“We cannot long for something that is not intimately close to us.” (Reverend J. Neuner of the Jesuit Priests in India).
For a few years now, one of my sisters has been asking me to read the “Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska”. I have long resisted! It is a mammoth text with over 700 pages of diary entries and being in the form of diary entries, it is not a style of writing that I generally enjoy reading very much.
Now I read a lot. I read prolifically in fact and have done since my Year 6 teacher asked during our first library lesson of Year 6, “Who wants me to pick them a good book?” So, it is not the length of the text, or even the style that was causing me to hesitate – for I often persevere with textual forms that are not my preferred type – I am held back by my unwillingness to commit to conclude the piece… You see, I am the sort of person who really likes finishing things off. I truly hate leaving things half done or incomplete.
But for about a year now, I have been reading excerpts of the “Diary” and they are very moving. And so, finally – finally – I bought a copy of the text. That is the first step. To me, it is much the same as taking a flight to Nepal and facing Everest…
I only started reading this text the other day. I am not sure if I shall make it to the end – and that annoys me before I even start – but I commit myself to my Beloved… He shall take me as far as He wishes for me to go, and if I do not finish – it shall do my sinful pride some good!
Now, I am not a person who usually says, “Okay, you can say ‘I told you so’,” but this time, that annoying little phrase is merited. And my sister is well within her rights to offer me that phrase. It is a very very moving text and it connects deeply with my soul as I read it. And now, though I have only started reading it, I too strongly recommend it for those who wish to read it.
Among some of her first entries, Saint Faustina recounts her experiences of feeling abandoned by God. She wrote, “At a certain point there came to me the very powerful impression that I am rejected by God. This terrible thought pierced my soul right through; in the midst of the suffering my soul began to experience the agony of death. I wanted to die but could not.” (Diary 23).
I have been reflecting on this internal anguish experienced by this saint. It called to me, because this is the same anguish that Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta expressed in her letters to her spiritual director when she said, “I am told God lives in me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” She later she wrote, “I want God with all the power of my soul – and yet between us there is terrible separation.”
These similar feelings of abandonment expressed by such saints as these struck me like a blow to the heart – or more accurately, like a blow to my soul – for I remember those terrible feelings of abandonment in my own life too.
Now, let me preface my next comment by assuring you that I do not consider myself the equal to such saints as these. And though it is my dearest wish to attain salvation, mine is not a name that will be invoked after my death – I am simply too weak and sinful for that, and my conversion has occurred after far too many years of complacency to merit remembrance. No. Mine will be a name that returns to the dust from whence it came. But that worries me not, because my goal is not remembrance – my goal is salvation, and I shall be happy if only my soul is allowed to enter Paradise – even if only to stand at the outer gates.
But I know this abandonment. I lived it for years. When I lost my little baby before he was even born, for the very first time in my life I felt completely alone. As I cried my tears during the long lonely nights for literal years, my husband would ask, “What is wrong?” And I would sob, “I am afraid.” He would say, “Of what?” And though I told him I did not know – that was a lie. I knew exactly what I was afraid of. I was afraid of God!
I was afraid of a God who would kill my beloved child and deny me the chance to parent him. I was afraid of a mean and angry God who was punishing me. And this fear made me angry, and my anger made me powerless.
And then one day – right in the midst of prayers for my beautiful little niece who was so sick last year – I realised. I actually realised the truth…
God was not mean. God had not punished me. God did not deny me. No. God took my child FOR me. And so, He BLESSED ME – though I had not seen before.
For God did not take anything from me – He GAVE to me instead. He gave me a saint in Heaven. He SAVED one of my children and allows that child to pray for the salvation of his siblings and his parents – and for all of you who pray with me. He took my innocent one – baptised by desire – before he could be corrupted by the ways of this Valley of Tears.
I see this now – through the intervention of the Holy Spirit and no merit of my own. And what I see, so too have others seen. Pope Francis tells us that what is perceived as silent absence, is in fact silent presence! And in considering the case for the sanctification of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her feelings of spiritual abandonment, Reverend J. Neuner of the Jesuit Priests in India says the same, “We cannot long for something that is not intimately close to us.” More eloquently still, was Saint Padre Pio, who said, "Jesus is with you, even when you don't feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles."
And so, during all those years of longing for my Beloved and all my wasted time in misunderstanding Him, He was right inside me – crying my tears with me through all those long dark lonely nights…
Oh, my Lord and my God… though I have no words to say all that is inside my heart, I rejoice – for You are there and so You already know what it is that I desire to say… Take it – and please do with it what You will…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.