Isolation on earth is hell, and hell is isolation: to be cut off, to feel the terrifying emptiness of rejection, to sense that one’s own mother and father have no interest in one’s life. The overused word “exclusion” and the contemporary acronym FOMO (“fear of missing out”) manifest this essential fear of being left out. As healthy social structures collapse (especially the family and the “village”), technology promises to fill the vacuum. Corporations that are making lots of money on our loneliness tell us that a smartphone “connects” us to others. And yet, we are a city of isolated single people. Might I recommend a better way: religion. Of course, religion has a bad name these days, especially when some religious leaders are revealed as the most isolated of all people. But consider the very meaning of the word. “Religion” comes from the Latin re-ligare, literally to “re-tie” (“ligare” means to attach or connect, as in “ligament”). True religion reconnects us with God and each other, but it too has a cost. We must spend an hour in Church, in the presence of God and other people. We must also spend time and money on the “Domestic Church,” meaning Mom, Dad, and the children. If you don’t yet have a family (and God calls almost all of us to marriage), be faithful to some kind of godly community: a young adults group, a book club, a service group. Families, however, will always be the backbone of every village. I struggle every day to pastor a parish with so few families. The sense of isolation in our city parishes terrifies me. Every family is a treasure, which is why I am so grateful to those brave enough to get married and have children. The Feria family, for example, is a backbone to my church. Bud, Lorna, and their five children provide such a sense of stability. The Feria’s have never given up on each other, and, in a declining Catholic culture, they have been a radiant Domestic Church at Star of the Sea for thirty-five years. Their youngest, Fergus, just received his First Holy Communion and gratefully opens his mouth each Sunday to receive Jesus at the 9:30 Mass. May God bless us with many families like theirs! Ryan and Mary-Rose Verret are another family with five children. Authors of the Witness to Love marriage apostolate, they have given most of their adult lives to building up families. They will be staying at my parish this week while they speak to the Archdiocese and the famous Napa Institute. We are privileged to receive them!
Fr. Joseph Illo
Star of the Sea Parish,