Looking inward, you would believe that my personal life looks like a “bowl of cherries” at the moment. You may not know, however, that my life has recently included one of those seasons of darkness. On top of that, that season lasted a whole year! Now I have several reasons to feel thankful. I have found a man to marry, I have a job that I love, I have successfully mentored several teenagers, and my good health does not require medical care.
Right before Easter this year, I began to wonder whether or not this was all real. Through retreats and preparing young people for sacraments, it began to creep into my mind that this all might be a mirage. I had just gone to confession and left the priest with more questions than answers. I usually walk out of there with a tear-stained face and my eyes filled with joy. That’s not how I felt that night.
I can’t tell you that it simply took a flick of the wrist to restore my faith after this season of doubt. It took time. It took faith. It took the love of my Savior to come back to Him. It took having patience with Him and remembering His patience with us for me to return. I returned because we worked together.
When we hear this singular word, most of us think simply of winter, spring, summer or fall. They usually come to our minds in that sequence because that’s how Carole King ordered them when she penned “You’ve Got a Friend” in 1971.
Seasons come, and seasons go. Seasons transition and change in the manner of their names. These cliché phrases bring to memory the weather in each season. Winter weather covers the ground, and summer scorches the air around us.
We also have seasons of our heart. Sometimes those seasons are ripe for the picking and sugary sweet. Other seasons are dark and cold, relentless in their despair. These seasons also exist in our faith.
There are three ways this darkness can be described: Dark Night, Dry Season, and Laziness of Faith. A quote attributed to St. Augustine in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] describes faith as certain. St. Augustine writes that “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives” (157). The CCC recommends against our laziness of faith, saying that “[A]gainst our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love” (2742). This is saying the best way to fight a laziness of faith is to pray unceasingly. These three typically have either a lack of faith, an increase in despair (ceasing hope), or the dry season where the individual sees their faith as unfruitful.
We can have faith like Catherine of Siena by being “who you were meant to be and you will set the world on fire.” This can be seen while jumping up and down for your faith during a concert or praise and worship at your parish. Keep in mind that this is not the only way to be on fire for your faith. Going through a tough time in faith can create fire. Even Saint Teresa of Calcutta had such an experience!
We can all have our faith tested to the limits. Maybe you’re wondering where God is and how he could have “left us.” The first thing you must remember is that God never leaves you. You might feel distant from His love or unsure if you know that He is the one true love, but He never ever leaves you.
Fr. James Martin, SJ touches on these feelings of darkness in his book, “My Life with the Saints.” He describes feelings of abandonment as a way of identifying with Christ on the cross and the abandoned poor. The poor and marginalized feel like the world has left them. How can we help those marginalized by society feel more connected?
In serving others, we have a very intense and spiritually awakening moment which offers a “mountain experience.” These experiences show us that through the service of others, we are meeting Christ at His most vulnerable. However, we cannot leave the experience at the mountain. We must bring it home and reconnect with that experience or another person in need.
Mother Teresa’s life was not just of service, but also a life of very personal struggle with the darkness of deeply questioning her faith. In the saint’s own words, “It is most important to meet Christ in His most distressing disguise.”
Where have you found Jesus in other people’s seasons of need, desperation, or despair? Mother Teresa takes it further when she says, “Find your own Calcutta.” She suggests that we should look in our own hearts and see where we are called to find Jesus in disguise.
Mother Teresa felt an “interior darkness” that lasted the rest of her life, but it did not deter her from a journey that led to sainthood. It’s okay to doubt and question, but you must have faith and continue with your Christian call. She never gave up, and neither should we.
In examining this darkness further, we are offered this quote from “The Dark Night of Mother Teresa” by Carol Zaleski:
“We may prefer to think that she spent her days in a state of ecstatic mystical union with God, because that would get us ordinary worldlings off the hook.”
Zaleski says this woman of God had such darkness for the rest of her life. Mother Teresa would continue to have faith and pray unfailingly, but she felt ever further away from the source. In John 14:18, though, Jesus makes His purpose clear when he says, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming for you.” As we wait for His second coming, we use the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and nurture our faith while participating in the sacraments.
As Mother Teresa once said, “If you do something, and I do something, then together, we will do something beautiful for God.” Let’s take this next step and pray for each other. Let’s remember that God wants us to work with Him, that God is our friend. We don’t need any greater friend. That is beautiful!
When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand, and nothing is going right . . . just close your eyes and think of Him, and soon He will be there to brighten up even your darkest night.
You just call out His name, and you know wherever He is, He’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall . . . all you have to do is call, and He’ll be there.
You’ve got a friend.
Image: Saint Script, Fearless Ali https://www.saintscriptshop.com/
Tiffany Busko has graduated twice from Notre Dame of Maryland University after attending Magruder High School in Derwood. She currently works for Fiat Ventures and is associated with BOLD Youth Ministries. Tiffany spends most of her time at the Parish of Saint Ann in Parsippany, N.J., where she prepares young people to receive the sacraments. She has also worked in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Mexico. Feel free to congratulate Tiffany on her recent marriage. She can’t wait to start her own family!