Why Do I Feel So Alone?
Few could say they have never felt alone but loneliness seems to be on the rise. We are speaking here of true loneliness – of alienation.
So, what is true loneliness? It is “the loss of the authentic meaning of life.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)
We become alienated when we “detached from reality;“, when we stop “thinking and believing in a foundation.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 53)
And this “age in which we live… is [surely] threatened to a great extent by ‘alienation’.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 15)
WHY DO I FEEL ALONE?
Multiple studies have documented the troubling rise of loneliness in the U.S. Why is this happening?
Pope Francis points out this “alienation at every level” occurs when “a society becomes alienated – when its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer the gift of self and to establish solidarity between people”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 196)
“[P]eople use one another…they seek an ever more refined satisfaction of their individual and secondary needs, while ignoring the principal and authentic needs”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)
Recounting how when greeting a group of young people only a few reached out to shake his hand – while most held their cell phones for selfies, Pope, Francis said “The world of virtual communication is a good thing, but when it becomes alienating, it makes you forget to shake hands.” (Pope Francis)
When you feel alone the cause goes deeper than how many friends you have on social media.
FEELING ALONE IS CAUSED BY SPIRITUAL ALIENATION
Loneliness, which is where alienation leads, is a result of a dreadful separation from God:
“When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
And there is even a danger “that by a constant refusal to open the doors of [our] hearts to Christ” we “will end up condemning [our]selves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell.” (Pope Francis, 3)
“The concept of alienation needs to be led back to the Christian vision of reality, by recognizing in alienation a reversal of means and ends.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)
“Faith’s recognition of the essential unity of all knowledge provides a bulwark against the alienation…which occurs when the use of reason is detached from the pursuit of truth and virtue” (Pope Benedict XVI)
HOW TO DEAL WITH LONELINESS
So, how do we combat loneliness? By giving ourselves!
We can “overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practicing the works of mercy.” (Pope Francis, 3)
“For over a hundred years, a serious accusation has been levelled at the believer. Religion… ‘alienates man’, that is, it allegedly deprives man of what is substantially human. It is necessary to free the believer from the accusation of alienation.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 2)
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)