LOVE OF SOLITUDE
God does not allow Himself to be found in the midst of the world’s tumults, and hence the Saints have been wont to seek Him in the most rugged deserts and in solitary caves, that there they might converse with God alone. St. Hilarion made trial of many desert places, going from one to another, ever seeking the loneliest, where none could communicate with him. In the end he died in a desert in Cyprus, after having lived there for five years. When called by God to leave the world, St. Bruno went with his companions to find St. Hugh of Grenoble that he might assign them some desert place in his diocese. St. Hugh assigned them a district so wild and lonely as to be more fitted for the beasts of the forest than for men. There they went with joy to build themselves each a little cell at a distance from one another.
The Lord once said to St. Teresa: “I would willingly speak to many souls, but the world makes such a noise in their hearts they cannot hear My voice.” God does not speak to us in the midst of the clamours and affairs of the world, knowing that if He were to speak He would not be heeded. The voice of God are the holy inspirations and lights He sends. By these the Saints are enlightened and inflamed with Divine love, but those who are not lovers of solitude will not be able to hear these messages from God.
God Himself says: I will lead her into the wilderness and I will speak to her heart (Osee, ii. 14). When God desires to raise a 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. Bernard said that he 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. Then it was he exclaimed: “O solitude, in which God speaks and converses familiarly with His own!” In solitude God converses familiarly with His beloved souls, and there He makes them hear words that melt their hearts with holy love, as the sacred spouse said: My heart melted when my Beloved spoke (Cant. v. 6).
We see by experience that conversing with the world, and occupying ourselves in the acquisition of earthly goods, lead us to forget God; but at the hour of death what do we get from all the toil and time we have spent on the things of earth, except pain and remorse of conscience? Our only comfort then will be what 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 up upon himself (Lam. iii. 28). He who lives in solitude is not moved as he was formerly in the midst of worldly affairs; he sits in repose, and is at peace, and asks not for sensual delights to satisfy him, for he is lifted above himself, and above all created things; in God he finds every good, and all his contentment.
Who will give me wings like a dove, and I will fly, and be at rest? (Ps. liv. 7). 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 to avoid 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: Lo, I have gone far off flying away, and abode in the wilderness (Ps. liv. 8).
Oh that I had ever kept my thoughts on Thee, O God of my soul, and not on 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 Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me!