Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Time for Consolation

St.Ignatius wrote at length about spiritual consolation and desolation.

While, consolation is the easy part. It's the season where the soul is enveloped in peace, a sure sense of God's presence, great interior joy and hopefulness. It is manifested as one's personal prayer life becomes deeply satisfying, scripture reading becomes more meaningful and one's vocation, blossoms.

Desolation, is just the opposite and also afforded by God. St. Ignatius described it,'I call desolation what is entirely the opposite of (consolation), as darkness of soul, torment of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.'

Unspeakable sadness...

The last 6 months have been a trying time for me at every level. Reading some of my earlier posts, I realise now that I was slowly entering a dark hole, from whence the light slowly dimmed and finally went out.  

My work related stress kept building up till it got really bad in December and I mean...Bad. So much so, I think my low BP and the general lethargy and sickness came as an off-shoot of all that. To say that I was broken within would be an understatement. During that time, I even began to doubt God's love and lost hope that he would intervene for me. A lot of what I was going through was not just because of the work. It was crazy, but what made things worse was that for the longest time my personal prayer life was dry, the Bible was no longer speaking to me, sharing with my spiritual elder made no difference and nothing seemed to be breaking through. 

At least earlier on, I had the 'lights' of God's presence. Even when I couldn't sense his presence, I knew he was near when suddenly things miraculously fell into place, difficult situations suddenly became simpler, people relented or at least I had confidence in God's word when things looked hopeless but here there was no comfort, no solace and no sense of God's presence and then, the stress. Many people came and told me that God wanted them to affirm me - 'God loves you' but those words, which earlier used to thrill my heart seemed empty and dead.

There was no hope and none seemed to be coming. Last year, Christmas was not really a feast of old and New Years was just plain depressing! That was the lowest point. I just broke down during mass in Church and even then, there came no help from above.

There was one discipline I following during this time- I spent a lot of time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Hours together, just sitting there. I did not try to force myself to pray or try to discern anything. I guess, by that time, I was fed-up and tired. If God wanted to reach me, then he had to come. 

It was during this time, I came across this thin book called 'Miracles Do Happen: God can do the impossible' by Sister Briege. I thought the title of the book pretty clich├ęd and there was nothing really to attract me but I just picked it up and started reading from the middle. She speaks about a 'torn tent' where the Lord sits waiting for us. She says that we get so hassled with the state of our souls and the demands of out lives that we forget that the Lord will repair the 'battered tent' and sort everything else if only we sit before him in silence. 

At the same time, I received several 'Words' from my online intercessory group about holding on and God working through my suffering. Finally, after New Year's, Mother Mary came to my rescue. I really don't know how or when but one day during the rosary, she inspired me to tell the Lord how much I loved him. It was hard! In the middle of the mess of my life, to focus on Love is very hard. But with her, I manage to tell Jesus- 'I love you, Lord'. It was like breaking through the waters for a breadth of fresh air. Saying it over and over again with Mary, I suddenly got perspective. The most important thing in life is to remember- God loves you and you love him too. It's as if, the troubles and the sufferings are just ancillary because what matters is that you love the Lord. (The strength to love him comes from God so to tell Jesus that you love him is impossible without his grace)

My work troubles did not magically go away but I have received new strength. I am no longer fearful or as fearful as I was, though I still get panic attacks but going to Mary and asking her to take me to that lonely place where the Lord is found, telling him again and again that I love him, is healing in itself.

As the light keeps growing brighter, I have to come understand why this period of desolation is so important. It is to purify the spirit. To look to Jesus even when it seems that you receive nothing from him (
'Lord, to whom can we go to? You have the words of eternal life.') That is the love that he desires and the fruit of desolation.