Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Dark Night of the Soul

Tonight Father Rolheiser talked about doubt, or a dark night of the soul.

Mother Teresa’s decades-long dark night of the soul was revealed after her death in Come Be My Light. Her bouts with doubt and the distance she felt from God surprised many who considered her the epitome of perfect Christian joy. Perhaps God already considered her a saint when he canonized her with his deepest silence during her life. His timeline, after all, has little do to with the Vatican’s process for making saints.

"Tell me, Father, why is there so much pain and darkness in my soul?"

That didn't meant that she didn't have faith.  Some people might ask why God would choose not to make himself readily apparent in such a holy woman's life.  I think that the answer is something that is easy for me to grasp because I feel God's presence in my life right now, but sometimes it's not so easy for me to understand.

The answer that Father Rolheiser gave was that when we are young or new to faith, God presents us with easily accessible ways to experience him. As our faith grows deeper he withdraws those easy things and forces us to go deeper.

He gave several examples of this process throughout our life:
1.  Referring back to the fish example last night. At some point, the mother fish will turn off the powerpoint presentation and those images will be taken away from the baby fish. That doesn't mean that water is no longer present.  It is surrounding them and sustaining them.  They just have to think and look deeper.

2.  The difference between icons and idols.  An idol is an icon of which we cannot let go.  An icon is a "thing" that helps us to access a concept of the Lord.  But it is not God.  When we replace God with a "thing" it becomes an idol.

3.  Finally, he gave the example of climbing down a mountain.  We reach a place where we feel safe, the ground is secure and we are OK. Then God, will pull the ground out from under us. We go deeper down the mountain and we are scared because we are no longer secure.  But eventually we will land and find some security again.  But just as we feel secure, we might fall again.  Each fall is a dark night of the soul.  God withdraws his presence (how we demand it or currently experience him) so that we are forced to go deeper into our faith.

Rolheiser cautioned that a dark night of the soul will come when you least expect it and in the way in which you least are prepared.  I have to admit that this worries me.  It is so easy to be enveloped in the passion that you feel when God is so real and present. It is scary to think that there will be (no doubt) a time in the future that I will again experience a dark night of the soul.  But I think that the knowledge that it is coming and the acknowledgement when it arrives are tools to help me delve deeper into my faith.

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