Moments of Love with Mary
– The Spiritual Letter Box –
The Night of the Soul
The following extracts from letters we have received, all relate to the same subject. We shall give but one response.
“When I read ‘Moments of Love with Mary’ in your September issue, I could sympathize with Sister X since I went through such a ‘night’ myself for several years. There were very few stars and little moonlight… However, I did not experience the rancour, the hatred or the temptation to suicide; I did want to die, which amounts to the same thing I suppose. Let Sister X take courage and keep up her hope, because peace will find its way into her soul permanently and she will be filled with supernatural joy, if she keeps her eyes fixed on the Trinity and continues along this path no matter how dark it may be. This torment will pass. The secret is to be faithful in everything. True life in God is not only rapture; ‘it is happiness’.”
“There were tears of joy in my eyes when I read your answer to Sister X. At last I understood why I had suffered so terribly for years.
When I was in the darkest part of the tunnel, frightened almost to despair because I understood nothing, it was thought I was suffering a nervous breakdown so I was taken off to a clinic. I had to tell them all my fears and terrible nightmares. I was told that the problem of religion was the cause of all my sufferings and that this was what affected my health. They told me to change my ideas, to get out more often, to suppress my desires for prayer and silence, and to drop most of my religious exercises.
I left there more disturbed than ever. In addition to this moral martyrdom, I had to put up with the contempt of those about me because I had spent some time in a clinic. Only God knows how bitterly I cried! Time passed and bit by bit the light came back. Since I read the September issue I have been crying with happiness because at last I understand that this road of darkness, as you called it, is something quite normal. Why aren’t we informed of this? I know of some others who can’t understand what is happening to them. Believe me, I am circulating this little review. Many thanks on behalf of all those who have been enlightened and comforted by your answer.”
“How consoling was the explanation given to Sister X! It was read here before the entire Community. Your whole issue is read during meal time. So much knowledge is necessary for the good of souls!”
Sr. Anita D.
“I have only just come to know the Army of Mary and already I have derived much benefit from it. How right you are!… ‘the night of the soul’ is a terrifying experience, but what consolation there is when the light finally does come. I would like to encourage all those who are going through it. One day they will come out of it and will know such a tremendously great happiness that is beyond words. The more one is sensitive the more acute the suffering, but the deeper the happiness afterwards.”
A Lady Artist
These few excerpts from letters received show that souls are truly searching. Moreover, those who have experienced these “nights” hasten to express their reassurance and encouragement, for they have not quickly forgotten the terrible anguish which wracked them during this darkness when the way was no longer visible.
Let us stop to consider the case of Colette B., for it presents a different aspect of this very delicate subject. Rest assured, Miss or Mrs. Colette, your religious practices were not the cause of this very difficult phase through which you passed. Quite the contrary! And it is not going out frequently or enjoying social evenings that can help a soul which is in distress and passing through this painful period when all is as dark as the forest at night.
A guide, a competent spiritual director, would have enlightened you and advised you on the nature of these spiritual and moral sufferings which are so severe at certain points in this purification that they can affect even the health.
The normal physical evolution of the body can severely disturb, psychologically, a boy or a girl if they are not told what it is that is happening to them. So too in the normal spiritual evolution of the soul, a person should be advised regarding its gradual progression, the possibilities, the dangers, and the reactions of anguish or joy according to the different phases of transition which may plunge the soul at times into “darkness”, at times into “light”.
The wisdom of a good spiritual director would have oriented you differently and, while maintaining your spiritual equilibrium, you would have passed through this difficult period of purification of your faculties, painfully, it is true, but with assurance.
St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, great masters of the spiritual life and Doctors of the Church, have written for directors of souls, theses which, as instruments of the spiritual life, are marvels of precision.
As soon as you can, get hold of the book, “I Want to See God”, by Father Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus, O.C.D., and you will have all the explanations you need.
How sublime is the role of the priest who directs and enlightens those souls which depend upon his priesthood!
Every soul that is open to the divine action ought to be able, in periods of darkness, to count on the wisdom and experienced counselling of a good spiritual director.
These “nights of the soul” are due precisely to the divine operation within a soul. The soul is subjected to alternating periods of deep suffering and profound joy and sweetness. The “night of the spirit” reaches especially into our physical being and causes it great suffering, the cause of which may not be easily diagnosed.
The divine shock spreads out and touches, painfully, the weak points of the constitution, and the body experiences a crushing fatigue, a prostrating weariness for which there is no apparent cause. All this disappears very strangely once the light returns to the soul, and then it experiences a sense of well-being which is equally hard to explain. It is at this moment precisely that the soul is reaping the benefits of this divine activity which operates ever more deeply. The role of the doctor, then, is to sustain the body while the spiritual director guides and encourages the soul to hang on to its supernatural hope, because everything passes! The collaboration of the priest and the doctor is most important at such times. In the same way that the warmth of the sun is deeply appreciated after the cold of the storm, so too the soul, after the night, savours an ineffable sweetness, is intoxicated with a happiness which it desires never to lose.
Many sick people, attached to God and His holy will, know a spiritual ascent made only through a heroism of which God alone is aware. But the process of purification must go forward by stages if the soul wishes to mount higher. How marvelous is the interplay of correspondence with grace! And how great a treasure for the Church is a good spiritual director!
(Review, “L’Armée de Marie”, volume II, no. 3)