It Is Not Good to be Alone

AlienatedAdamOne of the greatest tragedies of the modern world is the continuing collapse of social systems. The most prominent and important of these is the family itself – but many other social systems, including the Church, are equally in collapse. Our consumer culture seeks to maximize our individuality (individuals buy more than groups) and false ideologies of freedom stress the priority of individual over group demands (with the exception of groups chosen for political privilege). A result is increased alienation for all people. In a sea of choice, every small boat flounders.

The Christian vision is embodied in God’s first observation of “not good.” Each act of creation is declared to be “good,” until God observes the aloneness of Adam: “It is not good for the man to be alone,” we are told. The joy of communion expressed in the fashioning of woman (“this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”) is crushed in the isolation of sin. The forbidden fruit is made as a choice in isolation – isolation from God and isolation from Adam. The new community entered into by Adam taking the fruit from Eve is a mutual suicide pact – a community of death.

Throughout most of human history, community has nonetheless been the hallmark of human existence. We need one another. Human children have perhaps the longest childhood of all mammals (nursing for over two-years in most natural settings). The earliest evidence of human habitation is tribal – we have never lived in an isolated fashion.

Almost no one in the modern world thinks of themselves as opposed to community. Community is a positive word in almost all settings (apologies to Ayn Rand). Its destruction in the modern world is thus inadvertent – a result of our being unaware of the consequences of our actions – or overconfident about our ability to adapt.

Changing divorce laws are cited by some as contributors to the instability of the family. Mobile societies, in which people (in America) move once each five years on average, are also culprits. After a while, the instability itself becomes a cause of increased instability. Your children may come from a stable home, but for how many of their classmates is this true?

A result is estranged individuals. The natural communities of families are disappearing – leaving all of us as dilettantes in the social world. It is a difficulty experienced by many of the convert communities in the New World: how can you be formed in the Tradition of Orthodoxy if everyone in the parish is first-generation? But almost everyone, everywhere, in everything is first generation (except for American political families). China has the bizarre phenomenon created by the one-child-per-family mandate where the relationships of aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters, are a thing of the past. It is not Huxley’s Brave New World, but it’s still a new world.

The parish thus becomes increasingly similar to a monastery. Monasteries are not composed of blood relations – they are communities of choice (and obedience). Those within the monastery have renounced family and marriage as a way of life. They may also point towards a mode of spiritual survival for those of us living in the ruins of the modern world.

Parish life was once a multi-generational, family (almost tribal) matter. Today parishes have large contingents of singles or broken families (broken from various causes), and plenty of people who, though living in families, experience life in a highly individualized manner. In such a context, love (in the fullness of its original sense) is exceedingly difficult.

The monastic life illustrates, however, that love is not impossible. But there are structures within the monastic setting that make this possible. Life within a rule, the blessedness of a holy structure, allows individuals to grow into personhood: a relational existence.

The declaration “it is not good for man to be alone,” is equally a declaration that human existence is relational at its deepest core. We are not individuals who have relationships – we are persons whose very being is only revealed in the context of relations.

Within the monastic setting, the rule has certain classic hallmarks: poverty, chastity, obedience, stability. The monastic form of these practices cannot be the same in a parish setting, but they are still proper foundations when understood properly. The Jerusalem Church in the book of Acts practiced a form of communal wealth, holding all things in common. This model did not survive into subsequent ages, but did not, and should not disappear. The common welfare is still a proper measure within parish life. It is the pressure and context of a consumer culture, where private wealth is seen as a necessity, that make the common welfare seem passe. However, I have witnessed sacrificial examples of the common welfare practiced within parishes from time to time – frequently by those who could “least afford it.” Extended family was once a traditional means of the common welfare. Its absence demands that Christians reconsider how they view their private wealth.

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need (Eph. 4:28).

Chastity and obedience have very different meanings within a non-monastic setting. However, both point away from contemporary individualized existence. Chastity places our physical desires within the context of relationship and mutual submission. Proper sexual behavior extends beyond moral bounds and into the realm of the rightness of our being. The other is never to be the means of my private satisfaction. The chastity of the marriage bond becomes a larger foundation of the common life.

