In the century following the last major wave of persecution of Christians in the Ancient World, many wealthy, educated people migrated across the Mediterranean to live in solitude in the Egyptian desert. They voluntarily self-isolated. Few of them could even read, virtually none of them had what might amount to a book, although most of them knew the OT psalter, the prayer book of the ancient Jews which would have been so familiar to Jesus, off by heart. Their diet was very simple, their living conditions spartan. They deliberately chose to deprive themselves of all but the bare necessities of life. They practiced penance and prayed a great deal. They were set on searching for God. What we know about them through the writings of those literate men who came to visit them and over whom they exercised such a fascination suggests that their joy, their sense of living life to the full was infectious. Certainly Anthony of Egypt, the patron of solitaries and hermits, enthused Athanasius to such an extent that he wrote his biography. We marvel at how these holy men, these hermits who rejoiced in their solitude, survived. We cannot but help feel that current circumstances establish a spiritual link between us and the desert Fathers. Even in our self-isolation we have a bewildering range of distractions: books, CD’s, a DVD library and 24-hour television with a huge selection of channels. Most of us too have larders that are well stocked so there is little risk of our going hungry. And yet the social animal in us is severely challenged by “social distancing”, by refraining from touch, by the restraint with which we now have to greet friends, relatives and acquaintances. The challenges of solitude are different in the urban environments of the 21st century than they were for the hermits of the 4th century desert. We can take a leaf out of their book, however: we can spend time in prayer, we too can recite the psalms (using our Bible or missal), we can sing sacred songs together with other family members, and we can read. Many will find themselves rediscovering the joy of reading and great secular literature too can lead us to a deeper appreciation of religious truth. And we can still keep in touch, we can email, telephone and many will have set up Watts App groups. A new sense of virtual community will strengthen our commitment to real community when circumstances enable us to meet again as a family in God’s house on the Lord’s Day. The bishops have dispensed us from our Sunday obligation, but we have not thereby been dispensed from the third commandment of the Decalogue: remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. We can still make our faith and its celebration central to our Sunday in isolation: we can listen to mass on radio or on tv. We can ourselves read the Scriptures and we can make that extra effort, when we are sharing social isolation with others, to be loving to our family. Never has that second great commandment made more sense: love your neighbour as yourself.