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Catholic Dictionary




In Christian asceticism, the conscious and deliberate withdrawal from creatures in order to be more closely united with God. The beata solitudo (blessed solitude) of monasticism, praised by St. Benedict, is the best known and most widely infuential in Christian history. Solitude may by physical or spiritual or both. It is physical (or exterior) insofar as a person withdraws from the company of people and worldy affairs, either permanently, as a hermit or monk; or partially, as every member of a religious institute; or temporarily, as in a retreat. Physical solitude is not escapism or isolationism, but a means to an end, the end being spiritual solitude. In spiritual solitude the soul is alone with God, attentive to him in preference to creatures, even though it has to deal with creatures. (Etym. Latin solitudo, from solus, alone.)