In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Though we had known of her darkness for some time after her death the book Come Be My Light really detailed the spiritual agony Blessed Teresa of Calcutta felt through the many letters she wrote to spiritual directors through the decades.
When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. – I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of the darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.
At the time, many reported this revelation about Blessed Teresa as some sort of double life she was leading. They could not fathom the idea of this kind of spiritual struggle from one who acted as if always in union with the Divine.
But darkness and faith very often go hand in hand. Some of the Church’s greatest saints experienced long periods of darkness where they did not feel the presence of God.
The most famous author on spiritual darkness is the 16th century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, with his Dark Night of the Soul. But many modern saints have written of their experiences as well.
The one who I’ve been able to relate to the most is St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897). A doctor of the Church for her Little Way of spiritual childhood, St. Thérèse suffered what she called “worst temptations of atheism” for the last 18 months of her life.
During this time she says God, “permitted my soul to be invaded by the thickest darkness, and that the thought of heaven, up until then so sweet to me, be no longer anything but the cause of struggle and torment.”
For her the veil of faith turned into a wall reaching “right up to the heavens” covering the starry firmament. “When I sing of the happiness of heaven and of the eternal possession of God,” she writes, “I feel no joy in this, for I sing simply what I WANT TO BELIEVE.”
I love the images she uses in her autobiography to describe her trial of faith. She often calls herself a “little ball”, a plaything, that the child Jesus had let fall to the floor of her little boat as he went off to sleep, noting, “how rarely souls allow Him to sleep peacefully within them.”
It is quite difficult to put such spiritual suffering into words. According to the Little Flower, one must “travel through this dark tunnel to understand its darkness.” However, I recently came across a quote from Michael Novak that came pretty darn close to nailing it for me. Ironically (or not) it comes from an essay about St. Thérèse.
Faith is not a feeling, not even a feeling of devotion, not an ardor. It is often, so far as ordinary sentiments go, an emptiness, an aridity, a dry torment, a mind jumbled with distraction, directionless, unfeeling. Faith is a calm and feelingless redirecting of mind and will toward the unseen love, notable more for its steadiness and willingness to go on acting just as it would if it had been carried along by transports of joy, instead of being left bereft of signs and comforts. Only in that way can faith be tested for truth, steadfastness, and authenticity. Only in that way is it shown to be the real thing.
No doubt because of the testimonies of great Saints like John of the Cross and the Little Flower, it’s been said that such spiritual darkness is reserved for a select few that God has chosen for a special, closer union with himself. But, judging by the response I got when I posted the above quote on my Facebook page recently, I’m willing to bet that this trial happens to more souls than we think, and indeed may perhaps enter the soul of every believer at some point in their spiritual journey.
This is, I believe, the “narrow gate” that Christ speaks of in the Gospels. What separates the saints from the rest of us, or rather what makes us saints, is perseverance.
The entire autobiography of St. Thérèse is a treasure, rich in spiritual insight that is at the same time profound and practical in its child-like simplicity. But of all the insights recorded in her Story of a Soul, I keep coming back to one line in particular time and time again:
“While I do not have the joy of faith, I am trying to carry out its works, at least.”
How easy it is to give up prayer, even one’s entire faith, when the joy of that faith is gone — when our prayer seems fruitless and we feel as though God has abandoned us. But it is precisely during those trials of faith when God, in fact, is closest to us and drawing us closer to him.
As Pope Francis beautifully put it in his Holy Week Wednesday audience this year, “The night becomes darker in fact before the morning begins, before the light begins. God intervenes in the darkest moment and resuscitates.”
Therefore, “Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer” (Romans 12:11-12).
Persevere in prayer.
Above all, faith is a relationship with Christ that is deepened through prayer.
Whether we suffer a great trial of faith or not, at the very least some aridity in prayer is inevitable, and, writes Peter Thomas Rorhbach in his book Conversation With Christ, it “presents us with an excellent opportunity for demonstrating unselfish love for Christ, a love that does not require consolation to sustain it.”
It’s not the quality of our prayer life that bears fruit, but our faithfulness. Quality will come with fidelity. Don’t give up.
Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem barren. Prayer is always fruitful. -St. Josemaria, The Way #101
All quotes from St. Therese taken from Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition
A few years ago, Susan Windley-Daoust reached out to me about reviewing a chapter in her forth coming book Theology of the Body, Extended: The Spiritual Signs of Birth, Impairment and Dying.
