Spiritual Desolation

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"Hope and Despair" - by Evelyn de Morgan


The Time-of Spiritual Desolation, is a Time-for being Resigned. When a Soul begins to-Cultivate the Spiritual Life, God usually 'Showers' His Consolations upon her, to-Wean her away-from the World; but when He sees her making Solid Progress, He withdraws His Hand to-Test her, and to see if she will Love and Serve Him without the Reward-of Sensible Consolations. "In this Life", as Saint Teresa used to say, "our lot is not to-enjoy God, but to do His Holy Will". And again, "Love of God does not consist-in 'Experiencing' His Tenderness's, but in-Serving Him with Resolution and Humility". And in yet another place, "God's True Lovers, are discovered-in Times-of Aridity and Temptation".

One Single Act, done with Aridity-of-Spirit, is worth more than many done-with Feelings-of-Devotion.


Spiritual Desolation

by Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri

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We ought to-View, in the Light-of God's Holy Will, the Loss-of Persons who are Helpful to us, in a Spiritual or Material Way. Pious Souls often Fail in this respect, by not being Resigned-to the Dispositions of God's Holy Will. Our Sanctification comes Fundamentally and Essentially from-God, not from-Spiritual Directors. When God sends us a Spiritual Director, He Wishes us to-Use him for our Spiritual Profit; but if He takes him away, He wants us to-remain Calm and Unperturbed, and to-Increase our Confidence in His Goodness, by saying-to Him: "Lord, Thou hast Given me this Help, and now Thou dost Take it away. Blessed be Thy Holy Will! I beg Thee, Teach me what I must do, to-Serve Thee".

In this manner too, we should 'Receive' whatever other Crosses God sends us. "But", you reply, "these Sufferings are really Punishments". The Answer-to that Remark is: Are not the Punishments God sends us in this Life, also Graces and Benefits? Our Offenses against God must be Atoned-for somehow, either in this Life, or in the Next. Hence we should all make Saint Augustine's Prayer our own: "Lord, here Cut, here Burn and Spare me not, but Spare me in-Eternity". Let us say with Job: "Let this be my Comfort, that Afflicting me with Sorrow, He Spare not". Having Merited Hell for our Sins, we should be Consoled that God Chastises us in this Life, and Animate ourselves to look-upon such Treatment, as a Pledge, that God Wishes-to Spare us in the Next. When God sends us Punishments, let us say with the High-Priest Heli: "It is the Lord, let Him do what is Good in His Sight".

The Time-of Spiritual Desolation, is also a Time-for being Resigned. When a Soul begins-to Cultivate the Spiritual Life, God usually Showers His Consolations upon her to Wean her away-from the World; but when He sees her making Solid Progress, He withdraws His Hand to Test her and to see if she will Love and Serve Him, without the Reward-of Sensible Consolations. "In this Life", as Saint Teresa used to say, "Our Lot is not to Enjoy God, but to do His Holy Will". And again, "Love of God does not Consist-in experiencing His Tenderness's, but in Serving Him, with Resolution and Humility". And in yet another place, "God's True Lovers are discovered in Times-of Aridity and Temptation".

Let the Soul 'Thank' God, when she 'Experiences' His Loving Endearments, but let her not Repine, when she finds herself left-in Desolation. It is Important to-lay Great Stress on this Point, because some Souls, Beginners-in the Spiritual Life, finding themselves in- Spiritual Aridity, think God has Abandoned them, or that the Spiritual Life is not for them; thus they Give-up the Practice-of Prayer, and Lose what they have Previously Gained. The Time-of-Aridity is the Best-time to-Practice Resignation-to God's Holy Will. I do not say you will Feel no-Pain, in seeing yourself Deprived-of the Sensible Presence-of-God; it is Impossible for the Soul not to Feel it, and Lament over it, when even Our Lord cried-out on the Cross: "My God, My God, why hast Thou Forsaken Me"? In her Sufferings, however, the Soul should always be Resigned-to God's Will.

