I was just reading a reflection about a Saint that keeps coming into my mind, St. Therese of Lisieux, and this particular excerpt from that reflection stood out to me as something that could help us all get through this next week.
“To say “saw” of Thérèse—she “saw” God’s redeeming love—risks falsifying Thérèse’s witness.
“Often, for years on end, she saw nothing; she looked for her beloved, and no one appeared. It is wrong to imagine that Thérèse constantly experienced burning ardor, eyes afire with vision, faith alive with sight. She didn’t. She spent years in darkness, seeing what you and I see, ordinary things, and of God, nothing at all.
“Faith is not a feeling, not even a feeling of devotion, not an ardor. It is often, so far as ordinary sentiments go, an emptiness, an aridity, a dry torment, a mind jumbled with distraction, directionless, unfeeling. Faith is a calm and feelingless redirecting of mind and will toward the unseen love, notable more for its steadiness and willingness to go on acting just as it would if it had been carried along by transports of joy, instead of being left bereft of signs and comforts. Only in that way can faith be tested for truth, steadfastness, and authenticity. Only in that way is it shown to be the real thing.”
Novak goes on to say that St. Therese experienced feelings of doubt and emptiness for years, and that during much of that time, she could not feel belief in God or heaven or eternal life. She was afraid she was deluded in her choice of life — in her living for, and loving, our Lord.
I am so thankful that our God gives us Saints who we can relate to so well. Because sainthood and sanctity can often feel so un-relatable — so out of reach, so impossible, etc.
And here we have a young woman with so much love in her heart, a woman who felt so many things — and so deeply, and yet she also didn’t feel the depths of God’s love for her at many times in her life.
Can you imagine?
Can you imagine feeling all the things around you so intensely — and not feeling God’s love?
It sounds torturous to me.
It sounds like a version of hell, to be honest.
When I look at these situations and hear of these stories — stories of saints who felt abandoned, who felt alone, who lived in darkness, and yet who still persisted in their faith, I think of two things: one, that that person(s) must have had someone close to them in their life to encourage them to keep their faith during those times, and two, that God’s graces must have certainly been sufficient for them in their lives, in those moments.
A couple of years ago, when I was going through a particularly rough time, and was really struggling with not feeling God’s love, my husband sent me a message that I’ll never forget. It was this quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola:
“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint.”
That sentiment, along with my husband’s encouragement, helped tremendously. And I have to believe that going to Mass, that receiving the Sacraments, that still speaking to God must have also brought along the graces to carry me through that time.
I imagine that one of St. Therese’s confessors led her to believe what my husband shared with me.
Novak says, “A new confessor at the convent told her this was a trial that many most loved by God had long endured; what matters is not our feelings, but the quiet witness of our daily actions (which express our will, despite our feelings). This is just what she herself believed, but she was much helped by knowing that she was walking a recognizable path. From then on, she flew. One day, some months later, as suddenly as it had descended, the cloud of doubt lifted.”
And that’s sort of where I want to leave it for you today.
With this reminder: that our feelings don’t matter, but what does is the quiet witness of our daily actions.
Like loving our husbands. And folding their laundry. And cooking them dinner. And making our houses homes.
Doing these ordinary things.
And doing these things for our children, too.
And our other closest family & friends.
And lastly, I’m wondering if you can think of a friend or family member who might need the reminder that their quiet witness is what matters most.
That it’s okay to not be feeling our faith today, or this month or this year.
That God still loves them greatly and unconditionally even in their dark days.
That God still sees them, even when they don’t see Him.
Share this post with them. Share this post on your Facebook page, and tag them. Let them know you’re thinking of them, you’re praying for them, you’re walking with them on this journey.
That sort of friendship, along with God’s graces of course, can give us all the sort of strength we need to reach for Heaven.