For obvious reasons, she was interested in my thoughts on the chapter on “The Theology of the Impaired Body”. You can read a few excerpts and some of my thoughts at World Down Syndrome Day and the Cult of Normalcy.
It’s an excellent study of the images that the label of disability invokes, how the disabled have been treated throughout history, some shining examples of how the disabled should be viewed and treated, and finally on the limited nature of every human body and how it is a gift and a sign pointing to God.
The messiah has consented to a way of limitation, of embodiment that can be bound, injured and killed as the way to define ‘the man.’
“When we see or experience limitation, even impairment, we should not think, ‘behold, the monster,’ but rather ‘behold, the man’ (John 19:5). The incarnation of Christ and his passion is the ‘norm,’ not anything defined by the cult of normalcy.
I’m happy to say that her book has finally been published and is available for purchase! Susan is still offering some signed copies at a discounted price through her website. The paperback book is also available via Lectio Publishing, through Amazon, and for order through your local bookstore. It’s available in e-book format on iTunes.
It’s a little pricy, but definitely worth it for the TOB enthusiast. The description from Amazon reads:
Pope John Paul II expected theologians to expand their insights of the 129 lectures given during his Wednesday audiences in St. Peter’s Square and Paul VI Audience Hall between September 1979 and November 1984. However, his integrated vision of the human person – body, soul, and spirit – has rarely gone beyond the popular topics of moral theology associated with sexuality and marriage. Now, Susan Windley-Daoust, a passionate disciple of John Paul’s complete work, devoted spiritual director, and popular Assistant Professor of Theology at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, extends the Theology of the Body to what it means to be human during the experiences of childbirth, impairment, and dying. Are there spiritual signs in these bodily events that are central to the human experience? Oh yes! And the signs mysteriously and wonderfully point to God.
The TOB is WAY more than just sex an marriage. It’s so nice to see so many authors having a little different discussion about the TOB than we’ve seen in recent years!
If you do read it, be sure to help out the author and publisher by leaving a review on Amazon. Windley-Daoust’s next project is A Spirituality of Childbirth: a theology of the birthing body.
Two years ago, Christian recording artist Tommee Profitt and his wife Angela enjoyed some internet fame with their super-cute “Pregnant and I Know it” LMFAO spoof.
This week, the ladies at WhatsUpMoms launched the equally cute and silly “I’m So Pregnant” Iggy Azalea “Fancy” Parody that’s already over 200,000 views.
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude” -Scott Hamilton.
This video about Chris Koch, a farmer at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, CA, proves what I’ve said here many times: we’re only really limited by our own lack of imagination, determination and ingenuity.
Life with a disability is not as awful as you think. The first step, Chris reminds us, is accepting who you are:
“Some people are ashamed of their freckles. Some people are ashamed of that spare tire around their waist. They have big ears or a big nose. I think if you’re worried about how you look, you’re cheating yourself out of opportunities.”
More from Chris at the Calgary Herald.
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Lk. 1:42-45)
A few thoughts on today’s feast.
First, from my friend Bill Donaghy via Facebook last year:
Two women, pregnant with new life, whose great Yes to God’s proposals would literally change the world. And people say the Church is patriarchal? She’s matriarchal to the core! Happy Feast of the Visitation!
From a pro-life perspective I am usually caught up in St. John the Baptist’s in-utero gymnastics on the feast of the Visitation. Recently, however, I also find myself focusing on Elizabeth greeting Mary as the “mother of my Lord” while she is but a few weeks pregnant.
I was particularly struck by this a while back when a friend of mine announced her first pregnancy on facebook by declaring, “I’m going to be a mom (after the baby is born) in May!” To which I could not help responding, “You already are a mom – right now! That baby is alive inside you and you are already caring for him and mothering him – providing him with the vital nutrients he needs to live and grow and get ready to greet the outside world in nine months.”
Mary’s role as the Mother of God reveals the dignity and sacredness of motherhood (mothers are so special even God wanted one!) – a role that begins at the moment of life’s inception.
That is all :-)
In the last episode of BioTalk, Rebecca Taylor and I discussed transhumanist images in several popular movies and television shows. One of those was an animated film called Robots. Rebecca called it a great movie for kids (rated PG) with a prophetic message about where Transhumanism will lead us.
