07 April 2008

Shadows in Prayer

One ‘Blessed be God’ in times of adversity, is worth more than a thousand acts of gratitude in times of prosperity.--St. John of the Cross

Fr. James Martin offers a helpful analysis of common difficulties in the spiritual life: darkness, dryness, desolation, doubt, disbelief, depression, and despair—the “seven D’s.”

On a related note, St. Alphonsus Liguori discusses spiritual desolation:
The time of spiritual desolation is also a time for being resigned. When a soul begins to cultivate the spiritual life, God usually showers his consolations upon her to wean her away from the world; but when he sees her making solid progress, he withdraws his hand to test her and to see if she will love and serve him without the reward of sensible consolations. “In this life,” as St. Teresa used to say, “our lot is not to enjoy God, but to do his holy will.” And again, “Love of God does not consist in experiencing his tendernesses, but in serving him with resolution and humility.” And in yet another place, “God’s true lovers are discovered in times of aridity and temptation.”

Let the soul thank God when she experiences his loving endearments, but let her not repine when she finds herself left in desolation. It is important to lay great stress on this point, because some souls, beginners in the spiritual life, finding themselves in spiritual aridity, think God has abandoned them, or that the spiritual life is not for them; thus they give up the practice of prayer and lose what they have previously gained. The time of aridity is the best time to practice resignation to God’s holy will. I do not say you will feel no pain in seeing yourself deprived of the sensible presence of God; it is impossible for the soul not to feel it and lament over it, when even our Lord cried out on the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In her sufferings, however, the soul should always be resigned to God’s will.

[I]n this life the saints neither desired nor sought the joys of sensible fervor, but rather the fervor of the spirit toughened in the crucible of suffering. “O how much better it is,” says St. John of Avila, “to endure aridity and temptation by God’s will than to be raised to the heights of contemplation without God’s will!”

When God sends spiritual darkness and desolation, his true friends are known.
Beautiful.
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