The Saints have all experienced Desolations and Abandonment of Soul. "How Impervious to things Spiritual, my Heart" cries a Saint Bernard. "No Savor in Pious Reading, no Pleasure in Meditation nor in Prayer". For the most part, it has been the Common-lot of the Saints to encounter Aridities; Sensible Consolations were the Exceptions. Such things are Rare Occurrences granted to Untried Souls so that they may not Halt on the Road to Sanctity; the Real Delights and Happiness that will Constitute their Reward are Reserved for Heaven. This Earth is a Place of Merit which is Acquired by Suffering; Heaven is a Place of Reward and Happiness. Hence, in this Life, the Saints neither Desired nor Sought the Joys of Sensible Fervor, but rather the Fervor of the Spirit, Toughened in the Crucible of Suffering. "O how much better it is," says Saint John of Avila, "to endure Aridity and Temptation by God's Will, than to be Raised to the Heights of Contemplation without God's Will".

But you say, you would Gladly Endure Desolation, if you were certain that it comes-from God, but you are Tortured-by the Anxiety that your Desolation comes-by your own Fault, and is a Punishment for your Tepidity. Very well, let us suppose you are Right; then get rid-of your Tepidity and 'Exercise' more-Diligence in the Affairs of your Soul. But because you are possibly 'Experiencing' Spiritual Darkness, are you going to get all Wrought Up, give-up Prayer, and thus make things Twice-as-Bad, as they are?

Let us Assume, that this Aridity is a Punishment-for your Tepidity. Was it not God, Who sent it? 'Accept' your Desolation, as your 'Just Desserts' and 'Unite' yourself to God's-Holy-Will. Did you not say that you Merited Hell? And now you are Complaining? Perhaps you think God should send you Consolations! Away-with such Ideas, and be Patient under God's Hand. Take up your Prayers again, and Continue-to Walk-in the Way, you have entered-upon; for the Future, Fear, lest such Laments come-from too-little Humility and too-little Resignation-to the Will-of-God. Therefore be-Resigned, and say: "Lord, I Accept this Punishment from Thy Hands, and I Accept it for as-long-as it Pleases Thee; if it be Thy Will that I should be thus-Afflicted, for all Eternity, I am Satisfied". Such a Prayer, though Hard to make, will be far more Advantageous to you, than the Sweetest Sensible Consolations.

It is well to-Remember, however, that Aridity is not always a Chastisement; at-Times, it is a Disposition-of Divine Providence, for our Greater Spiritual Profit, and to keep us Humble. Lest Saint Paul become Vain, on-account-of the Spiritual Gifts he had Received, the Lord 'Permitted' him to be Tempted to- Impurity: "And lest the Greatness of the Revelations should Exalt me, there was Given me a Sting-of my Flesh, an Angel of-Satan to-Buffet me".

Prayer made amid Sensible Devotion, is not much of an Achievement: "There is a Friend, a Companion at the Table, and he will not abide in the Day of Distress". You would not consider the Casual Guest at your Table, a Friend, but only him who Assists you in your Need without thought-of Benefit to-himself. When God sends Spiritual Darkness and Desolation, His True Friends become-Known.

Palladius, the Author-of the "Lives-of-the-Fathers-of-the-Desert", experiencing Great Disgust in-Prayer, went seeking Advice-from the Abbot Macarius. The Saintly Abbot gave him this Counsel: "When you are Tempted in Times-of-Dryness, to give-up Praying, because you seem to be Wasting your Time, say: `Since I cannot Pray, I will be Satisfied just-to Remain-on Watch, here in my Cell, for the Love of Jesus Christ' ". Devout Soul, you do the same when you are Tempted to give-up Prayer, just because you seem to be getting nowhere. Say: "I am going to stay here, just to Please God". Saint-Francis-de-Sales used to say that if we do nothing else but 'Banish' Distractions and Temptations in our Prayers, the Prayer is Well-made. Tauler states, that Persevering Prayer in Time-of Dryness, will receive Greater Grace, than Prayer made amid Great Sensible Devotion.