Parish life is not lived in an obedience similar to that of a monastery. Though some priests seem to want such obedience, it is not considered normative or healthy in a parish (it can frequently be a means of spiritual abuse). But there is a mutual obedience within a healthy parish – an obedience to the gospel and the one faith that excludes the market place of individual opinions and power-driven relationships from dominance within parish life. If this common hallmark of parish existence ceases to be present, the community quickly degenerates into one more contemporary social setting in which individuals exploit each other for various ego-driven purposes, creating yet another hell on earth.

Stability is extremely rare in contemporary society. We not only change jobs, move locations, dissolve families, we also go from parish to parish (not in a natural manner), but driven often by the passions of the ego and the failure of community. This is perhaps the only bearable solution on occasion, but is far more common than is generally healthy. We are a consumer culture. When we grow tired of one thing or find it less than ideal, we shop.

It is said that most Protestant denominations the average clergy person remains in a parish for no more than five years. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, thought this such a good idea that he instituted assignments lasting only four years. Some Orthodox jurisdictions have a similar track record. The stories of parishes (factions, etc) who grow tired or unhappy with their priest and insist that he be replaced are so common-place as to be almost de rigueur. Causes for this culture of instability can be quite varied, but the result has to be questioned.

A fascinating read (perhaps made even more interesting due to its non-Orthodox authorship) is the story of the transformation of an ancient Metropolis in modern Greece – Beauty for Ashes: the Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community. It is a case in point where an authentic spiritual life (monastic in this instance) is used to transform an entire metropolis, devastated by repeated scandals. Such authentic structures cannot entirely be mandated from above – community is ultimately the work of community. But it is important to recognize that there are concrete models of modern transformation.

It’s not good to be alone – but it’s hard to be together. It is the work of God.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


34 responses to “It Is Not Good to be Alone”

  1. paul Avatar

    Not quite what you were talking about Father, but I must mention an incident some weeks ago at liturgy at our beautiful Russian cathedral in Melbourne Australia.
    I was struggling to remain attentive while standing, (completely accidentally), adjacent to icons of St Nicholas and St John the Wonderworker when suddenly I just knew I was completely surrounded by saints – they were actually there in that church with me!
    I don’t mean voices or visions – I just mean their presence – beyond words and all sensory perceptions.
    Of course I know intellectually that the saints are present with us but to actually experience them was a most remarkable thing. I felt very blessed considering what a struggler I am.
    What a wonderful host of heavenly friends we have.

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    Glory to God. This is a wonderful experience – and not necessarily unusual. It is a deeply important component of community that I didn’t touch on.

  3. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Another good article, Fr. Stephen.

    You mentioned parishes growing unhappy with priests and insisting they be replaced. I do not know how priests come to be associated with parishes in the Orthodox church, RC that I am, but I can certainly understand how these protests could lead to instability.

    How do stability and change come in to proper balance? My own parish has had the same pastor (whom we love) for 33 years – but some feel that having one pastor for too long has its downsides.

    I would appreciate any reflections you have on the stability/change balance in this context.

  4. Eleftheria Avatar

    As always, a great article, Fr. Stephen.

    Although I now live in Cyprus, where a priest at a given parish remains for life, it is easy to remember life in a GOARCH parish, where priests came and went every so many years – usually because the community was at odds with them. It is a sad memory. I think that having one priest for life provides stability for a parish – and that we ought to recall that just as there are downsides to living with one’s own family members and we forgive each other, so will there be downsides to having one priest…it’s all about love.

    On a related note, in the course of researching the transliteration of Ancient Greek words in modern theology, my daughter learned that the communities of the Gelt/Gaul (Celts)in Ireland (when it was Orthodox) were centered around monasteries. That is, each community had its elder and brotherhood, and the families that lived around it supported it and each other. Apparently, those Holy Fathers who had been exiled to Gaul did a lot of “planting”. Perhaps is time to revive those types of communities.

    For Paul –
    Not only are we surrounded by the saints and angels at a Liturgy, but when we receive communion, we receive of the same cup that they had received (those who have fallen asleep) and that they receive (those “hidden” saints around us).
    Glory to God!

  5. Grant Hudson Avatar
    Grant Hudson

    The paragraph ‘The declaration “it is not good for man to be alone,” is equally a declaration that human existence is relational at its deepest core. We are not individuals who have relationships – we are persons whose very being is only revealed in the context of relations’ chimed almost word for word exactly with some thoughts I was having just before I read this.

    Spot on again, Father, thank you.

  6. Kev Avatar

    A Church parish is supposed to be a community. It can not be a “hospital for the soul” otherwise. A big part of our healing, especially in today’s world, is in becoming persons, which includes being in communion with others.

