Monday, 22 June 2009

Love of Solitude

God does not allow himself to be found in the tumult of the world; therefore the saints have been wont to seek him in the most rugged deserts, in the most hidden caves, in order that they might converse with God alone. St. Hilarion made trial of several deserts, going from one to another, ever seeking the most solitary, where no man could communicate with him; and, in the end, he died in a desert in Cyprus, after having lived there for five years. St. Bruno, when he was called by the Lord to leave the world, went, with his companions, who wished to follow him, to find St. Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble, that he might assign them some desert place in his diocese. St. Hugh assigned them the Certosa, which, from its wildness, was more fitted to be a covert for wild beasts than a habitation for men; and there they went with joy to dwell, placing themselves each in so many little huts, each distant from the rest.

The Lord said once to St. Teresa, “I would willingly speak to many souls, but the world makes so much noise in their hearts that they cannot hear my voice.” God does not speak to us in the midst of the rumors and affairs of the world, knowing that if he were to speak he would not be understood. The words of God are his holy inspirations, his lights and calls, through which the saints are enlightened and inflamed with divine love; but they who do not love solitude will be unable to hear these voices of God.

God himself says, I will lead her into solitude and speak to her heart. When God desires to raise any soul to a high degree of perfection, he inspires it to retire to some solitary place, far from the converse of creatures, and there he speaks to the ears, not of the body, but of the heart; and thus he enlightens and inflames it with his divine love.

St. Bernard1 said that he had learned much more of the love of God, in the midst of the oaks and beeches of the forest, than from books and from the servants of God. Therefore St. Jerome left the pleasures of Rome, and shut himself up in the cave of Bethlehem, and then exclaimed, “O solitude, in which God speaks and communes familiarly with his people!”2 In solitude God converses familiarly with his beloved souls, and there he makes them hear those words that melt their hearts with holy love, as the sacred Spouse said, My heart melted when my Beloved spoke.3

We see by experience that conversing with the world, and occupying ourselves in the acquisition of earthly goods, make us forget God; but in the hour of death what do we find from all the toils and time we have spent upon things of the earth, except pains and remorse of conscience? In death we only find comfort from that little which we have done and suffered for God. Why, then, do we not separate ourselves from the world, before death separates it from us?

He shall sit solitary, and hold his peace, because he hath taken it upon himself.4 The solitary is not moved as he was formerly in worldly affairs; he will sit in repose; and he will hold his peace, and will not call for sensual delights to satisfy him, for he is lifted up above himself, and above all created things; in God he will find every good, and all his content.

Who will give me the wings of a dove, that I may fly away, and be at rest?5 David desired to have the wings of a dove, that he might leave this earth, and not touch it even with his feet, and thus give rest to his soul. But while we are in this life, it is not given to us to leave this earth. We must, however, take care to love retirement, so far as it is practicable, conversing alone with God; and thus gaining strength for avoiding those defects that arise from our being obliged to have intercourse with the world; as David said, at the very time he was ruling his kingdom, Behold, I have fled far away, and abode in the wilderness.6

Oh that I had ever thought upon Thee, O God of my soul, and not of the goods of this world! I curse those days in which I went about seeking earthly pleasures, and offended Thee, my greatest good. Oh that I had ever loved Thee! Oh that I had died, and not caused Thee displeasure! Miserable that I am, death draws near, while I find myself still attached to the world! No, my Jesus, from this day I resolve to leave all, and to be wholly Thine. Thou art almighty; Thou must give me strength to be faithful to Thee. O thou Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me!

1Epist. 106.

2O solitudo, in qua Deus cum suis familiariter loquitur et conversatur!

3“Anima mea liquefacta est, ut locutus est.” -- Cant. v. 6.

4“Sedebit solitarius, et tacebit, quia levavit super se.” -- Lam. iii. 28.

5“Quis dabit mihi pennas sicut columbæ, et volabo, et requiescam?” -- Ps. liv. 7.

6Ecce elongavi fugiens, et mansi in solitudine.

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