Entering Spiritual Desolation. The word “entering” is a misnomer; it is more a stumbling/falling into spiritual desolation. It has never felt as if it was a gradual thing; it has always been sudden. Spiritual desolation helps us grow in the faith, teaches us perseverance, but it can be a very desperate condition. Bible reading becomes a burden. It gives me no joy during those times. Prayer is a chore. It is during times of spiritual desolation, I believe, that people stray from the faith. God “seems” to be distant, not caring. The people of the world appear to be happier, more carefree than I.
Spiritual desolation varies in length. I have had occasions which lasted for days; some, for weeks; some, months.
What causes spiritual desolation? There are a myriad of circumstances which cause spiritual desolation. Sin? Yes, sin can cause it for sure. When we sin willfully, many times our conscience will convict us. If we ignore our conscience and continue in the sin, each occurrence thereafter becomes easier, and, finally, the sin no longer bothers us. Perhaps, sin is a major cause. It does not have a habitual sin. Occasional sin can sometimes cause spiritual desolation; sometimes, one instance of sin can cause it. Sometimes spiritual desolation comes when there is no sin involved.
I have gone through a period when I was working 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. During this time also, we were moving. When I wasn’t working, we were moving. There was no other alternative. Then came spiritual desolation. I had great difficulty in prayer. During the most difficult times, my prayers came down to saying, “Lord, help me!” Scripture was just letters on a page. I could not focus on the words, had no desire to read. This lasted approximately five months.
During this time, I kept reminding myself that it was God’s desire to save, not destroy. I would ask my patron saint to intervene for me, and I relied on the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail, Mary. The only thing that kept me going to Mass was the fear of mortal sin. The greatest mistake I made during this period was neglecting to speak to our priest about it. Spiritual desolation is not something I want to talk about when I am going through it, and it is very dangerous to undergo spiritual desolation, keeping it to yourself.
Nevertheless, spiritual desolation is a very beneficial thing if we do not forget them. I expect to go through spiritual desolation again. The next time, it will probably be more severe. I do have the confidence that God will not place too much upon me. In my experience, the more severe the test, the shorter the duration; the longer the duration, the severity is less.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, after His Baptism, was driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture tells us He had to deal with wild beasts. In Scripture, “wild beasts” can refer to evil people. During this period, the angels administered to him. During our periods of spiritual desolation, we too can be assured that our guardian angels are administering to us. How do we know this? Because they administered to Jesus.
Let us take the time now to prepare ourselves for upcoming periods of desolation. It is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” These are some basic ideas. People may vary in their preparations. I utilize these because they are easy to remember.
First, know for certainty that God loves you.
Our Catechism tells us that God comes to us. Just look at a Bible. That Bible is God revealing Himself to us. He did not have to do that: He is God. Nevertheless, He condescended to reveal Himself to His creature out of love for that creature—mankind. Because He loves mankind, He desires to save them from perishing.
The next time you go to Mass, stand outside the parish and view the pictures of the saints. These saints are not dead. Jesus said, if we believe in Him, we shall never die; henceforth, the saints are alive. They are still part of the Body; therefore, they are helping us, interceding for us. St. Paul said that he was torn between leaving and being with Christ, which is better, or staying here. If the apostle was saying that he desired to leave here to be with Christ in heavenly bliss, that would be selfish for he would be thinking of himself, not others. I think he was saying that he could be of more help to the Church if he was with Christ but, because, the saints on earth were weak in faith, he would remain—because they were strengthened by his presence.
Now, enter the parish. Again, you encounter saints, along with Jesus, our Blessed Mother, Joseph, etc. We have entered; therefore, these are the “inner circle,” their intercession being more vigorous. Now, enter the nave. Use your imagination, combined with your knowledge of the Word. Pay particular attention to the altar, the Tabernacle, the candle signifying that Christ is physically present. Look carefully at everything, “seeing” how dearly God loves us, how earnestly He works for us to persevere. He knows we are weak, and He has the angels working to aid us, the saints in heaven, the saints in purgatory, and those present with us. If we do not persevere, it is because we really do not care. T.T.