I just finished my 16th book of the year -- Stalking the Divine by Kristin Ohlson. What a wonderful, fascinating book!
The author is a fallen-away Catholic who finds herself captivated by the cloistered nuns who live and pray at the shrine of St. Paul's in Cleveland. She wants to know how women can make that kind of decision -- to leave the world, so to speak, and be cloistered for the rest of their lives, devoting themselves entirely to prayer. As she interviews them, her deep desire for that sort of faith radiates off of every page. She admires them, loves their company, and wishes to be like them (in some respects) but can't overcome some of her doubts.
One of her biggest hurdles is lack of feeling. Haven't we all experienced this in our spiritual lives? I personally find it deeply encouraging that Blessed Mother Teresa lived her life devoid of those "spiritual esctasies" that one would normally associate with one so holy. She walked by faith, pure and simple, and kept going even when it felt completely useless. One of the nuns that the author interviewed had this to say:
"... the point of [our] life is not this feeling, however much it is cherished, but faithfulness. The feeling of closeness to God is a special grace... and it can even elude one of them for most of a lifetime. Faithfulness is the choice made every day, and only [we] and God know whether or not [we] make it.
"...For me this is mostly a life of faith. I continue living the life, even if I feel sometimes that I'm just going through the motions."
After this revelation, the author asked:
"So why do I now find this devotion admirable rather than stupid? I guess I'm tired of a world with so little faith. I'm tired of marriages that fall apart because people won't persevere through the dry, dull, miserable periods; I'm tired of people who have given up on making the world better... I was dazzled by the strength of her commitment."
The author also found it incredibly comforting that, even though her own prayer life was sporadic at best, she knew that whatever the day or hour, there were Poor Claires praying for her, her city, her nation, and the world. These "unseen heroes" lift up the cares and needs of the world in prayer to the Lord, and continue faithfully every hour. I can't even begin to guess what changes have taken place in the world thanks to the faithful prayers of the contemplatives around the world.
A very well-written, well-thought out book that I can highly recommend. God bless Kristin Ohlson, and may she come to truly find the love of God and the life of faith that she so desperately longs for.