Desolation

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Many writers have noted lately the whole world and especially the Church is in a state of extreme desolation. But today, by God’s infinite mercy, we may find that immense benefits are to be drawn from it. From St. Alphonus Liguori:

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When a soul is morally certain of being in the grace of God, although she may be deprived of worldly pleasures, as well as of those which come from God, she nevertheless rests satisfied with her state, conscious, as she is, of loving God, and of being loved by Him. But God, Who wishes to see her purified and divested of all sensible satisfaction, in order to unite her entirely to Himself by means of pure love, what does He do?

He puts her in the crucible of desolation, which is more painful to bear than the most severe trials, whether internal or external; she is left in a state of uncertainty if she be in the grace of God or not, and in the dense darkness that shrouds her, there seems no prospect of her ever more finding God. Almighty God, moreover, will sometimes permit her to be assailed by violent sensual temptations, accompanied by irregular movements of the inferior part, or perhaps by thoughts of unbelief, of despair, and even of hatred of God, when she imagines herself cast off by Him, and that He no longer hears her prayers.

And as, on the one hand, the suggestions of the devil are vehement, and the motions of concupiscence are excited, and, on the other, the soul finds herself in this great darkness, she can no longer sufficiently distinguish whether she properly resists or yields to the temptations, though her will resolutely refuses all consent. Her fears of having lost God are thus very much increased; and from her fancied infidelity in struggling against the temptations, she thinks herself deservedly abandoned by God. The saddest of all calamities seems to have befallen her,—–to be able no longer to love God, and to be hated by Him.

St. Teresa passed through all these trials, and declares that during them solitude had no charms for her, but, on the contrary, filled her with horror; while prayer was changed for her into a perfect hell. When a soul that loves God finds herself in this state, she must not lose courage; and neither must he who directs her become alarmed. Those sensual movements, those temptations against faith, those feelings of distrust, and those attacks which urge her to hate Almighty God, are fears, are tortures of the soul, are efforts of the enemy; but they are not voluntary, and therefore they are not sins.

The sincere lover of Jesus Christ resists valiantly on such occasions, and withholds all consent to such suggestions; but because of the darkness which envelops her, she knows not how to distinguish, her soul is thrown into confusion, and the privation of the presence of Divine grace makes her fearful and sad. But it can be soon discovered that in these souls, thus tried by God, all is dread and apprehension, but not truth: only ask them, even in their state of desolation, whether they would willingly commit one single deliberate venial sin; they will answer, that they are ready to suffer not one, but a thousand deaths, rather than be guilty of such displeasure to Almighty God.

It is necessary, therefore, to make this distinction, that it is one thing to perform an act of virtue, such as to repel a temptation, to trust in God, to love God, and to will what He wills; and it is another thing to have the consciousness of really making these good acts. This consciousness of doing good contributes to our pleasure; but the profit consists in the first point, that is, in actually doing good. With the first, God is satisfied, and deprives the soul of the latter—–that is, of the consciousness of doing good, in order thus to remove from her all self-satisfaction, which adds nothing to the merit of the action; for our Lord seeks more our real advantage than our own satisfaction.

St. John of the Cross wrote the following words of comfort to a desolate soul: “You were never in a better state than at present; for you were never so deeply humbled, and so cut off from all attachment to this world, and at the same time you were never so thoroughly impressed with the conviction of your own wickedness. Neither were you ever so divested and purified of all self-seeking as now.” [Lettre 8.]

Let us, then, not believe that when we feel a greater tenderness of devotion we are more beloved by God; for perfection does not consist in that, but in the mortification of our own will, and in its union with the will of God. Wherefore, in this state of desolation the soul must not heed the devil, when he suggests that God has abandoned her; nor must she leave off prayer. This is the object at which the devil is aiming, in order afterwards to drag her down some precipice.

St. Teresa writes: “The Lord proves His true lovers by dryness and temptations. What though the dryness should be of lifelong duration, let the soul never relax in prayer; the time will arrive when all will be abundantly repaid.” [Life, ch. 11.]

In such a state of suffering, a person should humble himself by the reflection that his offences against God are undeserving of any milder treatment: he should humble himself, and be fully resigned to the Divine will, saying: “O my Lord, behold me at Thy feet; if it be Thy will that I should remain thus desolate and afflicted for my whole life, and even for all eternity, only grant me Thy grace and the gift of Thy love, and do with me whatever Thou wilt.”

