The Restless Heart by Fr Ron Rolheiser

 Published by Hodder and Stoughton. Price £7.99 in UK

In this completely revised edition of his book: The Restless Heart, Understanding Loneliness, theologian Fr Ronald Rolheiser OMI, tackles the nature of loneliness as experienced by every individual: "to be human is to be lonely."

He examines at length the nature of loneliness, its manifestations and causes, and how it fills us with longing, restlessness and disquiet. He recognises its paralysing and potentially dangerous grip. In the second half of the book, whilst examining a Christian understanding of loneliness, he goes on to assert that it is possible for loneliness to be a creative and humanising force, for it is also true that, "to be human is to respond."

Fr Rolheiser asserts that the increase of loneliness in the Western world is connected to greater affluence and leisure time. These freedoms are experienced, "as a restlessness, a driving force pushing us into things, a loneliness."

Modern media supports loneliness by constantly presenting ideal lives that make us feel inadequate and frustrated.

Rolheiser claims it is essential to face loneliness because it destroys intimacy and love, ultimately destroying our human personality and our very freedom.

He goes on to assess five types of loneliness: alienation, restlessness, fantasy, rootlessness and to a lesser extent psychological depression, drawing from the writings of St John of the Cross and from fictional stories.

Rolheiser believes that a Christian understanding of loneliness can provide a "liberating knowledge" on how to appreciate loneliness and deal with it effectively. He takes a perspective on the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament and the work of selected theologians to provide important and helpful insights.

Sin is the "prime alienator," when disharmony with God leads to disharmony with others. Lack of vulnerability is also alienating, and Rolheiser states that an antidote to loneliness "lies in vulnerability and nakedness of spirit." He stresses the importance of a move towards others and God through community life and prayer.

Through what Rolheiser calls a "spirituality of loneliness," there are paths to understanding and dealing with loneliness. Whilst there are many dangers associated with loneliness, if it is understood it also provides the opportunity for growth and channelled creativity. Loneliness is what makes us "dynamic beings," ever striving and unwilling to give up. Listening to what our loneliness tells us is revelatory.

The Restless Heart, Understanding Loneliness, by Fr Ronald Rolheiser, can be bought on-line from Amazon on our Home Page.

First published LONDON - 27 January 2004 - 395 words

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