Titus and the Solitude of the Cell
Blessed Solitude. I already feel completely at home in this little cell. I haven’t been bored at all, in fact just the opposite. I am here alone, but never was our Lord so close to me. I could shout for joy that He has again let himself be found by me without me being able to be among people or people with me. He is now my only refuge and I feel safe and happy. I would like to stay here always, If He wills that. I have seldom been so happy and so content.”
Written while confined to a Nazi prison cell, the above words from Titus offer rich material for meditation. First there is the shocking juxtaposition between his status as a prisoner and his optimism and gratitude. This paradox invites us to consider the possibility of joy in areas of our lives which usually are more associated with sadness, anxiety, or worry. Titus’s example suggests that God is always with us and that perhaps God is most accessible to us in our moments of apparent aloneness and defeat. Joy and gratitude seem not to depend so much on our circumstances but on our orientation towards those circumstances. Aligning our will with God’s will, Titus indicates, is a first step towards experiencing peace and joy.
As Titus’ experience suggests, solitude is sometimes a requirement for the deepest awareness of God’s presence. Our lives may be filled to overflowing with activities and demands which make it difficult to pause, reflect, and give thanks. The enforced aloneness of the cell frees Titus to return to his interior home in God, a goal which he has spent a lifetime cultivating as a Carmelite. Without our needing to undergo the deprivation of a prison cell, where are the opportunities in our daily lives for silence, solitude, and a focus on God’s presence? Daily periods of prayer, retreats, and quiet time with nature are all methods for stilling the busy mind and turning inward to discover the God who already seeks us. Sacrifices like fasting and almsgiving build the self discipline necessary to profit from periods of silence and solitude.
Sacred space is usually associated with settings specifically associated with worship, such as churches or monasteries but Titus teaches us that there is no physical location that cannot be transformed into a place to encounter the Divine. He challenges us to enlarge our notion of worship space and to follow his example of finding the Lord, even in dreary, oppressive settings. Finally the above quote from Titus calls to our attention the plight of political prisoners and all those unjustly imprisoned around the world. Let us not be too quick to condemn certain people as beyond redemption or to exclude the possibility that the Lord can be found in certain institutions which we may be tempted to dismiss, such as jails, mental hospitals, AIDS hospices, etc.
May Blessed Titus help us to find the Lord’s peace and joy in whatever “prison” we may find ourselves!
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTIONS
How might I find God in situations where I feel trapped or “imprisoned”? What are the not so obvious areas of grace in my situation?
Do I allow for sufficient silence and solitude in my life so I can hear God’s voice as both the prophet Elijah and Titus did? Or is my heart as cluttered as my life with distractions, perceived obligations, and “important” demands which interfere with the contemplative aspect of my vocation? Do I need to wait for a crisis such as imprisonment to listen for God?
The example of Titus Bramdsa can inspire us to solidarity with political prisoners and all those unjustly imprisoned. What are specific things I can do to become another Christ to these brothers and sisters? And what can I do to minister to the victims of crime and violence in my community?