It will be useless then, and perhaps a source of greater disquiet, to wish to assure yourself that you are in the grace of God, and that what you experience is only a trial, and not abandonment on the part of God. At such times it is not the will of God that you should have this assurance; and He so wills it for your greater advantage, in order that you may humble yourself the more, and increase your prayers and acts of confidence in His mercy. You desire to see, and God wills that you should not see. For the rest, St. Francis de Sales says: “The resolution not to consent to any sin, however small, is a sure sign that we are in God’s grace.” [Spirit, ch. 4.]

But a soul in profound desolation cannot even clearly discern this resolution; nevertheless, in such a state she must not aim at feeling what she wills; it is enough to will with the point of the will. In this manner she should entirely abandon herself into the arms of the Divine goodness. Oh, how do such acts of confidence and resignation ravish the heart of God, when made in the midst of the darkness of desolation! Ah, let us simply trust in a God, Who (as St. Teresa says) loves us far better than we love ourselves. Let these souls, then, so dear to God, and who are resolutely determined to belong entirely to Him, take comfort, although at the same time they see themselves deprived of every consolation. Their desolation is a sign of their being very acceptable to God, and that He has for them a place prepared in His heavenly kingdom, which overflows with consolations as full as they are lasting,

And let them hold for certain, that the more they are afflicted in the present life, so much the more they shall be consoled in eternity: According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, Thy comforts have given joy to my soul. [Ps. xciii. 19.]

Example.

For the encouragement of souls in desolation, I will here mention what is related in the life of St. Jane Frances de Chantal. For the space of forty years she was tormented by the most fearful interior trials, by temptations, by fears of being in enmity with God, and of being even quite forsaken by Him. Her afflictions were so excruciating and unremitting, that she declared her sole ray of comfort came from the thought of death.

Moreover she said: “I am so furiously assaulted, that I know not where to hide my poor soul. I seem at times on the point of losing all patience, and of giving up all as utterly lost.” “The tyrant of temptation is so relentless,” she says, “that any hour of the day I would gladly barter it with the loss of my life; and sometimes it happens that I can neither eat nor sleep.” [Mem. de la M. de Chaugy, p. 3. ch. 27.] During the last eight or nine years of her life, her temptations became still more violent.

Mother de Chatel said that her saintly Mother de Chantal suffered a continual interior martyrdom night and day, at prayer, at work, and even during sleep; so that she felt the deepest compassion for her. The Saint endured assaults against every virtue (except chastity), and had likewise to contend with doubts, darkness, and disgusts. Sometimes God would withdraw all lights from her, and seem indignant with her, and just on the point of expelling her from Him; so that terror drove her to look in some other direction for relief: but failing to find any, she was obliged to return to look on God, and to abandon herself to His mercy.

She seemed each moment ready to yield to the violence of her temptations. The Divine assistance did not indeed forsake her; but it seemed to her to have done so, since, instead of finding satisfaction in anything, she found only weariness and anguish in prayer, in reading spiritual books, in Communion, and in all other exercises of piety. Her sole resource in this state of dereliction was to look upon God, and to let Him do His will.

The Saint said: “In all my abandonments my mere life is a new cross to me, and my incapability of action adds considerably to its heaviness.” And it was therefore that she compared herself to a sick person overwhelmed with sufferings, unable to turn from one side to the other, speechless, so as not to be able to express his ills, and blind, so as not to discern whether the attendants are administering to him medicine or poison. And then, weeping bitterly, she added, “I seem to be without faith, without hope, and without love for my God.”

Nevertheless, the Saint maintained throughout her serenity of countenance and affability in conversation, and kept her looks fixedly bent towards God, in the bosom of Whose blessed will she constantly reposed. Wherefore St. Francis de Sales, who was her director, and knew well what an object of predilection her beautiful soul was to Almighty God, wrote thus of her:

“Her heart resembled a deaf musician, who, though he may sing most exquisitely, can derive no pleasure from it himself.” And to herself he wrote as follows: “You must endeavor to serve your Saviour solely through love of His blessed will, utterly deprived of consolations, and overwhelmed by a deluge of fears and sadness.” [Love of God, B, 9. ch. 11.]

It is thus that the Saints are formed:

“Long did the chisels ring around,
Long did the mallet’s blows rebound,
Long work’d the head and toil’d the hand,
Ere stood thy stones as now they stand.”
—–Offic. Dedic. eccl.

The Saints of whom the Church sings are precisely these choice stones, which are reduced to shapeliness and beauty by the strokes of the chisel,—–that is, by temptations, by fears, by darkness, and other torments, internal and external,—–till at length they are made worthy to be enthroned in the blessed kingdom of Paradise.

From: Uniformity with God’s Will and the Practice of Love of Jesus Christ by St. Alphonsus Liguori, by Veritatis Splendor, Kindle. LINK.

Please, Pray the Rosary and confound satan and those who serve him!

†  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
†  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!

 

~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!