Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. – Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 2
I come to you at the end of the day and don’t know what to say. Does that mean I’m living my days wrong, not thinking of you often enough?
I say thank you because my brain knows I’m blessed and it’s what I ma supposed to say, but my heart is cold and my spirit bland. But I know that saying it when you don’t mean it is a find first step. That’s why You gave us form prayers – for when our souls can’t come up with poetry on their own. – my journal, last night
After a long day of doctor’s appointments, working on the move, pain, messes, and finally grading, I sat in front of my journal with very little to say to God. My journals usually double as prayer journals; my writing alternates between general reflection and writing to God.
Once I have the pen in my hand, something usually comes out. But last night I had nothing. I was struggling with spiritual dryness, but I did the best I could.
Then I finally clicked on one of the many articles about Pope Francis’ advice to “fast from indifference this Lent” that keep showing up in my social media feeds. When I read the quote at the top of this post I cried and cried. I felt attacked and misunderstood. Knowing that I had just given my daily effort to overcome the disconnect I’m feeling right now only frustrated me more. I’m trying!
I believe that Francis (and all of the other spiritual people who I respect) know that there are many reasons we enter into dark nights, most of them inscrutable. And he’s not wrong: being self-centered can damage us spiritually, and excessive concern with my current challenges is part of my spiritual malaise. I am going to stick with my usual remedy: keep asking for God’s help, keeping asking for God’s presence, believing that at a certain point I can no longer be ignored or delayed.
It’s worth noting that the passage that made me cry was not actually from the Pope’s Lenten Message. It was from an article online summarizing (and perhaps deceptively conflating) the Pope’s statements. When I read the actual text of the Lenten Message I was comforted and no longer felt attacked. Another example of the danger of reading someone else’s interpretation of the Pope’s words before you read primary sources.
I also want to point out that the author of the article is dismissive toward other Lenten sacrifices in a way I find smug and distasteful: “If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go.” For those of us who use mundane sacrifices to remind us of the larger changes we are also trying to make, this is insulting. What do you think?
Image by Benhur Arcayan (Malacañang Photo Bureau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I read the article and like the notion of fasting from indifference. To me that means giving, kindness, understanding. I think that the bit about “if you want to change your body …” seems somewhat harsh, belies the symbolism of ‘mundane sacrifices.’
That you have the insight to write that prayer in your journal speaks volumes. That you can say you are grateful, because you know you are even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, that is a powerful prayer, a powerful message to God. Because, it’s easy to do these things when we feel good and fine, the challenge and art of it all lies in doing these things when we don’t feel so good or fine.
I love your honesty. And, whatever dimness you’re going through, I send you love. I truly mean this.
Don Kolenda says
I think it’s your unwavering honesty and willingness to be vulnerable that jumps off the pages of your writing and pierces my heart. I’m moved every time I read one of your pieces. I’m blessed to have a glimpse into your daily journey. I most sincerely thank you.
Margaret Felice says
You are too kind, Don. Thank you for reading.