Rodriguez 'Cites' the Case-of a Person, who Persevered Forty (40) Years in Prayer, despite Aridity, and experienced Great Spiritual Strength as a result-of it; on-occasion, when through Aridity he would 'Omit' Meditation, he felt Spiritually Weak and Incapable-of Good Deeds. Saint Bonaventure and Gerson both say that Persons who do not Experience the Recollection, they would like to-have, in their Meditations, often Serve God better, than they would-do, if they did have it; the Reason is that Lack-of-Recollection keeps them more-Diligent and Humble; otherwise they would become Puffed-up with Spiritual Pride and grow-Tepid, Vainly Believing, they had 'Reached' the Summit-of-Sanctity.

What has been said-of Dryness, holds True-of Temptations, also. Certainly, we should Strive to-avoid Temptations; but, if God 'Wishes' that we be Tempted-against Faith, Purity, or any other Virtue, we should not give-in to Discouraging Lamentations, but 'Submit' ourselves with-Resignation, to-God's Holy Will. Saint Paul 'Asked' to be Freed-from Temptations to-Impurity; and Our Lord Answered him, Saying: "My Grace is Sufficient-for thee".

So should we Act, when we find ourselves Victims-of Unrelenting Temptations, and God seemingly Deaf-to our Prayers. Let us then say: "Lord, do with-me, let happen to-me, what Thou Wilt; Thy Grace is Sufficient-for me. Only, never-let me Lose this Grace". Consent-to Temptation, not Temptation of-itself, can make us Lose the Grace-of-God. Temptation Resisted, keeps us Humble, brings us Greater Merit, makes us have Frequent Recourse-to God, thus Preserving us from Offending Him, and 'Unites' us more-closely to-Him, in the Bonds-of His-Holy-Love.

Finally, we should be 'United'-to God's Will, in-regard-to the Time and Manner-of our Death. One day Saint Gertrude, while climbing-up a small hill, lost her footing and fell-into a Ravine below. After her companions had come-to her assistance, they asked her if while falling, she had any Fear, of- Dying without the Sacraments. "I earnestly Hope and Desire to have the Benefit-of the Sacraments, when Death is at-hand; still, to my way-of Thinking, the Will-of-God is more-important. I Believe that the Best Disposition, I could have to Die a Happy Death, would be to-submit myself to-whatever God would Wish, in my regard. For this Reason, I Desire whatever kind-of Death, God will be-Pleased to-Send me".

In his "Dialogues", Saint Gregory tells-of a certain Priest, Santolo by-name, who was Captured-by the Vandals, and Condemned-to Death. The Barbarians told him to-'Choose' the Manner-of his Death. He 'Refused', saying: "I am in God's Hands and I gladly accept whatever Kind of Death, He Wishes me to Suffer, at your hands; I wish no other". This Reply was so-Pleasing to-God that He Miraculously Stayed-the-Hand of the Executioner, ready-to 'Behead' him. The Barbarians were so Impressed-by the Miracle, that they Freed their Prisoner. As regards the Manner-of our Death, therefore, we should Esteem that the Best Kind of Death for-us, is that which God has Designed for-us. When therefore, we Think-of our Death, let our Prayer be: "O Lord, only let me Save my Soul, and I leave the Manner of my Death, to Thee".

We should likewise 'Unite' ourselves to God's Will, when the Moment-of Death is near. What else is this Earth, but a Prison where we Suffer, and where we are in-Constant Danger-of Losing God? Hence David Prayed: "Bring my Soul out of Prison". Saint Teresa too, Feared to-Lose God, and when she would Hear the Striking-of the Clock, she would find Consolation-in the Thought that the Passing-of the Hour, was an Hour Less, of the Danger-of Losing God.

Saint-John-of-Avila was convinced that every Right-Minded Person should desire Death, on-account-of Living-in Peril-of Losing Divine Grace. What can be more Pleasant or Desirable, than by Dying a Good Death, to have the Assurance-of no-longer being able-to Lose the Grace-of-God? Perhaps you will Answer that you have as yet, done nothing-to Deserve this Reward. If it were God's Will, that your Life should End now, what would you be doing, living-on here, against His Will? Who knows, you might Fall-into Sin and be Lost! Even if you 'Escaped' Mortal Sin, you could not live Free-from all Sin. "Why are we so Tenacious of Life", exclaims Saint Bernard, "when the Longer we Live, the more we Sin". A Single (1) Venial Sin, is more-Displeasing to-God, than all the Good Works we can Perform.

