Saturday, May 17, 2008

Desolation

"Oh Lord, you seek those who hide from you and you hide from those who seek you." ~~St. Augustine

It's not unusual for those who take their faith seriously to suffer sporadic bouts of desolation. Some of the greatest saints in Catholic history have suffered from these agonizing moments of feeling abandoned by God, or of questioning His existence. I remember reading about one such experience about St. Therese de Lisieux. Feeling the great vacuity of a desolate condition, St. Therese feared that death might be nothing more than perpetual non-entity:

"I get tired of the darkness all around me and try to refresh my jaded spirits with the thoughts of that bright country where my hopes lie; and what happens? It is worse torment than ever; the darkness itself seems to borrow, from the sinners who live in it, the gift of speech. I hear its mocking accents; 'It's all a dream, this talk of a heavenly country...Death will make nonsense of your hopes, it will only mean a night darker than ever, a night of mere non-existence.'"

This may sound terrible, but it's actually encouraging to see a saint - who also happens to be a Doctor of the Church - experience what one is tempted to characterize as the affliction of the faithless and the wretched. But that clearly is not the case since people who experience this profound truancy are people who believe in God and want to continue to believe in Him. Last year a book called Come Be might Light - which featured a collection of Mother Teresa's personal and undisclosed writings - was published by her friend Father Kolodiejchukather . Her writings reveal an indefatigable willingness to live a life according to the will of God, but also a desolation that plagued her to the last years of her life. Many irreligious individuals, such as Christopher Hitchens, seized upon this revelation and asserted that Mother Teresa never believed any of what her Catholic faith professed.

For me, personally, the greatest spiritual struggles have always manifested in the science/ religion incompatibility; specifically, neurology and how it relates to the soul, as well as other less important points of contention. Regardless of the things I've read that try to iron out these differences, I've never been able to reconcile these two seemingly opposite disciplines. I, however, feel I should look at this struggle no differently that the struggles of Mother Teresa and St. Therese de Lisieux, who continued living their lives devoted to God while hungry for Him and in deep desolation. And, as reward for the battles they waged in their own way here on earth, they enjoy the full and clear vision of God. I think that's all that matters.

From Catholic Encyclopedia :
We define that the souls of all the saints in heaven have seen and do see the Divine Essence by direct intuition and face to face [visione intuitivâ et etiam faciali], in such wise that nothing created intervenes as an object of vision, but the Divine Essence presents itself to their immediate gaze, unveiled, clearly and openly; moreover, that in this vision they enjoy the Divine Essence, and that, in virtue of this vision and this enjoyment, they are truly blessed and possess eternal life and eternal rest.

10 comments:

Terry Nelson said...

"There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still." - Betsy Ten Boom

Tom in Vegas said...

Terry-

That's a beautiful quote.

Rita said...

At the head of everything is Eternal Law (God's will for the government of the universe), this branches off into two different strands, one, Scientific Law (the science of the natural world), and two, the principals of Morality which in turn give us Lex Divina and Lex Naturalis. The essence of the soul cannot be reached via science because it is governed by the other strand.

Well, that is what the Medieval theologians said and its is good enough for me. It dates from a time when there was no conflict between science and religion.

That isn't to say I don't plunge into the abyss myself, but that is usually on account of some of the people I encounter and their stubborn lack of faith and morality.

Best wishes.
Rita.

Tracy said...

Tom, this is just so good!! What an excellent post :)

Shirley said...

When it gets to be too much, just remember that God created Science too, even if reconciling it with religion is a mystery. Think of all the scientific things that were mysteries a century ago; and what you cannot reconcile now may be common knowledge a century hence.

Jennifer said...

I often suffer that deep area where I feel abandoned and left alone by God. Where I question why I am here, what purpose do I serve to others. I wonder if it is a puppet master playing with us all and will laugh at us when we die.

Then I seem to grasp the concepts I have held so dear to me and come back to God.

portal said...

I too used to struggle with the whole science vs faith issue.

I have a passionate love for science and found some of the things hard to reconcile. At a certain point though I had to step back and acknowledge that God is the first an greatest scientist and that often what we don't grasp is because it is yet beyond our capability to do so. We haven't all the info. Nor will we.

I have an great interest in the human brain, both in how it works chemically (ie - addiction/dependence) and in the psychological issues people suffer from. It was one of my majors in college. Once I accepted that God knew the answers that my fellow companions/researchers were looking for and I stopped making a non-existent barrier between faith and science, it all came together for me. I have a better grasp on the mystery of the unity of body and soul. how it is right that the mind and the soul work in tandem with each other. it isnt' one or the other or one against the other (thereby negating the need for or existence of the other).....it is both together.

man is flesh and spirit. A complete union of both.

his soul (that which animates him and gives him life) is spirit, unlike animals or plants which have physical souls that cease when they die.

so it is right that one operates on the other within man as we are both. We are a spiritual being with a body.

anyhow - once that was cleared up the rest of scientific matters became easier for me...and frankly I was better able to see the error in some of it too. Where it had run amok.

BUT - then you are given other trials to struggle with instead. If you don't suffer in one area you'll suffer in another.

I just got done giving thanks on my blog for the lifting of one these struggles not too long ago.

it was horrible.

anyhow - this was a long, rambling, and probably unhelpful reply - but I wanted to say thanks for posting on the subject. Too many people think that Christians have a shiny, happy life and that we only believe cuz it's the EASY thing to do.

I'm always saying to them it's the hardest thing on earth.

Kathleen Miller said...

Tom,

What a great post!

Tom in Vegas said...

Portal-

You really are a source of tremendous wisdom. Please apply it here, in this blog, as much as you wish:0)

You know, the reason I got into blogging is so that I, like a sponge, could absorb from the wisdom of others who had more to offer than me. All of you, Rita, Tracy, Shirley, Jennifer, ADD to my spiritual life in ways that manifest as faith. You are a God send.

Kathleen-

Thank you!:0)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Tom: I, too, take comfort in the Saint's struggles. They have much to teach us about perserverance.