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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When the turtledove no longer sings…

by Patricia

Turtledove (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of joyful voices praising God’s Goodness. My mp3 player is chock full of Catholic radio podcasts.

Instead of being uplifted, I felt a deep loneliness. That used to be me, I thought. I felt broken – sort of like Humpty Dumpty was broken, all shattered. Only on the inside.

I’ve been feeling like this for years, but it seems to grow worse over time. I claim to love God deeply.  I believe in His Love for me. But, I don’t feel a shred of devotion or affection for Him. Anymore.  Yet, just the thought of Him once took my breath away.

Every Tuesday, I sit before His Eucharistic Presence for two hours struggling to pray. I am happy to be with Him. I love the peace. But I cannot meditate or pray mentally at all. I try to remember how thoughts of Him once flooded my mind and heart like an embrace of warm waves washing over me.

I tell Him that I love Him (because I do), but avoid terms of endearment which once tumbled out of my entire being in a litany of praise and adoration. Such passion would seem hollow, even phony now. And I am sad for it.

I am aware of Him in every choice that I make. Is it for or against Him? I try to do what would please Him, but it’s more like habit than love. And I don’t want to go to hell — I who once dreamed of rushing into the arms of my Savior after breathing my last. No fear then.

I have long since given up trying to find out Why. I have turned my life inside out looking for a reason. I cannot find one. It is as though I have fallen into a deep dark well, and there is no way out. And not one ray of light.

I have asked a few different priests what they thought, but in the rush of a few moments in the confessional, or a 20 minute exchange on retreat, they have not understood, and I cannot blame them.  But I thank them for listening.

Is it the dark night?

“Dark night of the soul,"  a holy nun with the gift of healing told me. “But,” she added, “IF you are praying.”  So, all bets are off.

Am I praying? What is prayer now? There is no question that I could pray more, much more. How much do I have to pray to be in the purification of a dark night rather than the lukewarmness of a soul who has left the narrow way and wandered onto the wide road?

I tell Jesus that I believe it will always be this way now. I no longer allow myself to hope that I will ever again experience His Presence, or my own heart leaping within me at the sound of His Name. I am so very grateful for those memories.

He has given me more than I could have ever hoped for. It is His to give, and His to take away. If I have driven away His favors by my lack of generosity, I pray, as best I can now pray, that I will not one day cause Him to leave me too.

My prayer  is simple now. It is that of the dying thief: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

Patricia originally posted this at her blog  I Want to See God.  I have posted this in full here, in the hope that it can help others who are struggling.

Share with us: Have you experienced difficulties in prayer? How have you dealt with them? Are you in a dark place now?


  1. Patricia, you have probably heard and read this many times, but for the sake of our readers, I'm going to post this comment anyway. First, the fact that you can sit peacefully before the Eucharist for 2 hours tells me that you are, in fact, praying. You are praying with your bodily presence and with your will, even if your mind and affections don't seem to be engaged.

    Second, recall St. John of the Cross's signs to help people discern whether they are in the Dark Night. Of the 2nd sign he says, "The lukewarm are very lax and remiss in their will and spirit, and have no solicitude about serving God. Those suffering from the purgative dryness are ordinarily solicitous, concerned, and pained about not serving God..." Since you are "aware of Him in every choice [you] make," you are clearly striving to live according to His will.

  2. Patricia, I add my amen to Connie's words. And I add my prayer.

    1. Nancy, thank you so much for your "amen." :) It means so much to be reassured by women whose opinions I value so highly, because each of you is so committed to Our Lord, and so experienced in the spiritual life. How we need each other here on this journey! Prayers for you too today at adoration, dear Nancy, and thank you so much for yours. xo

  3. Connie, your comment is such a blessing to me. Reading these things on my own in booka is not nearly as reassuring as actually hearing the observations and conclusions of
    a knowledgeable person speaking directly to me, as you have. On my own, I waver back and forth. It can be very confusing when one's experience of prayer is so radically different than in years past.

    Your words are very consoling, and I thank you. What you said about adoration especially encouraged me, because I truly love to be there, in spite of struggling to keep my focus on Our Lord's Presence. Today is my committed adoration day, and I will be offering one of those hours for you...in gratitude for your kindness in offering your wise counsel.

    One day soon I hope to write a post, drawing on my own experience, about what not to do while in this state of aridity and darkness.

    Thank you so much, Connie. I'm going to paste your comment in a place where I can often refer to it. Have a most blessed day!

    1. Thanks for offering your adoration for me. The Lord knows I need it. I'm so glad I could support you.

  4. there is no better prayer than simply sitting open, empty and hungry, thirsty, almost desperate and waiting for Him in expectation because nothing else will suffice. Even if your mind wanders, even if your emotions are flat, you are in communion with Him spirit to Spirit because you "truly love to be there"

  5. Melanie, what a beautiful and passionate description of this stage of prayer which so often seems to be an absence of prayer. "Thirsty, desperate," how many times I have used those exact same words to tell the Lord how I feel!

    I hope this post has helped others who may be experiencing the same thing. But, I can certainly say that your comment and the others have truly blessed me. Thank you, Melanie. You sound like someone who has been where I am. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. God bless you!

  6. Hi Patricia,
    I call this state "Heaven's Waiting Room" because all we do in this room is sit patiently and wait on the Lord. Only God can do the work at this point and we simply try to trust.

    He will never, ever leave you. It's just very quiet in the waiting room. God bless you, my friend.

    1. Dear Mary, you always have the most delightful way of phrasing things! "Heaven's Waiting Room" :) (Wish that meant we could skip Purgatory once we leave the waiting room!)

      You are such a blessing. Yes, God is always faithful. That in itself is an immense consolation. I remember your post on aridity...and Theresa's tree! LOL!
      Thank you, Mary, for your gentle words. xo

  7. Let me add an amen to this conversation. I have experienced the dark night. I like Mary's term for it - Heaven's Waiting Room.
    It does build trust. Trust that God is always there even when He seems absent. I pray the Jesus prayer a lot during these times - a shortened version - like just "Jesus."
    We cannot really DO anything about it except hang onto the Lord. And wait. Trying to fix it is like swimming against a current. Better to just float. Thomas Green's book on Drinking from a Dry Well talks about that.
    Prayers for you Patricia!

    1. Hi Colleen, thank you so much for your prayers and suggestions. You mentioned Father Green's book to me previously. It sounded familiar, and I found it on my bookshelf. I had read parts of it several years ago..when this was just starting. I am reading it again, and he does give very good advice...very practical. It is so true that not experiencing God at all builds trust. I had experienced this type of thing intermittently for many years, but the consolations would always return. This long-term, sustained period has been more difficult to adjust to, mainly because I was concerned that I had caused it. I like the idea of floating...as you said there is really nothing we can do ourselves. Truly, I don't mind the night, as long as I can be at peace knowing it's God's Will, and not my own failings which cause it to persist.

      Colleen, I appreciate your kindness so much. I'm thinking that your comment and the others here are collectively like a wonderful spiritual direction post in response to my original post. I hope others will be as blessed as I have been by all the encouraging words and helpful advice. God bless you!

  8. I absolutely love Mary's term too- Heaven's waiting room!! Mary, I just might have to adopt this phrase because it has a ring of joyful, expectation and hope.


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