Vol.6 No.5 DoM Message
Spiritual Gift of the Week
We pray for the grace of grateful and sincere hearts.
May our souls join with Mary in proclaiming the Lord’s greatness
Spiritual Instruction of the Week
Gratitude and prayer will overcome desolation.
Dear Beautiful Daughters of Mary,
Tuesday morning my computer crashed. Completely crashed! Files refused to open—warnings flashed, and then, a total shut down. Restarts and reboots were in vain. The data vanished and the screen went dark. My link to the world disappeared. I admit that I had received several alerts and warnings. Regretfully I ignored them, causing an overloaded hard drive. The situation at first seemed hopeless, but upon reflection, I realize there is one positive consequence of the ordeal…that is…a crashed computer is a perfect analogy for spiritual desolation.
In desolation the spiritual life crashes. A flash of sadness and a loss of faith serve as alerts, and then, our hearts shut down. The gifts and graces of God, including feelings of hope and love, vanish. The soul goes dark. Prayer, our way to reboot or restart with God, seems in vain as God’s consolation becomes like an unopened computer file.
Ignatius of Loyola defines desolation as the opposite of consolation. In desolation, agitation and turmoil of spirit ensues. There is a deep sense of loss, depression and emptiness—and most devastating, there is darkness. In desolation, we do not feel the presence of God. And yet, we can be assured that even when we do not feel God’s presence, God is present. As Ignatius tells us in the Spiritual Exercises: “For though God takes from us “the abundance of fervor and overflowing feelings of love for God, and intensity of his favors, sufficient graces for eternal salvation remain.” (#320). The files are there, if you will, but our hearts cannot open them.
The causes of desolation, according to Ignatius, are threefold. The first is because “we have been tepid or slothful in our exercises of piety,” (#322). His words serve as a simple warning, which often, if we are truthful, we regretfully ignore. The other two causes are not due to our actions however. Desolation in fact, may at times be received as a gift from God—a way for us to prove our worth. Or it may be understood as a path to humility, that we will know “that it may not be in our power to acquire or attain consolation,” (#322). Both consolation and desolation are God’s grace in other words, and for both, we can be grateful.
About my computer, I am now told, (adding to an already confusing situation), that the process of retrieving data from a crashed computer is intricate and only the Geek Squad can deal with it. We don’t however need the Geek Squad to overcome spiritual darkness. Ignatius of Loyola gives us several ways to deal with desolation. Prayer of course is at the top of the list. It is the best way to reboot our hearts for God. Realizing that consolation will return, we must ‘persevere in patience” he says. But also, Ignatius counsels the desolate to make no changes except to “intensify” our actions against desolation. In other words, act in a way contrary to your feelings. When we don’t want to pray, pray anyway. When we don’t want to go to Mass, go anyway. Or if we do not want to attend Daughters of Mary, attend anyway
If we are to find true spiritual freedom, we must be free to pray during times of consolation and desolation. When we are consoled, prayer comes easily. During dry and desolate periods however this is not the case. Be warned that desolation draws us to “low and earthly” temptations–to things that seem to shut down our relationship with God. But as Pope Francis, whose technology is working, tweeted recently, “Feeling hopeless, don’t drink, pray!”
Let us pray and be grateful…
Dear Beautiful Daughters of Mary,
In his unique and wonderful way, Pope Francis gives even more counsel to combat desolation:
“The Lord grants us three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation…silence and prayer is the way to overcome our darkest moments…”
Veni, Spirito Santo, la misericordia di Dio ci salva—Come Holy Spirit, it is by God’s mercy that we are saved,