    I wonder if this is possible. I have yet to experience it.

  7. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Kev, yes it is possible! In my parish, it certainly happens.

    One comment: real community requires hierarchy of position and service, not of wealth and power. It must reflect the natural order. The Church has it. The family has it. That order is constantly assailed by the evil one and it is a mercy that it still exists at all.

    No fault divorce is one evidence of the assault. The temptations to turn authority into abusive power is always present for husbands, fathers, priests and bishops. The temptation to run from the responsibility of being a man .

    Women face their own set of temptations to avoid hierarchy, but I can’t really speak to them

    Men are made for the office of sacrifice and offering. Our headship requires the willingness to sacrifice at least many of our own personal desires for others even our own lives at times. Women do too, but in a different way.

    The flattening and denial of hierarchy by the willful blindness of secularism is at the root of the destruction of community. Yet we can’t be without some form of hierarchy so we begat tyrants, demogouges and other people of power.

  8. Dino Avatar

    Michael et al,
    as well as “the temptations to turn authority into abusive power” which “is always present for husbands, fathers, priests and bishops”, there are many more subtle obstacles that we must be extremely circumspect and “hesychastically” vigilant against if true communion (not a “community of death”) is to flourish.
    For example a subtle yet great danger for Spiritual Fathers is the tangibility of the people’s love towards them which can be put to the service of “competition” against God’s love (by the adversary). But God’s love is always the FIRST commandment and the only ‘proper’ fuel for the second commandment. Of course I am confusing love received with love offered in the two previous sentences, but the two loves (received and offered) are certainly connected. This is a very important issue as the most common enemy (by far) of true love is not ‘hate’ but ‘other loves’…

  9. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dino, isn’t rather a confusion of the proper order of love? Putting the natural adulterated love of man ahead of both love from and to God?

  10. fatherstephen Avatar

    Michael, I don’t think it’s correct or helpful to look at a single or dominant failure as a culprit in the modern social failure. As I noted in the post, it’s a complex set of factors, all of which feed one another. The way out has to be wholistic as well. The common vision is a start. I think this will be occasionally successful, but it’s a very difficult road ahead. I pray Gods mercies.

  11. Jane Avatar

    “The temptations to turn authority into abusive power is always present for husbands, fathers, priests and bishops. The temptation to run from the responsibility of being a man .

    Women face their own set of temptations to avoid hierarchy, but I can’t really speak to them”

    Avoiding hierarchy is avoiding victimization. A healthy instinct.

  12. fatherstephen Avatar

    Jane, abuse is deeply embedded in our dysfunctional culture. We suffer from the consequences and we fear the cure. It leaves us safely alone, but still alone. The way forward is fraught with difficulty. Hierarchy in it’s root meaning is “holy order.” That’s a hard thing to find or live in. Too many people interpret it to mean “stacked” authority.

  13. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, not saying it is the only thing just one I have experienced in my life.

    Too many people interpret hierarchy as stacked against them because that is about the only way it is experienced. Nevertheless holy order is necessary if only in recognition that all good things come down from above. And ” where the bishop is, there is the Church. Holy order is necessary for sacrament. Holy order always involves loving service not coersion.

    I will, I think stop using the word hierarchy. Too much bad baggage.

  14. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Jane, I am not intending to be contentious in saying this, but it is impossible to avoid hierarchy. Our whole life and being is a complex matrix of hierarchies. There is even a hierarchy within the Holy Trinity at least as it has been revealed to us.

  15. Dino Avatar

    The observation (contained in the article) that monasticism can potentially provide the wisdom and ‘solutions’ to many of the issues faced by current communities is fascinating and very much to the point.
    It shows yet another way in which (as St John of Sinai famously says) monasticism is the light of lay Christians.
    It is interesting to note here that although St John of the Ladder says that angels are the light of monks he does not say that ‘monks’ (the representatives of monasticism) but that monasticism (the institution) is the light of laity.
    The fine balance between renunciation of attachments (the first step in monasticism) and Grace-fuelled love (the last step) towards all can function as a constantly recalled ‘compass’ in this difficult path.

  16. fatherstephen Avatar

    The present state of foundational social structures are arguably the worst in human history. That this is true not as a result of war or nature is astounding. The healing of such is thus comparable to the most difficult struggles in all of history.

