Moments of Love with Mary
– The Spiritual Letter Box –
I literally devoured your new review, “The Army of Mary”. And what a pleasure it was to find in it a page of spiritual advice. I have come to you for your counsel on a matter which is disturbing me. My parents set me on the path to the interior life; I grew up in a home of prayer and happiness.
For some years now I have been living alone, far from my loved ones, and my spiritual life seems to have been affected by it. My fervor in prayer has diminished, and everything is so difficult that I have the impression of being cut off from God. I want to answer God generously, but I have lost my enthusiasm.
What do you think of this, and how do I correct the situation? I have read and reread your review. It has stimulated my devotion to Mary. Thank you.
Marie-Anne from Trois-Pistoles
You are privileged to have been brought up in a Christian home. This basic formation has so well influenced your life that you were at once alert when this problem presented itself, a problem that should not upset you since it is the normal way of all spiritual development.
To pray with ease and relish is very pleasant to the soul. It experiences a sweetness and a joy in praying, more so since it has the vivid impression of loving the Lord.
Then comes the season of aridity. It is difficult to pray. One even feels a certain disgust for prayer. One is tormented by the feeling that God is far off, or even inexistent. This is most disquieting for the soul formerly steeped in fervor. But now is precisely the time for effort, the time to show unremitting impetus, the search for a God who seems to be hiding.
To pray thus is most meritorious, since it brings no sweetness, no joy. In the first case (prayer with consolation), your prayer is like a flower offered to the Lord, but since you pray with ease and happiness, it is as if you receive the perfume given off by this flower.
In the second case, your prayer is dry, made with effort. Thus you offer to the Lord not only the flower but the perfume with it. It is He who receives all.
As you can see, involuntary aridity (that which does not result from some grave sin which cuts us off from God) does not indicate that progress in the spiritual life has come to a halt. Rather it reinvigorates your spirituality, reserving for you, eventually, moments of delight with the Lord. Always be prudent in the matter of satisfaction derived from easy prayer. There is always the danger of finding ourselves marking time in one place, being complacent, feeling secure. This can open the door to spiritual pride. Striving, on the other hand, obliges you to remain attentive in humility, actively seeking God who seems far off, and yet is so close to you, loving you.
Spiritual aridity is a sort of purification of which you must not be afraid. My answer would be different if your case were that of separation from the Lord through a serious fault, but such is not your case. To overcome the difficulty of not being able to utter a prayer during these dry spells, it will suffice for you to remain calm, in an attitude of love; or, again, to meditate slowly the words of those prayers, so beautiful, so profound, which you learned in your younger days. These prayers, ready at hand, are a most precious aid at these times.
It is most regrettable that the old popular prayers, which led so many souls to God, have been set aside. How I pity our dear young people from whom they have taken away this form of recourse to God under the pretext of letting them become accustomed to formulating their own prayers. To every soul there comes a time when it is, so to speak, “stalled”, caught in a painful spiritual vacuum that torments it, suffering even a certain repugnance for prayer. At such times, traditional prayers, treasure houses of spiritual aid for the soul in difficulty, are more necessary than ever.
You will come through it; have confidence. This experience will turn into a rich and satisfying joy if you only have the patience and the generosity to accept the empty, monotonous hours when one seems unable to find oneself.
The divine light and warmth will surely follow this and will be relished with greater joy and love. Have courage!
(Review, “The Army of Mary”, volume I, no. 3)