Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dark Night of the Soul

I first heard the term, Dark Night of the Soul from spiritual speaker and writer Carolyn Myss. She describes a prolonged period of sadness and feeling of separation as one prays to move away from the false voices--those people, situations, and events that distract a person from his or her higher purpose--into a closer relationship with God and a deeper spiritual orientation. This can be mistaken for depression. One feels alienated and abandoned. But the Dark Night is a necessary step on the path to wholeness and an authentic way of living. Mother Theresa is said to have experienced such a Dark Night for many years. She was known for praying the Memorare nine times in a row on a regular basis:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee I come, before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate! despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen. 

 Our Lady of La Salette

I have experienced at least one Dark Night of the Soul in the past, and it occurred to me today that I may be in that space once again, as a part of turning my eyes back to God and traveling on this journey to the Catholic faith. External events have certainly contributed to my sorrow, which was so intense yesterday that I started crying, really hard, in the shower. My family did not hear me, which is good, because I did not want to alarm my child.

For a number of years I have felt that somehow I have become the black sheep of my family of origin. As a kid I never got into any trouble like some siblings did, was an excellent student, went to college, got married and had a child. Until recently I was the only one to start a family. Along the way I also pursued additional education twice, paying for both schools and becoming a successful esthetician at a prestigious day spa. I paid off all my debts and have had excellent credit for many years. By most standards, I am a productive member of society! So what happened?

Instead of bringing my family closer together, becoming a mother has caused rifts, hurt feelings, and a profound sense of alienation. I thought that healing was taking place, and past disagreements and misunderstandings had been put behind us, but evidently I was wrong, and my wounds have been torn back open. Add to that the sudden death of my next door neighbor last month, and this week the death of my best friend's grandpa. Beezy's favorite little cousin and playmate suddenly moved far away. A school shooting in my state, natural disasters with tornadoes destroying entire towns and taking people's lives, and the continuing unrest in the Middle East are among the contributors to a chain of suffering.

Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

What a lenten season it has been so far! I had a 10 day long menstrual period, and then a family member uninvited my child to a special event, while other children are still welcome. How to handle the rejection? I have been in the habit of praying my Rosary every night, and so I pray for all of these trials and tribulations, for myself and for others that are also going through difficult times. I relate my pain to events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, and also my hope. I read my daily lenten meditation book, the Bible, and Catholic literature. I offer up my sorrow for the blessing of another. Since becoming Catholic, I am learning that suffering purifies us. It is a part of the life of faith and cannot be avoided, should not be run away from. It is a chance to grow closer to God and rely on Him in these tests. Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. We walk with Him and imitate Him, also fasting and praying. We give alms to the poor to remind us of our abundance. We do penance for our sins, and we turn away from sin and toward the gospel. And at the end of the season, spring arrives and we rise again.

 Assumption of Mary

If you are experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, allow yourself to feel your feelings. Have that good, awful cry and let it all pour out. Be open to God's grace and healing. When others turn against you, remember how Jesus was turned against to the point of death, and carry your cross with dignity. This too shall pass. And all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

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