Friday, March 30, 2007

Praying with Therese of Lisieux

I am really enjoying the book I got with my subscription to THE WORD AMONG US. It's called Praying with Therese of Lisieux, and it has short chapters on such subjects as "The Flowering of Little Sacrifices," "Being Pleasant and Gracious," "Zeal," etc. with quotes from St. Therese herself and several points for meditation.

My favorite chapter, though, has to be "Praying the Way You Can."

During formal prayers Therese often fell asleep. Even during her retreats, Therese failed to find much consolation in times of prayer:

"I ought really to have said something about the retreat I made before my profession; it brought no consolation with it, only complete dryness and almost a sense of dereliction. Once more, our Lord was asleep on the boat; how few souls there are that let Him have His sleep out! He can't be always doing all the work, responding to all the calls made upon Him; so for my own part I am content to leave Him undisturbed. I dare say He won't make His presence felt till I start out on the great retreat of eternity; I don't complain of that, I want it to happen. It shews, of course, that there's nothing of the saint about me; I suppose I ought to put down this dryness in prayer to my own fault, my own lukewarmness and want of fidelity. What excuse have I, after seven years of religion, for going through all of my prayers and my thanksgivings as mechanically as if I, too, were asleep? But I don't regret it. I thnk of little children lying asleep, under the loving eyes of their parents; I think of the surgeons who put their patients under an anaesthetic -- in a word, I remember how God knows the stuff of which we are made, and can't forget that we are only dust... It simply comes to this, that our Lord dwells unseen in the depths of my miserable soul, and so works upon me by grace that I can always find out what He wants me to do at this particular moment." (104-105)

If that isn't encouraging, I don't know what is!!! To know that St. Therese, Blessed Mother Teresa (and countless others!) have endured such dryness and lack of consolation for years and still, in spite of the pain, loneliness, and heartache, were able to look to Jesus with eyes of faith and say, "I know You are here, and if it pleases You for me to feel nothing, so be it."

I am an emotional person. Too often I judge "how I'm doing" with "how I'm feeling," whether it's physical or spiritual. I know I'm not supposed to do that, but I do.

So, for me, emotions went bye-bye a long time ago.
While others get great mystical experiences, or warm fuzzies, or whatever, I don't.

I get crickets chirping.

I'll admit, I don't do nearly as well as St. Therese. Not even remotely in the same ballpark kind of close. I cry. I plead. I wonder where I'm messing up, and would He please show me what I've done wrong.

I remember events from the past, when He made Himself very present to me. I wonder if I somehow left Him back there, and wandered way off the beaten path.

And yet I am brought back again and again to something C.S. Lewis said in the beginning of Mere Christianity -- that we choose the "door" (denomination) where we will be fed not based on "does it please me?" or "does this style of door appeal to me?" or even "is it the prettiest?" but rather...

"is it true?"

And I come back again and again saying, "yes, this is true."

So, I take great comfort in the fact that there are SO MANY great saints who went through crushing dryness... who whispered in the darkness, "Help me to believe, Lord, when I feel nothing." They were not abandoned by God -- they were simply walking by faith.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Thanks for the sewing pattern! I do have a sewing machine but I haven't tried anything too hard yet. Of course, I doubt if I'll get to try it this week ;-)