It should have been predictable, but it had never happened to me before. I had just finished catechizing a summer RCIA group and was about to start a new one for fall. I was two weeks away from beginning a new confirmation class, just finished teaching at a PreCana weekend, and Oh yeah, was leading a group in the Thirty-Three Days to Morning Glory Consecration to Our Lady after a re-consecration of my own. I had put a spiritual bullseye on my back and took a direct hit.
I fell into a dark night of spirituality. I have always been blessed to ‘feel’ God’s presence, especially after receiving the Eucharist. Suddenly, I didn’t and worse than that, my heart was filled with doubts. They weren’t so much about believing in God, that is who I am and it cannot be separated out from me, but about the future of the Faith and the Church. I know, I know, “the gates of hell will not prevail,” however, in my head it sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown’s Peanuts, “blah, blah, blah, blah.”
I feared how my children and those I taught would stay strong in the truths of Faith when the world appeared to be winning the battle for souls.
So how do you impart wisdom and the joy of the truths of the Catholic Faith on others when you cannot feel it in your own heart? This was my constant question. To find the answers I went to Mass.
I watched and participated; I felt empty and alone. I listened and prayed; I didn’t hear God’s voice. Still, I trusted. Eventually, I discovered an analogy that seemed to fit. I felt as if I wanted a face-to-face confession, but had been placed behind the screen instead. I wanted, no… needed, to see the priest’s body language and even his affection for me as a person and yet, I wasn’t able to. I couldn’t seem to peek around the screen to get a glimpse. In this thought, I realized that the priest was still there. My confession would still be valid. I would still be forgiven. Spiritual darkness does not take away the validity of my faith. It may make it harder to pick up on the little clues I have become accustomed to receiving from God, nonetheless the grace is still there. Luckily for me, for all of us, my joy in the Lord is not rooted in emotion, but in the hope of eternal life with Him. I can catechize with love, understanding and wisdom even if I am not receiving the gift of feeling God’s presence.
I turned to the examples of the Saints, especially calling on Saint Mother Teresa, who suffered through years of her own darkness, to fulfill her promise “If I ever become a saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness,’” Mother Teresa wrote in September of 1959. “I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” I pray that she will help me now and that the darkness will not inhibit my ability to propagate the Faith.