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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"I dwell with the crushed and the dejected“ (Is 57:15)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

The Dark Night of The Soul - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

Let us reflect on Psalm 119:74-77, "Those who fear the Thee shall see me and rejoice because I had hoped in Thy Word. I know O Lord, that Thy judgments are right and that in faithfulness, Thou has afflicted me. Let thy steadfast love be ready to comfort me according to thy promise to thy servant. Let thy mercy come to me that I may live for thy law is my delight." O God, I offer to You all the distress in my heart. You are my Hope! You are my Comfort. It is in you that I trust. Manifest Your Face to me, O God. Let me rejoice in Your Love for me. I offer to You all the problems of my life. Hear and answer me, O God. Teach me to pray. Teach me to sit at Thy feet, to listen to Thy Word and to be comforted by Your Love. Amen

Dry Patch in Prayer Life

A few days ago, a preacher of The Word came to see me. He was in great distress and he said, "Father, I am going through a very dry patch in my prayer life. I am not able to pray anymore. I knew this man very well. He was a very holy man who prayed a lot, who was committed to the Word of God and who did a lot of good to others. Yet, he was telling me that he was not able to pray anymore. He was not finding any comfort from the Word of God. He had said, earlier when he opened the bible, the words from the verses of the bible used to stand out in bright light before him and now, everything looks silent, infertile and dry. He asked me. "Father, what is happening to me?"

We prayed together and we understood that this was a dry moment in his prayer life. As we look through the history of holy men and women, we find this happening. There are certain moments in our lives when we are not able to pray at all – not because we do not want to pray. We want to pray but we do not find prayer delightful anymore. There is no joy bubbling up in our hearts. We cannot find any meaning in prayer. Some have called it the "absence of God". St. John of the Cross called it "the dark night of the soul". This could happen to all of us. In fact, it is happening to many people!

As we open the bible, we find David bitterly complaining to God and David was probably a man very close to God. Of all the men and women closest to God, he can be counted as the person closest to God. God took pleasure in calling him, "a man closest to my heart." As we read in 1 Samuel 13:14, "…a man after my own heart". Yet as we go through the psalms, David complains to God e.g. Psalm 10:1 "Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?" This is a very sad complaint of a man who loved God. We also read in Psalm 72:1, "Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help?" David sounds very bitter, doesn’t he? "Why do you ignore me?"

Is God absent from my life?

The most painful thing in a relationship of love is this – I feel ignored by my friend. That is exactly what David felt – God did not care for him anymore and he said it in so many words. In Psalm 43:2, "Why have you abandoned me?" Of course, God did not abandon David. Never! Not for a moment – not even when he committed that sin – even then God did not abandon him. We have that promise in Deuteronomy 31:8, "I will never leave you or forsake you," yet that David felt exactly the opposite.

We find the same thing in the Book of Job. Job was a very pious man – a man devoted to God and yet we find Job complaining. In Job 23:8. "I go east but he is not there. I go west but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north for he is hidden. God hides himself from me." It is a very painful feeling, isn’t it? And Job continues, "I turn to the south but I cannot find him. But he knows where I am going and when he has tested me like gold in a fire, he will pronounce me innocent."

"When he has tested me like gold in a fire" – well, this verse gives us a clue to understand the mystery of this experience - the mystery of the "absence of God". Our relationship with our God is a relationship that is very dear to us. In fact, it is a relationship that we are living for; a relationship that we are craving for all the time. But then, this relationship should grow and become mature. I believe any relationship is like this. In the beginning, there is a lot of enthusiasm. We want to be close to each other. We want to be one with each other. We want to talk to each other all the time. There is a very beautiful feeling! But then every relationship should become mature. It must rise above feelings and come to a moment of decision. It must become an experience of commitment. I am committed to my friend – so committed that even when my friend is so far away, I need to live for him(her).

