Social isolation, a XXI century problem – reflections from Br Stephen Power
The Church notes that every person is created by God, loved and saved in Jesus Christ, and fulfils him or herself by creating a network of multiple relationships of love, justice and solidarity with other persons while s/he goes about various activities in the world .
So something has gone very wrong when people feel or are isolated, lonely or excluded. Mother Teresa used to remark that she knew of no greater ‘poverty’ than the lack of love felt by many in Western culture.
The Catholic Social Action Network (CSAN) this year, at its reception in the House of Commons, noted this theme of loneliness and isolation as one of its primary concerns at this time and the Hurtado Jesuit Centre is one of the affiliated bodies that also looks to try and highlight this issue with a view to reaching out to more people who are themselves isolated.
It is not just elderly people with few friends or relatives still living, or single mums with no extended family or single visitors from other countries who feel isolated. A growing phenomenon is the number of young people who also feel those pangs of loneliness. In this connected world of social media that sounds like a contradiction in terms. How can the most tech-savvy generation yet to live, be isolated! For the deep yearnings of the human heart, however, connection is just a means to communicate feelings, but feelings can only be truly authenticated and reciprocated by a much more human interaction.
The challenge is for all of us. For even if I have my world of friends now, there is nothing to say that this will not change and sometimes quite suddenly and dramatically. We get a glimpse of it when a parent or a special friend passes away.
We will be reflecting more on this topic in due course, as we get comments and suggestions with material for reflection and action.
Stephen Power SJ