  17. Dino Avatar

    I wouldn’t know where to start trying to heal what only God’s Grace, combined with many unwanted tribulations could heal… My thoughts often see that the destitute are more blessed in many respects than the affluent. Of course nobody affluent wants to become poor and you would struggle to find someone who is poor that would not want to overcome the stress that trying to provide for his family brings him. However, if we look at the perversion of Man’s “Nous” brought about by modern affluence, the separatist, consumerist “transfixed-by-an-iPhone-24-7” new generation (for example) and compare it to those in the world who still cannot even afford such a device for their kids, we might discover that the children of the less afluent persons have a far better chance of praying with a clear mind.
    Of course one can be reading the Psalms 24-7 on their iPhone, indeed! but that is obviously still a minority…

  18. Jonathan Anderson Avatar

    Thank you for your words here, Father. They bring me comfort as I often feel it is a struggle to know others and be known by others within our own faith community at St. Anne’s. I believe that the last generation in this country to see true community was the WWII generation. I have a good friend who is still a faithful Anglican and he made these generational observations that I believe are right on:

    “As a Millennial Christian myself, I’ve been thinking about generational differences long before it became the rage this past month. My theory continues to be:

    – The WWII generation didn’t so much struggle with community as it pretty much just came naturally,
    – The Baby Boomers programmatized the hell out of community,
    – The Gen Xers love love love talking about community, and
    – The Millennials have a general ‘shit or get off the pot’ view when it comes to community, only they’re so inundated with technological developments that they don’t know how to do it naturally anymore.”

    I sincerely part of the struggle i have had with community, both at Johnson and at St. Annes, and the feeling of not belonging to either, is that my generation sincerely and deeply desires community, to be together with one another. However, given the context of our times and the upbringing combined with the bombarding information thrown at us, we have no clue how to achieve community. Perhaps even we do not know community when we see it. We are intentional and seek it. We desire it, but I believe part of the problem is we have not seen it modeled.

    Bowen’s family systems theory also speaks about how society itself functions like a family, a large system. I have noticed that your approach here is very Bowenian in thought, especially the insight to multi-generational stuff. I believe society is functioning poorly as a system, and that part of that is a lack of order, beauty, and community. The break down of the structures, brought about in part by Cultural Marxism, has led to a dysfunctional society that is highly individualized and alone. I feel that every day even when surrounding by people.

    Perhaps that is why I long for my friends back home I have known in some cases more than 10 years.

    Indeed, I do not desire to be alone as none of my contemporaries do, but nonetheless I do think we are lost without a guide as how to become more communal people having not seen it modeled in our lives.

    Nonetheless, this piece both encourages me, but also brings to light the despair I have and that is carried by my generation.

  19. fatherstephen Avatar

    Finding “gateways” in a new community is important – not easy – they’re not always obvious and most often are unconscious. We can talk sometime about such gateways at St. Anne. I could be a much better catalyst for them than I am. Thus stuff really is hard work.

  20. Jonathan Anderson Avatar

    That is true. I have never thought of it in terms of finding gateways. I have experienced it everywhere I go. Being on a college campus is not the best place to seek community. In 4-5 years, everyone leaves by the time you begin to actually get to know someone. And I suppose I have not been as intentional about it in all the places I have found myself. I wouldn’t mind to talk about such gateways though. I’d imagine as the priest of a parish it is hard to see those yourself at times and with as busy as parish life keeps all our priests I can see how it would be even more difficult. It is indeed hard all around for clergy and laity alike.

  21. Dino Avatar

    A somewhat odd route to community that comes from monasticism is “acceptance of what comes” (even this whole problem being discussed here) as from the hand of God. It is rather odd to our secular-solution-seeking souls but it can be, not so much a route, a gateway, but a necessary pre-condition for the correct way forward in any gateway opened to us by God.
    It involves certain ‘neptic’ elements, one of which is the constant awareness that true togetherness does not come from bodily togetherness but only through our (first and foremost) Spiritual union with Christ. It can seem harsh and monastic to the secular mind that we must guard against natural psychological ‘preference’ of one person over another and cut-off any tendency towards attachment in any relationship as a way towards true communion, but it does lead to the healing in Christ that is a prerequisite that leads to true community, possibly of an even higher ‘standard’ than the one we see in those admittedly far healthier contexts of yesteryear…
    There is something invaluable to be gleaned from the incontestable experience of monasticism that a group of people who ‘hang out’ all day getting to ‘know each other’ can and are far less united than the same group of people when each one is with God in their ‘cell’ and get together to listen to Him or praise Him in Synaxis and the Church, or to serve His body – others.

