Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Little Catechism of Prayer: Chapter 5: Difficulties In Prayer

9.  What is aridity?
Aridity is the withdrawal of the consolation which is so often experienced at the beginning of a conversion to a better life.  Upon first becoming concious of the more intense spiritual life that is ours, we feel great joy, for it is a psychological law that man rejoices when he finds himself in possession of a great good.  Nevertheless, an intense spiritual life does not consist in such comfort, and does not even require it.  It can well exist and be developed in the absence of all consolation, because true devotion consists solely in promptitude of will in the service of God.

10.  Is aridity an evil?
This depends upon the cause of aridity.  If aridity comes from the weakening of the will, it marks a step backwards in the spiritual life.  But if the resolution to give oneself entirely to God persists after all consolation has disappeared, then aridity, far from being an evil, may be the occasion of real blessings.

11.  Is aridity sometimes culpable?
Yes, there is a kind of aridity which is caused by our lack of fidelity.  This unfaithfulness may be more or less deliberate.  Souls called by God to a generous and mortified life, who have corresponded with grace for some time, and then turn to the pursuit of human satisfactions, become to our Lord's invitation, lose their first fervor, and remain weakened in will.  They become even more unfaithful when they fall into tepidity by committing deliberate venial sins.  Naturally, such souls are incapable of showing a stron love for our Lord because they have lost their vigor.  Thus they fall into aridity.  The only way they can remedy this is to correct themselves and return to their former generosity.

12.  May aridity sometimes come from causes outside the will?
Undoubtedly the very condition in which we live are often causes of aridity.  There are circumstances in which we become restless and are robbed of all comfort in spiritual exercises.  fatigue and drowsiness, physical indisposition, painful and absorbing preoccupation, slight offenses and misunderstandings are so many causes of heaviness, enervation and depression in which the soul loses its former peace and joy.  In this kind of aridity we must practice patience, knowing that in enduring this trial for the love of God, we are offering Him a very pleasing sacrifice and proving the genuineness of our love.

13.  May aridity also come from God?
Certainly, and even in the above mentioned case it comes from Him, since by His Divine Providence He arranges all the circumstances of our life.  But sometimes aridity is more directly the work of God, especially at times when He leaves us unable to use the imagination in prayer and incapable of forming our affections as before.  Interior souls often have this experience after they have applied themselves fervently to prayer for some time.  St. John of the Cross teaches us that this kind of aridity is God's invitation to enter into a more simple form of prayer which he calls the beginning of contemplation.

14.  How should we act in this kind of aridity?
We need not persist in our efforts to continue meditation, as we often feel obliged to do.  On the contrary, we should quite simply cease these efforts and quietly remain in the presence of God, attentive to Him in a simple regard of faith, and desirous of pleasing Him, cost what it may.  Little by little this glance of faith will become more easy and more loving, and we shall gradually pass from this painful aridity to a peaceful repose in God.

15.  How can we know when aridity comes from God?
One sign that our aridity comes from God is that we persevere in the practice of virtue and prayer even though we have nothing but distaste for these.  Because the practice of virtue is much more difficult at such times, we shall be less successful in it, but our repeated efforts indicate the firmness of our will.  Such aridity, therefore, does not come from any culpable weakness of will, but is the work of God.

16.  Why does God send us aridity?
By this trial God intends to deliver us from childish dependence upon sense comfort and to establish us upon the more solid basis of pure love.  Not being able to find any nourishment for our spirit in the beautiful imaginings and sweet emotions of other days when all seemed to go so well, we now feel constrained to cling with the will to the exercise of faith and love.  Since this is God's will for us, our efforts are supported by His grace.  This is the way to make great progress in the spiritual life.  While it does not fail to be a real trial, aridity sent by God is also such precious grace that, far from being discouraged by it, we should strive to correspond with it generously.

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