The Paradox of Solitude and Community by Mark Votava

by Christine Sine


Love is what makes us human and like nothing else. If we fail to practice love we are lost inside of ourselves. We need our neighbors more than we realize because in them is the face of God calling out to us here in the world we live in.

  • Seeds of revelation, wisdom and enlightenment

God is relational and always works through our relationships in everyday life. Seeds of revelation, wisdom and enlightenment are all around us as we embody a way of love within us, through us and into our local context of the parish. Just think how decades of rootedness could grow our love over time.

  • We are the presence of Jesus where we live

Karen Wilk writes in her wonderful book Don’t Invite Them To Church, “Where we dwell is our primary missional context, as it was for Jesus and his first followers in the young church. We are the presence of Jesus where we live.”

  • Finding the wisdom to listen

The place we find ourselves in sharing life with others is where we are called to be an expression of love, grace and humility as the body of Christ together. We have to find the wisdom to listen instead of just preach the gospel. Too much preaching without an embodiment of love has damaged the world in the name of Christianity. We need to return to an embodied way of love in the place we inhabit to reverse the damage.

  • The simple but complex act of loving each other

There is a lot of information and words in the world, but not enough love for others. Christ is about silencing our words and leading us to practice the most dignified thing we can do for someone. This is the simple but complex act of loving each other.


  • Finding a path of solitude

In the midst of getting centered in our being so that we can love others in the parish, we have to find a path of solitude also. This is the practice of allowing ourselves to cultivate the consciousness of the life of Christ living within us. Christ spent many days away from others in the desert, mountains and other lonely places to just reflect and listen to life.

  • Christ felt the need for solitude

Christine Sine states, “In spite of this strong commitment to community Christ also felt the need for solitude.”

  • We might feel the temptation to give up

Living within the parish can be difficult at times. Every now and then we might feel the temptation to give up and leave, but we must not leave. We must endure the emotional pain of love at times as we might become rejected, abandoned, misunderstood and mistreated for our desire to live in humility in this life.

  • The formation of our spirituality

It is not easy and we must not give up our hope that in the little things of everyday life is our redemption and salvation. This is where we are shaped and learn about the formation of our spirituality within us. When we have lost everything – our strength, our desire, our happiness and think we cannot go on anymore; this is where Christ can live most freely in us as we might sense that God has abandoned us.

  • The dark night of the soul

The dark night of the soul as some have called this season in life is where life takes on new meaning in our context. All the techniques are gone. All our perceptions have failed us. We might be weak, miserable and depressed but that is okay.

  • Finding rest for our souls

The life within us is saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

  • Bringing something beautiful to our small part of the world

As we practice solitude and stay rooted in the parish through difficulties, we become tremendously shaped as the temptation of upward mobility is always before us. We receive the strength to stay faithfully present and bring something beautiful to our small part of the world. Focusing on practices of solitude, hospitality, love, grace, humility, relational connection, listening and interdependence are the small beautiful acts that will cultivate life within us.

How has the practice of solitude shaped you in everyday life?

photoBio- Mark Votava is a part of the Tacoma Catholic Worker and has been a local practitioner in Downtown Tacoma for over a decade. He is the author of the book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together and blogs regularly at




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