In the movie, a power-hungry robot takes over one of Robot City’s biggest industries and ceases production on spare parts for the city’s residents in favor of shiny new “upgrades”. “Why be you when you can be new?” is the company’s new slogan and those who cannot afford to upgrade are collected and turned into scrap metal.
Shortly after we recorded that episode, I actually came across this movie in the $5 bin at my local WalMart. After watching it again, I highly recommend it, both for it’s cultural significance and because it’s just an entertaining little movie.
In her latest commentary at the National Catholic Register, Taylor explains what’s so prophetic about this quirky little flick:
Consider a recent story in The New York Times about a new hearing aid that is controlled by an iPhone app. The story begins with a 65-year-old hearing-impaired man going into a noisy night club.
He is able to adjust his hearing aids with his iPhone so that he can carry on a conversation in the middle of a torrent of background noise. The new hearing aids that can be fine-tuned for every environment are a great advancement for those with hearing loss, but the Times story does not stop with the therapeutic benefits. The author of the piece tried the hearing aid for himself. He wrote:
“Wearing these hearing aids was like giving my ears a software upgrade. For the first time, I had fine-grain control over my acoustic environment, the sort of bionic capability I never realized I had craved. I’m 35, and I have normal hearing. But if I could, I’d wear these hearing aids all the time.”
The author’s glowing endorsement included the “slight exaggeration” that these advanced hearing aids are “better than the ears most of us were born with.” The title of the piece is “Conjuring Images of a Bionic Future.”
As Rebecca notes in her article and we noted in BioTalk, it’s time for us to discuss this stuff, with each other, with our children.
LIFE.com recently published some sweet pictures of nurses caring for premature babies 75 years ago.
These images were published online in connection with their larger story in the June 2 issue, Saving Premies.
A lot has changed in 75 years. Medicine and technology has advanced significantly. But, premature birth is still a serious health risk for nearly 500,000 babies born in the United States every year, accounting for more than a third of all infant deaths.
The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. –Douglas MacArthur
Image: Incidents of the war. A harvest of death, Gettysburg, July, 1863
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn. 15:13)
For all those who have lost loved ones in battle I pray, in the words of Abraham Lincoln:
that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
For our fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines past and present, known and unknown (including military chaplains); for those who died in battle and for the many veterans and other service men and women we have lost over the years:
Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Béatrice Fedor comments on the recent trend among abortion advocates to share “positive” abortion stories in order to “break the silence” and “remove the stigma”.
You can’t “remove” abortion stigma and shame but you can face what happened honestly and start to heal. There would be no stigma if what we call “abortion” were a beautiful, good, fulfilling life event. But as it is, abortion is a violent, destructive, demeaning, traumatic event that we (more or less freely) agree to. That’s why we feel guilt and shame. We are not whole anymore but we are told that we should be thankful because this is supposedly one of the greatest achievements of the women’s rights movement.
Abortion is not a victory, it’s a wound and a loss. The “positive abortion” movement is not telling the whole story and is not helping women. Encouraging us to pretend that nothing major happened keeps us in the darkness. Women who lost a child to abortion need to be restored and walk in the light.
Béatrice, herself, is a member of Silent No More — an awareness campaign in which women also share their abortion stories, but with a slightly different goal in mind: to make the public aware of the devastation abortion brings women and help them to find healing.
Here she is sharing her abortion testimony in front of a thousand people at the Stand up For life March and Rally in 2009 in Columbia, SC:
Beatrice blogs at 400 Words for Women where she shares her reflections on her journey and on our broken culture.
• A 64 year old Chinese woman had twins through IVF in 2010. She holds the record as the oldest mother in China, having given birth at 60.
• T Maureen L. Condic explains why reprogrammed cells are not the same as embryos. Namely, they lack the ability to complete an organized development. In other words, if they were to be placed in a womb, such stem cells would create tumors, not a fetus.
• Jessica Cussins writes at the Center for Genetics and Society about the “cultural relevance” of the new Johnny Depp movie Transcendence. It’s ambiguity, she says, makes the subject matter compelling and may be what the movie gets “absolutely right” about the real-world tension created by radical biotechnologies.
• Speaking of Transcendence, if you missed it, be sure to check out the latest episode of BioTalk for more transhumanist images in popular movies and television shows. If nothing else, they help generate a conversation worth having.