The Mystery of Suffering

Hello, my dear readers. I came across a quote from the most adorable and beloved, St. Therese, that I wanted to reflect on.  

Saint Therese wrote, “I would willingly spend the whole of my religious life in this dark underground passage if by it I might win light for sinners.”

That, in essence, is religious life. Case closed. I would be doing a disservice to my beloved Little Flower if I ended it there.  

Prayer and Work

Saint Therese was a Carmelite nun who joined the convent at the age of sixteen, which was virtually unheard of at the time, until her death at the young age of twenty-four.  

In those times, she experienced the fervor of giving and entirely consecrating themselves to the Lord, but she too was human.  

Her days consisted of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, celebrating Mass, work, private prayer. Repeat.  

And repeat.

And repeat.

The only slight changes would be if the Church were celebrating a particular feast day, the form of the Mass might change. But in the end, it was a cycle that never ended.  

So why would one go through this?

She swore three essential vows. The vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Each one of these purified her body, mind, heart, and soul.

The structure of routine is something that helps an individual remain contemplative in all things they do. It, at the same time, subjects the religious member to the yoke of Christ. Faithfully doing everything, during the good times and hard times.  

It’s so easy to praise and worship the Lord when He consoles you. But, how more challenging it is to do it when it’s in a never-ending routine, don’t you think your zeal might wane.  

Don’t you think that you’re roaring fire die down a little? For me, I know it would. And that’s the point. 

If you can remain faithful during these dry moments, you wean yourself out of the Lord’s consolation and start to love God for being God.  

Put to the Test

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Jesus said to his Apostles. That statement is the truth. We have the desire, but we are so prone to giving in to our bodies’ desires.

Perhaps that eating that extra cookie you know you shouldn’t. Maybe it’s postponing your assignment to the last day. How easy it is to hit the snooze button on our phone.  

Religious life combats this. It offers structure meant to tame the passions and bring our lower faculties closer to our souls.  

But what happens when our hearts lose that passion, which is inevitable. What happens when God feels so desperately far away.  

Again, this is the secret mystery of religious life. Because our bodies are so closely entwined with the routine of religious life, as long as we carry on with our habits and remain faithful to God, our hearts and souls are fortified against this dry spell.

We are less likely to fall away. When we come out of the desert, we realize that God was with us the entire time, purifying our hearts and desires. He sheds light on us, revealing that we were seeking Him for the sake of seeking Him. 

Come out of the deserts of Sinai; God has us prepared for the darkest trials that we must overcome.  

St. Therese’s Dark Night of the Soul

To be closely and intimately united to God in Rome Catholic Spirituality, we must go through the Dark Night of the Senses.

This is when those happy and warm feelings for God dry up. Our prayers are dry. We struggle to use our imagination. There is a certain physical discomfort and resistance to prayer.  

This is when Christians start to worry that they are falling behind in their spiritual life. Maybe, they think, they have offended God. How easy it is to fall away at this moment.  

Yet if we persist, our hearts grow in the love of God rather than God’s gifts.  

This prepares us for the most challenging test God puts us through. The Dark Night of the Soul is a whole other beast.

It is a sheer and utter desolation. And St. Therese went through this desolation. Her trial came from doubt of the existence of eternity.

She was tempted, especially towards the end of her life, but she did not fall into despair. She did not give intellectual or volitional assent.  

She countered them much more by throwing herself into the arms of Jesus. She redoubled her faith, going through her routines, despite her illness.  

For each person, the Dark Night of the Soul is different. It can be temporary, lasting a few months to a long time.  

It is hard to imagine the pain of facing these doubts and temptations. How much harder it would be to go through these while you are dying. It is truly a dark and consuming abyss that few will encounter.  

St. Therese told her fellow nuns, “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into!”

Now ponder this. She said she would gladly go through this if it meant more Graces for sinners. She would gladly enter into the abyss, endure the trials, and carry this unimaginable cross, all for the salvation of others.

She endured these pains, torments, and aches, uniting them to the cross of Jesus, for others. She knew deep down, her going through this would help others seek the Lord. Taking heart, she knew that Jesus would use this suffering to help an untold amount of people through unique and special graces, and Saint Therese joyfully accepted them.  

She didn’t shake her fist to God. She didn’t ask, “Why me.” Instead, she thanked God and rejoiced in her suffering. 

It was through this suffering that she was able to bless who knows how many people. God works in strange and wondrous ways. Where one joyfully suffers for His sake, another receives graces from that other person’s suffering. Whether that’s motivating someone to keep the faith or keep pushing through, or a very direct miracle, who is to say? 

Maybe she has blessed you with a rose from Heaven. Or perhaps it’s coming down the road when you need it. Perhaps she’s waiting for you to ask for that rose.  

She united herself closer to the Lord’s cross, and how was she rewarded for this act of unity and purification? Did she give into despair in the end?

By far, no! It was said that on the last day of her life, St. Therese was most joyous. She rose from her bed, her face radiant as she proclaimed with her last breath, “My God, I love you!”  

Thus she closed her eyes peacefully and entered into paradise.  

Where she had stated, “My mission to make God love will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will send a shower of roses.”

It was said when she said, a scent of roses filled the air as rose petals fell from the sky.  

So my dear reader, whatever trials you might feel you are entering, do not lose heart. We all go through them. Each trial is a test that can weaken and strengthen us!

Do not fall into despair. Instead, boldly pick up the cross, and carry on with your duties. You might be aiding another in their journey to Heaven. You may never know.  

I do hope and pray that St. Therese blesses you with a heavenly rose with a message of God’s love. 

Next time, I hope to write a series on the relationship between St. Therese and St. Joan. You have no idea how excited I am. I am so blessed to be given the opportunity to look at their relationship with one another. My heart is filled with absolute gratitude and love for these two.  

Thank you so much, Jesus, for inspiring these two Heavenly sisters! Here is just a taste of the relationship between these two juggernauts

These two…. The unbeatable dream team. St. Joan and St. Therese pray for all of us!

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