It includes meditations for every day, and every so often one of them strikes a deep chord within me. The March publication contained a real gem which I want to share with you.
It was written by Father Gerald Vann, an English Dominican who had this to say:
“Good people are so often worried and distressed because, they say, they feel no devotion; they feel no love of God in their hearts, no readiness to suffer anything for him, no zest for sacrifice. Then they have to be told that feelings are of no account: devotion is a question not of feelings but of will.” (Magnificat, March 2016, p.150)
By no means does he discount the emotions. Feelings can be of enormous help in giving strength to our will. When we are emotionally invested in our daily duties they are easier to carry out: we have greater energy and enthusiasm for them.
“God gives the emotional zest in his service to show us that his burden is light,” writes Father Vann, and this helps us to “form the habit of working for him with vigor and constancy.”
But we must beware of judging the genuineness of our spiritual life by our feelings. Otherwise we’ll lose heart and equate not feeling zeal for God’s will with not loving Him.
Father Vann brilliantly describes the situation we all find ourselves in at times. “When he takes the joy away and gives us fatigue and boredom…our hearts feel dead within us … (and) ...everything connected with his service seems purposeless and futile and perhaps cruel.”
Our enthusiasm wanes and we feel that God no longer loves us. We wonder what we did wrong to deserve his desertion?
Father Vann poses a better question: “provided we go on with the thing to be done, have we cause for despair or depression?”
He points out that “It is then that we can show, and know, that we really are devoted…that it is really God we love and not his gifts.”
When we continue to do God’s work without earthly consolation we prove we’re in it for the love of Him, not the feel-good factor. St. Peter writes:
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:7)”
Many saints wrote about experiencing periods of spiritual desolation, sometimes lasting many years.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta went through a fifty year period of dryness with almost no relief. “For years, she grieved over it, wondering what she could possibly have done to make the Lord withdraw from her. Was there some secret sin or defect on her soul? Had she displeased him in some way?”
It took her a long time to come to “understand what was going on in her. ‘I have come to love the darkness,’ she wrote, ‘for I believe now that it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.’ In this … Mother Teresa showed that she had come to see her painful situation as a way of sharing in Jesus’ life—a mysterious sharing in his suffering and in his cross.”
And so she continued to carry out God’s will for her among the poor and homeless, sustained by faith alone.
Father Vann sums it up well:
“Whenever you do in fact do what God tells you, then you are growing in the love of God, no matter what your feelings may be.”