Moreover, the Person who has little Desire-for Heaven, shows he has little Love-for God. The True Lover Desires to be-with his Beloved. We cannot see God, while we remain here on-Earth; hence the Saints have Yearned-for Death, so that they might 'Go' and 'Behold' their Beloved Lord, Face-to-face. "Oh, that I might Die and Behold Thy Beautiful Face" sighed Saint Augustine. And Saint Paul: "Having a Desire to be Dissolved, and to be with-Christ". "When shall I Come and Appear-before the Face of God", exclaimed the Psalmist.

A Hunter, one-day heard the Voice-of a Man, singing most-Sweetly, in the Forest. Following the Sound, he came-upon a Leper, Horribly Disfigured-by the Ravages-of His Disease. Addressing him he said: "How can you sing, when you are so-Terribly Afflicted, and your Death is so-near at hand?" And the Leper: "Friend, my Poor Body is a Crumbling Wall, and it is the only thing that Separates me, from my God. When it Falls, I shall go-forth to-God. Time for me is indeed Fast running-out, so every day, I show my Happiness, by-Lifting my Voice in-song".

Lastly, we should 'Unite' ourselves to the Will-of-God, as-regards our Degree-of Grace and Glory. True, we should Esteem the things that make-for the Glory-of-God, but we should show the Greatest Esteem, for those that Concern the Will-of-God. We should Desire to-Love God, more-than the Seraphs, but, not to a Degree Higher-than God has Destined-for us. Saint-John-of-Avila says: "I Believe, every Saint has had the Desire-to be Higher-in-Grace, than he actually was. However, Despite this, their Serenity-of-Soul, always remained-Unruffled. Their Desire-for a greater Degree-of-Grace, sprang-not from a Consideration-of their own Good, but of God's. They were Content-with the Degree-of-Grace, God had meted-out for them, though Actually, God had given them Less. They Considered it a greater Sign-of True Love-of-God, to be Content-with what God had Given them, than to Desire-to have Received more".

This means, as Rodriguez explains it, we should be Diligent-in Striving-to become Perfect, so-that Tepidity and Laziness may not serve-as-excuses, for some to-say: "God must Help me; I can do only so much for myself". Nevertheless, when we do Fall into some Fault, we should not Lose our Peace-of-Soul and 'Union'-with the Will-of-God, which 'Permits' our Fall; nor should we Lose our Courage. Let us Rise at-once from this Fall, Penitently Humbling ourselves, and by-Seeking Greater Help from-God, let us continue-to March Resolutely, on the Highway-of the Spiritual Life. Likewise, we may well Desire-to be among the Seraphs in Heaven, not for our own Glory, but for God's, and to-Love Him more; still we should be Resigned-to His Will, and be Content-with that Degree-of Glory, which in-His Mercy, He has Set-for us.

It would be a Serious Defect to-Desire the Gifts-of Supernatural Prayer -- specifically, Ecstasies, Visions and Revelations. The Masters-of the Spiritual Life say that Souls, thus Favored-by God, should Ask Him to take them away, so that they may Love Him, out-of Pure Faith -- a Way-of Greater Security. Many have come-to Perfection, without these Supernatural Gifts; the only Virtues worth-while, are those that 'Draw' the Soul, to Holiness-of-Life, namely, the Virtue of Uniformity with God's Holy Will. If God does not Wish to-Raise us to the Heights-of Perfection and Glory, let us 'Unite' ourselves in-All Things, to-His Holy Will, asking Him in-His Mercy, to-Grant us our Soul's Salvation. If we Act in this Manner, the Reward will not be Slight, which we shall Receive-from the Hands-of-God, Who Loves above all others, Souls Resigned-to His Holy Will.