Finding Heaven on the Way to Heaven: St. Catherine of Siena on Loneliness and Contentment

I once had a priest tell me that everyone is lonely. In every vocation, there is a struggle with isolation. He explained that this desire to belong to someone is a call to heaven and that it will never be satisfied until we are safely tucked away in paradise.

While I appreciate the idea that we are built to desire God, I think the priest in question glazed over the pain of earthly loneliness. Our hearts are built for communion. We long to make a profound connection with someone real—someone here.

We need a connection that will enrich us and pass the test of time. When this union is absent, we feel a wound on our hearts that is not easily healed, nor easily ignored.

Thankfully, we belong to a Church that cares. Our Church is brimming with people who know our pain and who feel our loss. When we feel abandoned or alone, we can simply turn our eyes to the saints and plead for comfort from the people who have “been there, done that.”

Explore your interests and hobbies

Explore your interests and hobbies

One of St. Catherine’s most famous quotes is a call to pursue the best version of yourself:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

What does this have to do with the single life? There may not be a cure for loneliness, but we can certainly find satisfaction in the midst of it. The best way to do that is to fill your life with purpose. Discovering your purpose is the first step to finding lasting joy in your life.

What does it mean to be who God meant you to be?

Take some time to explore your interests. Discover what brings you joy…what makes you tick. When you do what you like and like what you do, your joy is palpable. It spreads to the people around you and bubbles up into a fountain of contentment that brings lasting satisfaction.

Not sure where to start? Take a look at this list of trending hobbies and consider trying something new:

  • Calligraphy, or Hand Lettering
  • Watercolor
  • Coding
  • Barre
  • Drum Fitness
  • Homesteading
  • Home Brewing
  • Gaming
  • Weaving
  • Beekeeping

Use your gifts

Use your gifts

Once you’ve figured out the things you enjoy and the activities that make you shine, consider sharing them with those around you. God is present in your joy and He loves to see your contentment spread out across your community and across the whole world.

“It is surely justice to share our natural gifts with those who share our nature.”

The more you share, the more you build a network of people who are there to support you. Oftentimes, when you share with others, it is their joy to share in return. It is a system of giving and taking that brings fulfillment and growth, and that can help you through many difficult times.

If you’re looking for a safe space to begin sharing your gifts, try one of these great Catholic organizations, all of which are geared toward service and fellowship:

Or talk to your parish priest. He will know what organizations are active in your diocese and which groups will appeal to you the most.

Find meaningful friendships

Find meaningful friendships

Shortly after graduating from college, I moved to an isolated mountain town in rural Kentucky. The reason I ended up there is a story in and of itself, but let’s just say that I didn’t have much choice. In fact, I cried when I found out that I’d be moving to a mining town in rural Nowhere, USA.

Shortly after settling in, I began taking regular walks with my dog. It only took about 20 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other and I figured I would benefit from getting to know the area on foot.

During these walks, I noticed that the people driving by slowed down to stare at me and wave. Some even stopped their cars in the middle of the road to ask where I was from and where I was going.  It was very unsettling at first—like the start of a horror movie.

I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that the people in this town were genuinely interested in me. They didn’t recognize me, so they wanted to get to know me and to help me feel welcome.

I could go on and on about the ways they cared for me as a neighbor in the two years I lived there. Suffice it to say, I found family in that backward little town and my heart ached when it was time for me to move on.

Go ahead, say it—”What’s your point?

My point is, we need to be present for each other. St. Catherine of Siena writes,

“Say, you are all obliged to help one another by word and doctrine…and in every other respect in which your neighbor may be seen to be in need.”

In  Kentucky, I found friends who brought meals by “just because,” and friends who called to check in weekly. I was never without someone to talk to or a shoulder to lean on. I felt at home there, even though I was isolated from family and friends. Even better, I was inspired to treat others with extraordinary kindness, just as my neighbors treated me.

When you’re feeling alone, take time to reach out to others. The best advice I have ever received is that people love to help. Fellowship with people you enjoy and people you trust. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes a simple, “Can we hang out this week” is a welcome gesture that will brighten someone else’s day just as much as it brightens your own.

Enjoy the Ride

Enjoy the Ride

Here’s where my favorite St. Catherine of Siena quote comes in:

“Every step of the way to heaven is heaven.”

Take joy in the everyday moments that bring you one step closer to heaven. This is the key to finding contentment in the face of loneliness. In the midst of pain and monotony, remember that God has a special purpose for you on this earth. Before long, he will call you home to enjoy endless bliss with him in heaven. Until then, enjoy the ride.