I often wish I could live in solitude! Some years ago, I found this quote and thought it would serve as a good reminder to me that true solitude does not always depend on “being alone”. The bolding is mine:
My daughter, is it not true that you find very much pleasure in solitude? And furthermore, was not every day a feast day for you during those first years you spent in the cloister, when you were given no exterior work to perform? ...I want you to imitate My industriousness. I came to earth not to be served but to serve! …My daughter, you at times complain that you cannot live a life of solitude because of your many occupations, but tell me, do you know what a solitary soul really is? Behold, a soul in solitude is one that has become mistress of her passions. Therefore, such a soul continually sacrifices her self-will and in obediently attending to the various occupations imposed on her by means of her office, she lives the life of a true solitary, and in a certain way begins to share in the very solitude of God Himself, by living according to His Holy Will.” …And on the contrary, although a soul is sheltered in the stillness of a retreat, yet she does not deserve to be called a soul in solitude if she is distracted by the noise of her own passions and seeks self satisfaction in doing her own will. Know and remember, therefore that self-will is the nurse of the passions.
[From The Golden Arrow by Sr. Mary of
The little slip of paper on which I had printed out this excerpt fell into my hands yesterday even as I was expressing to God my desire to live a life of silence and solitude. This has happened at other times, and has been a help to me – a reminder to dutifully perform the “various occupations” required in my vocation of wife and mother. It is also a reminder that solitude must be experienced above all in one’s heart and mind if it is to be “real”.
But this time, while I paused to think it over, I did not completely dismiss my desire for solitude. My life has changed over the years; I no longer have children to care for. My husband and I have our separate ways of passing the day, but are of course available to each other when one or the other of us seeks out the other’s company. He is accepting of my times of prayer, and I am accepting of the pastimes that occupy his hours.
And so, it seems an appropriate time in my life to seek more solitude. Believe me, solitude is still difficult to find here at my house, and I am not on a perpetual “retreat” by any means. Still, there are things I can do to facilitate long periods of prayer and meditation.
My spiritual director once told me that people did not go to a monastery because they were contemplatives; they went to the monastery to become contemplatives. My own private “monastery” is calling to me, to become more contemplative, I think. The biggest lesson, the biggest hurdle, will be overcoming “the noise of my own passions”. I am very much aware of that noise, but I think I have begun to control the volume a bit.
“A soul in solitude is one that has become mistress of her passions.” I hope that arranging to live a life that includes more silence and solitude, and by seeking to master my passions, I will continue along that path to becoming a soul in solitude.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.