goes, nothing good ever is.

We’re entering the Church’s annual season of Lent soon. That’s often a time for “giving up” foods or other things. After this weekend, while I reflect on Michelle's column (read past ones plus more resources) and before Lent begins, I am going to seek a bit of healthy asceticism.

There’s a challenge for everyone to find ways to fit solitude into our busy lives. Like our master did, we need to withdraw to those “out of the way places.” No need to travel to a desert, but rather, carve out a time and setting from which solitude and prayer enable us to be people for others.