Spiritual Dryness

I am no more in love with the restless pursuit of alleviations of spiritual than of physical poverty and wretchedness. This arises from overmuch tenderness towards oneself. I long for strong and courageous souls able to endure the apparent absences of the heavenly Spouse–those signed to detach us from mere feelings, even from spiritual consolation. For God’s gifts are not God. He alone is all; he alone is worth all; he alone must be all for us. – from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 195 (emphasis mine)

Sometimes we may feel that God has abandoned us because we don’t experience joyful consolation. Sometimes we may feel like not praying because we just can’t find any words that seem to convey adequate praise toward God. (Truth be told, even on our best days of prayers, our words are most likely not adequate for our Most High Lord.)

Certainly God may remove consolation from us for various reasons. One of the reasons may be to test our faithfulness. Do we trust God even when life challenges us? Do we accept our suffering, trusting that God, in his goodness, will bring about good from it? Are we patient, waiting on God’s perfect timing to heal us? If we cannot answer yes to all of these questions, God may remove consolation so that we come to rely solely on him and not the the good feelings or circumstances that he provides for us.

God wants only the best for his children. Then why, if he himself is so much greater than his gifts, would he grace us with something less than himself? And maybe the better question to ask is why would we lower our dignity to accept something less than God offers?

God never abandons us. It is we who walk away from him. If we are feeling spiritually dry, let us yet remain with him, knowing that he has reason and that this too shall pass.

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A Prayer When We Are Suffering

‘O God, you have allowed this to be; may your adorable desires and decrees be accomplished in all things: I make you a sacrifice of this difficulty and all its consequences; it shall take whatever form it pleases you: you are the Master; may you be blessed for all things and in all things. Fiat!

‘For love of you, with all my heart I pardon the person who is the cause of my suffering; and, to show the sincerity of my feelings towards her, I beseech you to grant her every kind of grace, blessing and happiness.’  When your heart cries out against this, say: ‘O God, you see my wretchedness; at least I long to have all these feelings, and I implore you for your grace.’  Once you have done this, think no more of it; if unworthy sentiments continue to torment you, resign yourself to endure that torment and so comply with the divine will that allows it, contenting yourself with renewing your offering in the depths of your soul. This is a noble means of sharing in the chalice of our good Master, Jesus Christ. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 310 (emphasis mine)

This is such a beautiful prayer, but how often does our impatience, fear of failure, or vexations about others who may have wronged us drive out such sentiments? If we were to remain focused on Jesus and his passion, we could more readily accept our own suffering. Prayers like this repeated again and again can help us grow to trust in God and his perfect plan to bring about our salvation.

On Practicing the Habit of Peace

As for peace of heart, you must make a habit of seeking, finding and enjoying it in the upper part of the soul, in the apex of the spirit, in spite of the perturbation, rebelliousness and restlessness of the lower and less spiritual part. The latter must be held of no account, since God ignores what happens in it. In St. Teresa’s words it may be called the courtyard of the soul’s inner castle [Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila]. Profit from this precept which all the saints have adopted. Act like a man who, finding himself among the unclean animals and vermin of his castle yard, ascends hastily to the upper rooms with their beautiful decorations and cultured people. You also must ascend into the sanctuary of the soul, and endeavour never to leave it, since it is there God has made his permanent dwelling-place. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 273 (bold emphasis mine)

These words from Fr. de Caussade should give us pause for reflection as we set upon practicing the habit of peace. And we really must make our peaceful state a habit, for if we don’t, all too often, our emotions will overwhelm our senses and we may be inclined, because of our pride, to move away from God.

Whenever we feel the “perturbation, rebelliousness and restlessness” of which Fr. de Caussade writes, we can practice the habit of a peaceful state by praying the following prayer:

My divine king, my great sovereign, it is you who will, or do not will, this thing. For me that is enough: bless you for all things and in all things. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 194, footnote about Sister Anne-Catherine de Preudhomme, who prayed this prayer whatever befell her.

A Prayer for Blind Self-Abandonment

My God, if this truth were once for all well known, with what blind self-abandonment should we not submit ourselves to thy divine Providence.  What peace and tranquility of heart we should enjoy in every circumstance, not only regarding external events, but also with reference to our interior states of soul.  Even in cases where the painful vicissitudes through which God makes us pass are a punishment for our infidelities, we should say to ourselves that God has willed it thus by his permissive will,  and we must humbly submit; we should detest our fault and accept its painful and humiliating consequences, as St. Francis de Sales so often advises us.

How many troubles and useless anxieties injurious to our peace of heart and spiritual advancement would not this one principle, rightly understood, dispel!  Shall I never succeed with the help of grace in instilling into your mind and still more into your heart this great principle of faith, so sweet, so consoling, so loving and so pacifying?  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 121-122 (emphasis mine)

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert or to have mastered blind self-abandonment, however, God has brought me a long way since I began. In the beginning, certain passages would resonate with me, and I would to commit to practice them. Often, though, life got in the way, and it was difficult to practice those habits.

Of course, everything — including self-abandonment — that we try fails when we attempt it on our own.

The turning point came when I began to write passages from the book on a prominent place that I would look to all day.  I’d read the passage, often a prayer, several times a day. We need to ask for the grace of self-abandonment and to be reminded that we are not in control.

Here is one such prayer from Fr. de Caussade:

My God, may all thy most holy intentions be accomplished in me and never my own; may they be accomplished because while infinitely just in themselves, they are also infinitely advantageous for me.  I know that thou canst will only the greatest good of thy creatures so long as they remain submissive to thy orders.  May my own will never be accomplished except when it is in perfect agreement with thine, because otherwise it can only be harmful to me.  If ever, my God, it should happen through ignorance or passion that I persist in desires contrary to thine, may I be disappointed and punished, not by thy justice, by thy pity and great mercy. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 122 (emphasis mine)

This prayer not only asks God to help us surrender our lives to him, but it should also instill in us a great confidence in God. For even when we walk through suffering, we must know that God only allows it for the good of our souls.

Where Can We Find God?

Summarized in his book Consoling the Heart of Jesus, Father Michael Gaitley, MIC writes the following three-part definition of St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer of recollection, “(1) a particularly effective form of prayer that always lies within our power to practice (2) by which we keep the Lord interiorly present (3) by gazing on him or speaking with him there.”

How can we keep God present in our life apart from our prayer times? Often, we may find that we compartmentalize God because, frankly, it’s difficult to recollect upon God when we are immersed in our day-to-day duties and leisure’s of life. And yet, St. Teresa calls the prayer of recollection, “One of the best ways to develop a deeper life of prayer…”

The way that we can reconcile this seeming paradox is by the following from Father de Caussade: 

“There is no moment at which God does not present himself under the guise of some suffering, some consolation or some duty.  All that occurs within us, around us and by our means covers and hides his divine action. His action is there, most really and certainly present, but in an invisible manner, the result of which is that we are always being taken by surprise and that we only recognize his operation after it has passed. Could we pierce the veil and were we vigilant and attentive, God would reveal himself continuously to us and we should rejoice in his action in everything that happens to us.”  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 18-19. (emphasis mine)

Divine action is God. And everything, save for sin, is Divine action. When we think about the interior recollection of God as St. Teresa talked about, we need only look to the present moment to see where God is and how God is offering Himself to us. Suffering. Consolation. Duty.