Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John of the Cross

Today is the proposed commemoration of St. John of the Cross, a saint I appreciate personally for helping me revise another of my youthful beliefs that I no longer find useful.

In seminary, I took a wonderful class on John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, three very different saints and mystics (though John and Teresa knew each other). The wonderful thing I got from John of the Cross was the notion of the dark night of the soul. Specifically, that the dark night is not a bad thing, but in fact a time of great spiritual growth. As I understood it (and vastly simplified), that time when a person feels dry and distant from God doesn't necessarily mean that the person is doing something wrong. John's advice (again as I understood it and vastly simplified) is not to get upset about it, but recognize it for the part of spiritual life that it is.

What a change from the message I heard growing up, that "When God feels far away, guess who moved," that clearly you are doing something wrong, and that your efforts need to be redoubled. I am so grateful to John of the Cross for teaching me to embrace the dry and dark times and not harass myself in the midst of them. The dark night of the soul is not a flaw or a failing and God continues to be present.

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