Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dark night of the soul

Recently, a blogger wrote, "Is faith really available to everyone? I have a long history of psychological problems, including chronic depression and and very disrupted thinking. I try to make myself open to God and the development of faith in a Catholic environment. I participate in the sacraments, go to Mass, and pray. But I'm left empty and I feel ultimately that my emotional problems make connecting with this impossible. There are tons of people with problems like mine, and much worse. How do we get in?"

Thanks, Anon, for your personal and inspiring post. It is inspiring because despite all of the difficulties you've experienced in trying to follow Christ, you are still following Him. On behalf of Him and His Church, thank you for being a witness of faith, hope, and love in the midst of trials. I'm very sorry that you've had to endure all of this, and I appreciate the fact that you have brought your situation to our forum.

There is an aspect of the spiritual life that speaks to your experience. While its causes are not normally psychological, its effects are similar to what you are describing. It is called the "dark night of the soul". This is where the soul feels tremendous emptiness and dryness in the spiritual life even though it is reaching out to God in great ways. Some of the greatest saints have experienced this; Mother Teresa, for example, spent years with serious doubts about God's very existence!

Another saint who endured the dark night was St. Teresa of Avila. She was very honest with our Lord about the serious struggles she had in following Him. Her famous quote is, "Lord, seeing how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few of them". As ironic as it sounds, the dark night is a sign that you are a great friend of God's. He doesn't let just anyone go through the darkness and pain that his own Son experienced on the Cross: "my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

So, you are definitely in (the spiritual life); in fact, you are way in. I would suggest that you do two things: 1) be honest with God on a regular basis, and 2) remain faithful. As long as you remain faithful to Christ in prayer and in the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), you will get through to the other side of this, and it will be amazing! Just as Christ had to go through Calvary to get to Paradise, so you (and any other saint) have to go through your own darkness to reach the light. It will be the light of joy, peace, happiness, and life that you have never known! It will be the light of Christ.


At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Searching For Holiness said...

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At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to see a priest and he told me to do a few things. It won't be easy but I guess its necessary.

At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments really make my heart go out to you. Depression is very awful - having gone through some myself. Some thing that has helped me.....volunteering or joining a group in the church. You might not feel up to going but some times connections with others in the church really lifted my spirits. I also felt closer to God because I could see how He works through people in the church. Father Greg is so right when he says you are an inspiration. Praying and receiving the sacraments and waiting to come out of "the dark of the night." I will pray for you. One last thing, some times my depressions were related to neglecting the sacrament of confession. It is a beautiful sacrament.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Tenderfoot said...

You were never out with God. Go to Eucharist adoration you will literally feel like you are sitting in the room with Jesus Himself. In fact, you are! And like the last anony said volunteer or join a group. It will help give you a "connected" feeling to the church. Also if you maybe need therapy be open to that too. I will keep you in my prayers.

Take care sweetheart.

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does any one have any suggestions for reading about St. Theresa of Avila? Thanks

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Searching for Holiness said...

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At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will be going to the Basilica tomorrow and will take my non-Catholic friend with me. She is a Calvinist. It will be interesting to see what she thinks of the church. I can't wait to go to see all the different statues of Mary! The book and gift stores too!

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the link to a recent Time magazine article about Mother Theresa's crisis of faith. She experienced spiritual emptiness for years, but continued to be faithful when her faith was tested. You're in good company!


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