Recently I was reading an article in The Tablet (October 6, 2018) that dealt with the issue of loneliness, especially in Great Britain, since The Tablet is the International Catholic Weekly in England. What I read in the article I found both interesting and astounding and, after doing some further research about the same situation in the United States, it made me reflect even more deeply about the countless people who suffer from this condition.
“The United Kingdom’s statistics are overwhelming. In the past two years, Childline counselors have noticed a rise in the number of children—some as young as six—contacting them to complain of loneliness, with triggers including feeling ‘invisible,’ feeling ‘ugly and unpopular’ as a result of comparing themselves with others on social media, and having an illness or disability.
“In the UK 7.7 million people live alone. The numbers of baby boomers—roughly people born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s—living alone is growing year on year, and a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics shows loneliness increasing rapidly in this age group. Seventeen million people in the UK are unattached. Fifty-eight percent of migrants and refugees in London describe loneliness and isolation as their biggest challenge….Loneliness has a detrimental effect on health equivalent to high blood pressure, obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It wreaks havoc with sleep.
“Old age, Macbeth believed, should be full of ‘honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,’ but almost 75 percent of older people in the UK are lonely, and most of them have never dared to admit it to family or friends. More than a million older people in the UK feel lonely all or most of the time. Only 22 percent of us never feel lonely….”
Reading these statistics and commentary, I cannot help but think of something that Mother Teresa once said: “I think the greatest suffering in the world is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience. Nowadays we have found medicine for leprosy and lepers can be cured. For all kinds of diseases there are medicines and cures, but for being unwanted, except where there are willing hands to serve and there’s a loving heart to love, I don’t think this terrible disease can ever be cured.”
It seems to me that while people of all ages might be subject to some form of loneliness, it can be most prevalent among the elderly. So many widows and widowers experience this. It’s not that their children do not care about them, but so often many of these children now live some distance from their elderly parent and therefore cannot get back home that often. Even if they live relatively nearby, often they are preoccupied with taking care of their own families and perhaps holding down a full-time job as well. Time is at a premium, and juggling it with all kinds of other responsibilities is difficult.
I think of my own mother who was always outgoing and gregarious in so many ways. She was very much involved in her parish and worked on various committees and projects. She loved to visit with neighbors as well as with her other sisters who lived in Indianapolis. But things changed drastically over time for her. My father became ill with depressive issues and did not want to leave the house because he felt so poorly. Mom took care of him as long as she could, but then he suffered a mild stroke so that resident nursing care became necessary; she stayed in the house alone as a result. After dad died, she began to feel more and more isolated even though my sister visited frequently along with my brother-in-law and their children. Still mom was going downhill, eating less, not as interested in things around her, etc.
Eventually we convinced her that moving to a retirement facility where she would be in regular contact with other people might also perk her up in many ways. She agreed to try it for three months and then we would evaluate it with her, promising that if she wanted to go back home at that time, we would agree to follow through with her request. What actually happened was that she came out of her shell, she smiled much more, she ate three good meals a day, and she interacted with all kinds of new people that now became her new neighbors and the people with whom she shared her life. She came to see that this environment was much better for her, and her loneliness disappeared.
Psychologist John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago has been tracking the effects of loneliness, and he has reported from his studies that loneliness works in some surprising ways to compromise health:
- Living alone increases the risk of suicide for young and old alike.
- Lonely individuals report higher levels of perceived stress even when exposed to the same stressors as non-lonely people, and even when they are relaxing.
- The social interaction lonely people do have is not as positive as those of other people, hence the relationships they have do not buffer them from stress as relationships normally do.
- Loneliness raises levels of circulating stress hormones and levels of blood pressure. It undermines regulation of the circulatory system so that the heart muscle works harder and the blood vessels are subject to damage by blood flow turbulence.
- Loneliness destroys the quality and efficiency of sleep, so that it is less restorative, both physically and psychologically. They wake up more at night and spend less time in bed actually sleeping than do the non-lonely.
Loneliness, Cacioppo concludes, sets in motion a variety of “slowly unfolding pathophysiological processes.” The net result is that the lonely experience higher levels of cumulative wear and tear. In other words, we are built for social contact. There are serious, life-threatening consequences when we do not get enough. We can’t stay on track mentally, and we are compromised physically. Social skills are crucial for our health. It is imperative that we try to address this issue more readily no matter at what age or in whatever circumstances we find it.
SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
On this final Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate Jesus Christ as ruler over ourselves and the universe. In the opening words of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to accept the Kingdom: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel!” Christians believe that God’s rule took a leap forward when the Son of God became human, but it will only reach fulfillment at the end of time. Today’s readings celebrate the culmination of God’s plan. When Christ returns, everything, even death itself, will be subjected to him.
