A Reflection by Fred Schaeffer, OFS, August 23, 2018
Loneliness is a human condition. We enter the world quite alone. And we die alone. How we cope with loneliness depends on how we get along with people, our mental health, and our upbringing. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people.
“Loneliness affects 25% to 60% of older Americans and puts millions of Americans 50 and over at risk of poor health from prolonged loneliness. Loneliness is almost as prevalent as obesity. In a survey of members of the AARP Medicare Supplement Plans, insured by UnitedHealthcare, 27% to 29% were lonely; about 9% were severely lonely.” From: "The power and prevalence of loneliness", Charlotte S. Yeh, MD (Harvard Health, 2017)
People who are alone who have religion, go to worship services, love God and their fellow human beings, and try to be active in Church-life, are probably less lonely or maybe not lonely at all. I’ve lived alone all my life, actually by choice. I do not shun company, in fact, I love it when people visit but the older one gets, the less frequent visitors have become. I have no problem being alone, but now at 78, I miss so many friends whom I used to have who have preceded me in death. With all this experience, I thought I would tackle a reflection on “Being Alone.” Leading a life of prayer, although not as much as I have in the past, helps cope with loneliness.
As a child, I grew up in World War II in Europe, spending the first dozen years of my life largely by myself. Part of the reason was a tendency not to associate with children my own age, and that was because I was a victim of child-abuse that began in grammar school in a Catholic boarding school, and ended when I reached 12. After those years I was fed up with my circle of humanity and avoided other people.
My parents, duly alarmed, decided to move to another town and two years later to New York in the USA. In 1954, I began High School at age 14. That school with 2800 students did not give me the opportunity to be alone much longer. After graduation, I felt attracted to a religious order, but that idea dwindled and I enlisted in the U.S. Army. After that you’d expect life would have normalized and for the most part it did. This duty took place in Germany, not during a war, and for the most part I enjoyed it.
The years afterwards were okay, but they could have been better. I always yearned to be by myself and I still do. Now, after 78 years of living, if I had to do it over again, I would have preferred married life, a family, so that I would have had the opportunity to give children of my own a normal family circle.
After Army life, I was away from the Catholic church for 23+ years. This was partly due to my upbringing. The church played a role in that time, although not the fault of my parents. I no longer place blame on the church, but recent reports of clergy abuse have shocked me once again. In 1985 I returned to the Sacraments and became quite active in Church life. In 1992, I joined the Secular Franciscan Order, where I was professed in 1994. Currently I am the leader (minister) of a small fraternity here in Florida.
From my story it is evident that my life is very much in order now. I thank God for protecting me over the years. My role in society could have turned out a lot worse as often happens with people whose upbringing began on such a sour note. I’m sure that my active spiritual life had a lot to do with the way life turned out. So, I recommend that people whose lives were messed up by abuse of any kind, seek a personal relationship with the Lord. Jesus told us, as reflected in the Bible, that He is our friend and He will not abandon us.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zeph 3:17.
“My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” Ps. 91:2
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Is. 12:2
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Ps. 27:1
All quotations are from: Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition.
There are hundreds of quotations in the Bible which are uplifting and a great aid to personal spirituality. You won’t be lonely if you read Holy Scripture frequently.
Peace and Good,
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
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Fred Schaeffer, OFS