  22. […] Orthodoxy is helping recovery in this as other areas. Fr. Stephen Freeman hits the mark in Sunday’s It Is Not Good To Be Alone: […]

  23. drewster2000 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Very insightful article. It helps fill in some missing pieces to the apocalyptic puzzle for me: the world is going to end; how therefore shall we live?

    I remember my bishop saying many years ago that the Church started in the catacombs and will finally end up back there. Relating to your words, as everyone comes to the point of losing all of their natural connections of family and community, the answer may be to start forming or looking for groups that follow some rendition of the monastic model.

    This gives me hope. At least the answer isn’t to run screaming once the last family unit is dissolved. Obviously it’s more of a crisis-mode measure and not the utopian vision, but since we seem to be sinking deeper and deeper into crisis, this is totally appropriate.

    I was recently reading Paul Tournier. He’s all about the healing of the wholeness of the person. In his book “A Listening Ear”, he cites the West’s tendency to break everything down until there is nothing left but a bunch of tiny pieces. As we’ve become so consumeristic and individualistic, that has translated into picking apart our relationships to find the good stuff – and then throwing away the rest. Obviously that leads to throwing the baby out with the bath water and the death of those relationships.

    Your words are very thought-provoking. Thank you once again for your presence in my life.

  24. fatherstephen Avatar

    For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking about some broken/damaged relationships in my own life. After about 34 years of ordained work, there are more than a few. Some of those are now in the category of “things I cannot change,” while some remain in the realm of “things I can.” Mostly, I struggle to be changed myself, to become “for Jesus a place of refuge.” I have a sadness when I think of these things – which seems entirely appropriate (how else should I feel?). But I am hopeful, because the work of God is anchored in the healing of all these things – though its fulfillment may be beyond my death. You correctly note this as a piece of the “apocalyptic puzzle.” Too many people nurture utopian visions and criticize Church, world, and others by those visions. Of course, this never draws them closer to a utopia. In my Orthodox life, I am deeply aware of the non-utopian character of the Church around me (including any parish anywhere). But I am increasingly aware of the mystery of the presence of the Kingdom, which makes the birth of healed and healing community possible. I sometimes tell people that communion is “Paradise on a spoon.” In the words of Elder Cleopa, “May paradise consume you!”

  25. drewster2000 Avatar

    Amen and amen!

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    A bit of a ramble:

    Existentially, I heartedly agree with Dino that those who are acclimated to being poor may fair rather better in the near future as things are stripped away from us whether we wish them stripped or not.

    We will have to learn to live on God’s grace. Even though I know that He provides and have ample evidence of that in my life, I have never really been tested by worldly lack. And I feel a bit like the rich man who passed Lazarus by.

    It is quite possible that such lack may come upon us all. Will I be like the widow giving her mite or the onion lady?

    I have to remind myself of Jesus words: “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world”.

    The practice of thanking God no matter what is a discipline that will come in handy in more ways that one.

    I also have new appreciation for our Lord’s time in the Garden: “Lord, would that this cup pass from me, but nevertheless, thy will, not mine be done.”

    Decades ago back in the late 70’s, I had an audio cassette tape of a sermon given by some evangelical preacher in Las Vegas, NV on the subject of prayer. He took as his text, Jesus praying on the mount of Transfiguration. “….and as He prayed, He was changed.”

    He went into a bit of detail on how arrogant the sign “Prayer changes things” is. “Prayer doesn’t change THINGS, prayer changes you!”

    His message was pretty much the reverse of the success gospel.

    Those words remain for me some of the most profound words on prayer I have ever heard and very Orthodox, IMO. Every time I think of them, I am both humbled and challenged in my prayer life.

    Jesus acted when He wanted to change something. He prayed when He wanted union with His Father.

  27. TF Avatar

    Beautiful article and timely for my own situation. One challenging notion raised is that somehow divorce and aloneness are somehow inextricably linked. I know it was a sub point but I know that some feel absolutely and utterly alone in a marriage that has not gone right. Divorce then could be one’s only hope for relationship. Just a thought.

  28. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    TF. Please realize as you read the following that it is not written in judgement. I have struggled in marriage. Only by God’s grace did I not divorce. The struggle was due to sinfulness, as all aloneness is (it is the result of our estrangement from God). My sin, my wife’s sin and our shared sin.