I believe the same is true with our relationship with God. It is a yearning of the soul – the more I am close to my God, the more I want to be closer and closer with my God. The more I feel the presence of God, the more I want to feel. The more I pray, the more often I want to pray! I want to be with my God and at that moment comes the test. How dear am I to God? Am I still faithful to my God even when He is absent from me? Not because God is absent but because I feel God is absent. The two need not be the same. God is closer to me that I to myself but I cannot feel Him because I want to feel Him more and more – a way a relationship gets mature.

I explained to this preacher that this was what that was happening to him. He was very upset because he thought that he had committed some sin and that was why he could not see the face of God anymore – and that is why he could not find delight in his prayer. Not necessarily. It is a process of maturity and many of us could be going through such a dark and dry patch.

In our relationship with God, we shall not panic. Rather we should be doing three things:

Tell God How You Feel

First, tell God exactly how you feel. Pour out your heart to God. I know God is close to me even when I cannot feel Him. Yet I speak to Him. I open my heart to Him. I pour out all my feelings to Him. Job said it in Job 7:11, "I can’t be quiet. I am angry and bitter. I have to speak." He was a man who did not understand what was happening to him. In one day, he lost his family, his properties and all his businesses – he lost everything. He did not understand and he was angry and bitter. He pours out that bitterness before God. Only where there is freedom of love, is there the possibility of pouring out our troubles and woes. Job again says in Job 29:4, "Oh! For the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house." He was remembering how good God was to him and he was pouring out all his woes to Him just like David did in Psalm 116:10, "I believed and so I said I was completely ruined." An ironical statement, isn’t it? Even when David was completely ruined, he believed! I trusted in my God. Since I trust in Him, my God loves me and I pour out all my troubles to Him. When I love someone, I will be able to look at his face and tell him even unpleasant things – because I know he will understand. I know he cares. So in such moments of trouble and discomfort, we need to pour out our hearts to God. Sufferings are bound to happen; things will not always go right. Friends will betray us. Situation will become unfavourable and calculations will fail. Yet, I know, deep in my heart, that my God will never fail me – so I will pour out all my woes to Him.

Trust in The Promises of God

God keeps His Promises – I know this. Even if I cannot feel Him, even if I feel angry, even if I feel God is far away from me – I know God will keep His promises. So my trust remains unshakeable. As Job said in Job 23:12, "I have not departed from the commands of his lips. I have treasure the words of his mouth more than my daily bread." In the midst of all the distress, I hold on to the Word of God – to the promises of God. This will lead us to the next experience…

Remember What God Has Done for Us

When I speak of what God has done for me, the Cross looms large before my eyes. The Cross – it is on the cross that God has manifested His greatest love for me. St. Paul asks us in Romans 8:32, "If God loved us so much that he did not spare even his own son, when it came to our salvation, will he deny anything to us?" I know this – my God loved me so much that He sent His only Son to die for me. With St. Paul, every one of us will be able to say, "It is for me that Jesus died." I look at the Cross and I understand how much God loves me; How much God cares for me; How much God means for me; How much I mean for God. I mean so much for my God that he did not spare even His own Son when it came to my salvation. I remember what God has done for me.

The Assurance of God’s Love

Even in the midst of darkness, the light of the Cross should shine before me – to give me the assurance of God’s Love. I turn to Him and I surrender myself to Him. It is a great thing to hold on to God – to love Him even when things are going wrong. To praise Him even when I am in distress. I need to thank Him even when all calculations fail. I need to follow Him and to surrender myself to Him even in the moments of darkness.

All of us could go through such moments in our prayer lives. We shall not panic. Rather, we shall turn to God in love and surrender.


Let us pray:
O God, we trust in Your Love. There are moments in our lives when we are not able to see Your Face; when we are not able to feel Your Love. We are becoming mature. It is not our feelings that we trust. It is in You that we trust.

Give us the grace to turn to You in all such moments and believe in Your Love.
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