Taken from: HOLY ABANDONMENT
Rt. Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, O.C.R.
Original Pub. 1934, Dublin
ON THE OBJECT OF HOLY ABANDONMENT
ON ABANDONMENT IN THE SPIRITUAL
VARIETIES OF THE COMMON WAY:
DARKNESS, INSENSIBILITY, ETC.
ARTICLE II.------INSENSIBILITY OF HEART, DISGUST, ETC.
We repeat it: there is no question here of souls enslaved to passion or weakened by voluntary languor, but of souls firmly resolved to belong to God alone.
"It is sad to be compelled to fulfill the most sacred duties with a cold heart and a dissipated mind, to return to them always without zeal or fervour, nay, to have to drag oneself to them as it were by violence; to find oneself before God without any feeling but one of stupid indifference; to pray without recollection; to meditate without affection; to confess one's sins without sorrow; to communicate without relish; to break the bread of heaven with less satisfaction than material bread; to suffer externally without interior consolation; to carry heavy crosses without feeling that secret unction which sweetens them." 10 Here is the trial we have now to study, admirably described by Father de Lombez. But what are we to think of it?
"This trial," the same author continues, "is very mortifying; but it is wisely regulated by the Providence of God, Who knows perfectly well His own rights and our necessities. Thou art just, O Lord, and all Thy decrees are dictated by equity itself; and Thy mercy, too, enters largely into all Thy counsels. . . . Souls of good-will, it is either in chastisement of your faults God withdraws His consolations, or it is for the purpose of increasing your merits. If it is to punish your faults, why not turn your anger against yourselves? If it is with the view of multiplying your merits, why complain of Him? If He treats you according to your desert, what wrong has He done you? And what thanks do you not owe Him, if He designs to make you richer for eternity? Are you afraid that He will make you expiate your faults too easily in this life? Or that, at the cost of a little suffering, He will make you too happy in the life to come? However you try to reason, what you call the Divine rigours must necessarily proceed from one or other of these two motives. God does not hate His own work; and He summons no man to His service in order to make him unhappy." 11
So long as our wills remain firm and generous, we should banish all disquietude. Let us place our trust in God, as a sick man in his physician; it is now most especially that He is busying Himself with our cure and salvation. Self-love would have our contrition betray itself in floods of tears, and our love for God in sweet effusions of tenderness; it would like to know, to see, to feel each one of our acts of virtue, in order to reassure itself, in order to have something to feed on, something to serve as a subject for its complacency. During the present life we are so miserable, that every recognised gift from God is in danger of being quickly converted into a poison by the artifices of our self-love. Hence God is obliged, so to speak, to conceal from us the graces with which He adorns our souls: He preserves to us the substance of His favours, but removes whatever shines and attracts attention. If we were sufficiently alive to our own best interests, we should regard this conduct on the part of God as a precious benefit, and we should kiss His hand with only all the more confidence, the more heavily it seems to press upon us. In truth, when nature finds itself tortured with these interior crucifixions, and sees no prospect of relief, it is then self-love suffers agony and is almost ready to expire. Ah, if it only would expire, that miserable traitor! Let it be crucified, that domestic enemy of poor souls, that irreconcilable opponent of God and of all good!
But, you will say, what about this fearful indifference with regard to God? It is only apparent and confined to the inferior part of the soul, since the will remains firm and attentive to all its duties. The superior part is devoted to God, and with that He is content. Here is an evident proof of loyalty in this upper region: You are disconsolate in all your religious exercises to feel that you do not love God as you would wish, and all you can do is to complain of it bitterly: My God, I do not, then, love Thee? Oh, how ardent must be your interior and deep-seated desire to belong wholly to Him, since the bare fear of not loving Him afflicts you so much! This is a certain indication that despite your coldness and insensibility and apparent indifference, He has enkindled in your heart the fire of a great love which becomes ever stronger and stronger interiorly, and more mightily inflamed, from the very fear of not loving. Your anguish, therefore, is precisely that which ought to reassure you. But there is another and still better proof. It is that your virtuous acts, to be pleasing to God, have no need of the concomitance of emotion. Of their nature they are spiritual, and produced in the superior part of the soul. Whether the inferior part gives its concurrence, or remains inactive, or even makes opposition, is a matter of minor importance. The essential thing is that our contrition should cause a change in the will, not that it should make the tears flow; that divine love should strongly unite our wills to the will of God, not that it should reveal itself in tender effusions.
The same applies to the other virtues. To obtain this result, sensibility is not required. It is rather an obstacle, in so far as it serves as the nourishment of self-love. And it is just this obstacle God designs to remove by means of insensibility of the heart. The operation is, no doubt, an exceedingly distressing one, but also exceedingly wholesome. And here again, so far from making bitter complaints, we should rather kiss the kindly hand that hurts only in order to heal us.
Insensibility of the heart is a heavy trial, at least for the soul that has not yet arrived at perfect abandonment. But the trial becomes heavier still when to the privation of devotional feelings are added disgust, repugnance, and interior revolt. It is poor nature recoiling before the prospect of great sacrifice, or when the cup of bitterness is already full. These repugnances and revolts have nothing sinful about them, provided we suffer them with patience and do not allow our wills to be drawn away. The only thing lacking, then, is the feeling of our submission, since our wills remain united to the will of God and faithful to all its duties. Remember the Saviour's agony in the Garden of Olives, and you will understand that bitterness of heart and the violence of anguish are not incompatible with the most perfect submission. The revolts are restricted to the inferior part; in the higher region of the soul submission continues to reign.
Let us be on our guard against the thought that these trials are a hindrance to our progress. On the contrary, we have here, says De Caussade, the intimate struggles whereof St. Paul speaks, and after him all the masters of the spiritual life; it is by combating here the truly just man delivers himself from the tyranny of the senses; and here are won the great victories which secure to us in this life the peace and submission (relative) of our inferior nature, and the perfect possession of God in the life to come. Such temptations help us to detach ourselves from all earthly objects, to make costly and frequent sacrifices, to overcome our natural propensities in many things, and above all to practise patience, humility, and abandonment. All this is done in the topmost region of our souls, almost without our advertence and in spite of appearances to the contrary; so that often we really have submission without suspecting it. Instead of being a sign of God's withdrawal from us, these feelings of disgust are rather a very special grace, since they serve to bring home to us our weakness and perversity, and so lead us to place all our hope and confidence in the goodness of God. 12
At such times to do nothing contrary to the Divine will, to refrain from despairful lamentations, to repeat our fiat with humility: here is the perfect submission which has its roots in love, and in the purest love. Oh, if we only knew, under these trials, how to maintain the silence of respect, of faith, of adoration, of submission, of abandonment and sacrifice! We should have found the great secret of sanctifying, yea, and of sweetening sufferings. But we require to be exercised in this, to be formed to it gradually; and whenever we happen to fail in it, we must be careful not to worry, but must hasten back to our filial abandonment with a peaceful and tranquil humility. We can then confidently count upon the succours of grace. When God sends us heavy crosses, and sees us with the good-will to carry them as we ought, He never can refuse to support us invisibly, so that the greatness of our strength and our peace equals and sometimes even surpasses the greatness of the trials. But we must keep on praying, and keep on eliciting our interior acts, no matter how dry, and poor, and miserable they appear. They will not have much relish for us, but they will be very pleasing to God Who beholds our good-will. Happy the souls who, following the example of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, make it their aim to console their sweet Master instead of always demanding to be consoled by Him!
10. Paix int., P. III, c. vii.
11. Loc. cit.
12. De Caussade, op. cit., II, iv, 6; v, 15; vi, 2.