No-one is an island: countering the curse of isolation

No-one is an island: countering the curse of isolation Author Matthew Fforde

Pastoral Care for Loneliness: a New Apostolate,

by Matthew Fforde

(Gracewing. £9.99 /€11.99)

Peter Costello

We live in a strange world in which it is possible for a young person to have an extraordinarily intimate relationship with someone of the other side of the world, and still know nothing of the old lady next door, and never speak to her. Screen to screen is the order of the day, person to person more difficult.

This lack of contact and the resulting loneliness are, author Matthew Fforde says, the great problem of the day. He sets out to examine the problem. Much of what he says is true, but his analysis does end strangely in that he seems to restrict himself, as he writes from a very English point of view.

His ‘neighbour’, that the Gospel abjures him to care for, seems to include a limited number of people. He writes as if his less immediate neighbours here in Ireland and the Catholics across Europe have nothing to contribute to solving the problem of loneliness.

I hope I am not doing him an injustice, but the curse of loneliness is one which required the mobilisation of all the resources of modern society, Catholic and secular.

According to author Matthew Forde “a dramatic ‘sign of the times’”, the epidemic of loneliness has been spreading in various forms throughout society in recent decades, particularly in the West.

Because of this malady of our times, many of the men and women of our epoch experience the unhappiness of ‘lonely modernity’.

As a thoughtful response to this problem he proposes a new solution in this little book, which will respond to this affliction and counter the consequences of the retreat of Christian culture, “a new initiative, a new social ministry, a new apostolate: pastoral care for loneliness”.

He has steeped himself in the relevant teaching of the Church, and his manifesto deserves wide support by all thoughtful people. Though surely his new apostolate is to a large extent already carried out through the Legion of Mary, the St Vincent de Paul and Willy Bermingham’s Alone movement.

As a response to Christ’s instruction to care for the afflicted, and forming part of the ‘New Evangelisation’, this book is addressed to everyone – Christians, those of other religions, and those of no religion at all – but is especially an appeal to the Catholic world: clergy, religious orders, charitable groups and lay associations.

This booklet is a call to action, which Matthew Forde proposes to supplement in due course with a second volume discussing the reactions to his initial discussion of the problems.

As the author concludes, his readers should hope to answer that call already made in the gospels: “I was alone, I suffered because of it, and you kept me company.”