The First Reading gives a striking picture of Daniel’s vision: “one like a Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.” All nations will serve him, and he will bring everything under his kingship that “shall not be destroyed.” The Book of Revelation offers insight into what Christ’s kingship means for us. He has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us “into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” The kingdom is not a place! Christ made us into a kingdom of priests who worship God by our lives. He rules over our hearts, making his kingdom within us.
In the Gospel an earthly ruler asks if Jesus is King of the Jews. Jesus explains that his kingdom is not of this world. By acknowledging the rule of Christ over us, we ask him to rule us with the power of his love. As St. Augustine wrote: to “pray that His kingdom may come, is to wish of Him, that He would make us worthy of His kingdom, for then to us will His kingdom come” (Sermon 8 on the New Testament).
The First Reading tells of the glorified Christ at the Second Coming. Daniel states, “When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of Man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.” The Church works to assist people so that they will be part of ushering in the Kingdom. In Gaudium et spes the Council Fathers state: “The Church has a single intention: that God’s Kingdom may come, and that the salvation of the whole human race may come to pass. For every benefit which the People of God during their earthly pilgrimage can offer to the human family stems from the fact that the Church is ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ simultaneously manifesting and exercising the mystery of God’s love” (#45).
The Kingdom that we look forward to and that the reading from Revelation describes is unlike any other. In a homily on November 25, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI explains: “But Jesus knows that God’s kingdom is of a completely different kind; it is not built on arms and violence. The multiplication of the loaves itself becomes both the sign that he is the Messiah and a watershed in his activity: henceforth the path to the Cross becomes even clearer. There, in the supreme act of love, the promised kingdom, the kingdom of God, will shine forth.”
The Second Coming is such a focus for the Church that the assembly sings of it at the liturgy with these words, “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you come again.”
U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS
As many of you know, the Bishops of the United States usually meet together twice a year—once in November and then once in the summer. They use this time together to discuss matters of importance that affect the entire United States, to review liturgical texts, to mandate and then approve Pastoral Letters, and to vote on matters of great importance. This year their meeting was designed to focus on what all has happened since the accusations against then Cardinal, now Archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, the ramifications of the Report of the Grand Jury from the State of Pennsylvania as well as Attorneys General from other states along similar lines, and finally on what would be set up to address accusations against bishops.
At the beginning of the Conference meeting the Administrative Committee of the Conference received a telephone call from Pope Francis asking that nothing definitive be voted dealing with the sexual abuse issues until after he meets with the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences throughout the world which is scheduled for February in Rome. There was concern expressed by many bishops in Baltimore that this could be misconstrued by the media and the populace of the United States once again “kicking the football” down the road.
Therefore the bishops decided to discuss the proposal honestly, amend it where necessary, and then do a straw vote that was not binding. This way Cardinal DiNardo, the President of the Conference, will know where the members of the Conference stand and can bring that information to the February meeting. When he returns from Rome, the bishops will convene again to make a final vote and will be able to move forward. Let’s keep our bishops in prayer during this intervening period so that they and all victims of sexual abuse are listened to.
2018 ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL
Recently we received a letter from the Archdiocese of Chicago sending us our first rebate from this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal. Our goal for the Appeal, based on the regular contributions to the parish from the previous year, was $13,582.10. Through the generosity of many people who made a pledge to this Appeal, so far $26,601.85 has been received in the Archdiocesan Office. According to the terms of this Appeal, anything received over the stated goal returns to the parish 100 percent. Therefore we have received a check in the amount of $13,019.75. This money will be used to pay our regular bills.
Thank you to everyone who has participated in the Annual Catholic Appeal. If by chance you still are completing your pledge at this time, we appreciate you continuing to do so, since any monies received between now and January 1, 2019, will be returned to us in the second rebate check at a later date.
Every year on the Saturday morning before the First Sunday of Advent we have a Church Cleaning Project to get ready for the new Liturgical Year. We try to wash and wax the pews, give the confessionals a good cleaning, dust off all the statues, clean nooks and crannies in the two sacristies, get into places in the sanctuary that ordinarily are missed, and finally box up all the 2018 Sunday Word Books and then put out the new ones.
In order to get all this done between 8:30 and 11:00 A.M., we need a number of volunteers to assist the liturgy staff. We are asking for your help for the morning of Saturday, December 1. If you are able to assist, please come to the church c. 8:30 and use the handicapped entrance. We will have coffee and donuts available as well as all the materials needed to do the work. You do not have to let us know ahead of time; just come ready to make the church shine with your good intentions and some elbow grease!
A CHUCKLE FOR THE SEASON
The farmer’s son was returning from the market with the crate of chickens his father had entrusted to him, when all of a sudden the box fell and broke open.
Chickens scurried off in different directions, but the determined boy walked all over the neighborhood scooping up the wayward birds and returning them to the repaired crate. Hoping that he had found them all, the boy reluctantly returned home, expecting the worst.
“Pa, the chickens got loose,” the boy confessed sadly, “but I managed to find all twelve of them.”
“Well, you did real good, son,” the father beamed, “because you only left with seven.”