By Mater Dolorosa.
I love to walk and I have made it part of my daily exercise. Very recently I moved from a suburban neighborhood to the country so I am exploring routes. I went for my third walk in the new area and got a few minutes away from the house when I realized I probably should have brought a flashlight. The sun was setting and it was going to start getting dark. I paused for a moment but decided to just continue on and take my chances.
I was heading West, towards the setting sun. The blues, purples and pinks were gorgeous and I enjoyed the view a great deal. The trees were bigger the further I walked and the blocked more of the light. The road was a bit dim but it was alright. I relished the exercise, freedom and fresh air.
After 10 minutes I decided to turn around and return home. But things were different in this direction. The view was hazy. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at. I hoped there weren’t any snakes or dead animals in the road because I wouldn’t be able to see them. My eyes started playing tricks on me as I strained to see further ahead. Was something moving up there? If I tripped and sprained my ankle would anyone find me? If a car came, would it be safe to move out of the road or is it a ditch? If I hadn’t timed my walk and knew it would be 10 minutes back, I certainly would have wondered when (if!) I would arrive home.
This experience caused me to reflect upon darkness in prayer. There were times in the past where prayer was more difficult. For instance, I actually had a very hard time praying in the convent. But I had an idea of where I was headed and I trusted that He was leading me there. Things were a bit muddled on the outer edges, but I was still making my way along the path.
But when I returned to lay life things changed drastically and I felt plunged into darkness. Prayer was torture and I felt as though I didn’t really know how to pray. The streetlamps and porch lights that had previously guided me seemed to be extinguished and I grasped and stumbled as though I were blind. I had heard the analogy before about the spiritual life being like walking with simply a flashlight so that one can only see directly in front of oneself. But this was different; I had no flashlight.
How did I survive? The most helpful thing was hearing from other women who had been in the convent and realizing they had felt this way too. I wasn’t a terrible person for this darkness and I should not blame myself. It was difficult to learn this lesson but I begged Him to help me see the truth about my soul (in other words, how He sees me). The women I spoke with also encouraged me to persevere in prayer, even though it was torture.
A priest also helped me sort through expectations for my prayer. For example, he suggested I not try to keep up with the Breviary but that I should still attempt a daily rosary. Finally, being a part of the Leonie’s Longing community has been a lifesaver.
Knowing that I am not walking this path alone makes an indescribable difference. Reading blogs such as Park It (at All Costs)! helped normalize my experience and encouraged me to keep striving.
If you’re feeling this way, please keep praying! Talk to someone you trust about it and be assured that God is particularly close to you in this time. Tell Him honestly how you feel and allow Him in. Finally, know that everyone involved in Leonie’s Longing is praying for you. We can do this together!