I just today had a friend, a fervent Catholic, albeit a recent convert, three years old a Catholic, although a mature man, convey to me he is enduring a serious “dark night”.
While I applaud all new entrants to the faith, there is, imho, a benefit to a lifelong practice. Irish Catholic is somehow different than generic or modern Catholicism. Sixteen hundred years of tribal practice/environment must affect? Genetically, even?
In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankel noted of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, it was not those oldest, most sick, most wearied, most hungered, most overworked, most abused who died in the night. No. It was those who gave up hope.
I wrote the following letter to my friend.
“Great saints experience great doubt.
In “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,”…most of its pages reveal not the serene meditations of a Catholic sister confident in her belief, but the agonized words of a person confronting a terrifying period of darkness that lasted for decades.
“In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss,” she wrote in 1959, “of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing.” According to the book, this inner turmoil, known by only a handful of her closest colleagues, lasted until her death in 1997.
Faith is not a feeling. Love is more than a feeling.
St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the “dark night,” the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God’s existence.
During her final illness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite nun who is now widely revered as “The Little Flower,” faced a similar trial, which seemed to center on doubts about whether anything awaited her after death. “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into,” she said to the sisters in her convent.
In time, with the aid of the priest who acted as her spiritual director, Mother Teresa concluded that these painful experiences could help her identify not only with the abandonment that Jesus Christ felt during the crucifixion, but also with the abandonment that the poor faced daily. In this way she hoped to enter, in her words, the “dark holes” of the lives of the people with whom she worked. “If I ever become a saint,” she wrote, “I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ ”
There is no sin in admitting doubt. Quite the contrary. To not have doubt is not to struggle, some kind of worthless ersatz humanity, ersatz cross. Not a real cross. Not a real God. Not a real Jesus, Who really suffered and really died and had real agony in the Garden, whose sweat really (medically possible) became blood. And,…Who really, REALLY lives! There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, or Happy Friday, as Mara likes to call it. 🙂
St Thomas the Apostle, pray for us!
Daily Offering (abbreviated): O my Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day…