    God was exceedingly merciful and brought me and undeserved blessing: another wife with whom to share life.

    Divorce is a sin. In many cases the marriage can be restored if the parties involved repent deeply enough and forgive completely enough. That is a difficult undertaking that most people do not have the patience, humility and faith to accomplish. I did not, God forgive me.

    Divorce even death does not really end a marriage, especially if their children. Subsequent marriages are an economia to the hardness of our hearts. My current marriage is a great joy to both my wife and I for which we thank God daily. Nevertheless, we also live with the fact that it is less than ideal.

    Sin should never be looked at as a means of grace.

  29. Catholic facing east Avatar

    Paul on September 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    If I may:

    Icons go a long way towards “solving” the conundrum of “diastema” — the distance in time and space that separates the Creator from all creation. This is not a problem specific to mankind as such, but one that extends to all creation (of which we are a part).

    The Church decided quite early on (at the Council of Nicaea II) that the honour given to image is transferred to prototype. This of course is what the Easter experience is all about. The diastemic gulf between God and creatures was not a stopping point for human knowledge but a wonderfully open field.

    Hope this helps..

  30. joe conder Avatar
    joe conder

    To “Jane”- The idea that to avoid hierarchy is necessary to avoiding victimization is a crass heresy, but it is certainly the heresy of the moment.

  31. Vee Avatar

    Father, we live close to an Orthodox Church where the community is REALLY strong and amazing. People here are very, very sacrificial and loving. However, it is majority (90%?) converts. The priest is the son of a man who was a convert in that community. My husband and I have a hard time feeling prayerful at the Divine Services there and so we attend a church that is more traditional (Russian) where we find the Orthodoxy to be more “authentic” and spiritual. However, the community is tiny, no children for our child to be with, no real sense of “togetherness”. After we began coming to this Russian church, the people at the community-oriented church distanced themselves from us even though we live near and interact with them way more than with those from the Russian Church. By distance I mean not as personal and warm as they were before. Here and there i have heard that the community is centered around the parish. While this makes a lot of sense (since you see each other more often and such), aren’t we all Orthodox and constitute the Body of Christ? Shouldn’t we all be living as a “community” of Orthodox if we live in the same area, even if we attend the Services in different parishes?

  32. fatherstephen Avatar

    Interesting question and thoughts. First, of course the community of Orthodox should extend generously beyond the bounds of a parish. As I noted in the article – all of this is a struggle. We will get some parts right and fail in others.

    I’m interested in your story, though. In a sense, you’ve related a “consumer” choice you made regarding a parish. You chose a more “traditional” Russian church over something closer because it “felt” more prayerful. It’s certainly a basis for making a choice – but that’s the essence of the consumer life-style. We shop. We like or dislike. And we do what we like. Your prayerful feelings were apparently more important to you than the local community of converts. That’s worth reflecting on. This struggle begins at home. Your comment here, seemed to be looking for support of your critique of the failings of the convert community. But you have ignored the impact of your own consumer decision. Forgive my boldness in noting this. But we must begin with ourselves, not with others.

  33. Vee Avatar

    That’s exactly what I thought, Father, after reading your article. I made a consumer decision and I feel torn. I feel better at my new parish, I really like my father confessor, etc. But could it all be an illusion? Perhaps by remaining with the local parish even if there are problems will make us stronger Christians in the end…?

  34. fatherstephen Avatar

    God can and will bless you no matter where you are. But there is a tyranny in our own decisions (made on various consumer bases). They almost always leave us torn. We choose, thinking, “I will be happier there.” But we wonder, “But did God want me there?” And we cannot know the answer to such things. The illusion is that our choices for these things are a proper ground for our life. God is the proper ground of life, the only ground for life. When we give ourselves to Him and trust Him, we discover that, despite our choices, or lack of them, He is working for our salvation and that this is all that matters. If we measure the rightness and wrongness of our decisions by how “successful” they are, or whether they make us happy, etc., these are generally false criteria. We rarely know “what will make us happy.” But I am certain that “if only I make the right decisions I will be happy” is not true. The “right decision” is to give ourselves to God.

    Be at peace. Please don’t let me article upset you in any way. Talk to your confessor and let him guide you. And whatever you do, simply give yourself to Christ and let Him keep your heart. God will bless.

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