"Loneliness is one of the deepest, most universal, and most profound experiences that we have," writes Ronald Rolheiser, a specialist in the fields of spirituality and systematic theology. He is the author of The Holy Longing and The Shattered Lantern. In a new edition of his earliest work, Rolheiser deals with that malaise that "results when we are separated from others in such a way that we feel excluded, rejected, or involuntarily cut off." This state is quite different from aloneness or solitude. He examines five types of loneliness: alienation, restlessness, fantasy, rootlessness, and psychological depression. Pondering the Hebrew scriptures , the New Testament, and the views of Christian theologians, Rolheiser comes up with some positive things to say about the potential value of loneliness.

In our hearts we bear the image of God and the fire that animates us to do the right thing and to fulfill our potential. Loneliness also resides there — "It is God's way of drawing us toward the end for which He made us, namely, union with God and with our fellow human beings." Loneliness can help us become more empathetic; it can attune us to the yearnings of our heart; and it can serve as an invitation to share in the loneliness of Jesus. It is only when we have dealt honestly with our own rootlessness and restlessness that we can begin to understand the importance of community life. This is a helpful spiritual work on the heart's yearning for union with God and others.