When the turtledove no longer sings…

Birds from Holland - collared turtle doves; Image ONLY

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of joyful voices praising God’s Goodness.  My mp3 player is chock full of Catholic radio podcasts.

Instead of being uplifted, I felt a deep loneliness.  That used to be me, I thought.  I felt broken – sort of like Humpty Dumpty was broken, all shattered.  Only on the inside.

I’ve been feeling like this for years, but it seems to grow worse over time.  I claim to love God deeply.  I believe in His Love for me.  But, I don’t feel a shred of devotion or affection for Him.  Anymore.   Yet, just the thought of Him once took my breath away.

Every Tuesday, I sit before His Eucharistic Presence for two hours struggling to pray.  I am happy to be with Him.  I love the peace.  But I cannot meditate or pray mentally at all.  I try to remember how thoughts of Him once flooded my mind and heart like an embrace of warm waves washing over me.

I tell Him that I love Him (because I do), but avoid terms of endearment which once tumbled out of my entire being in a litany of praise and adoration.  Such passion would seem hollow, even phony now.  And I am sad for it.

I am aware of Him in every choice that I make.  Is it for or against Him?  I try to do what would please Him, but it’s more like habit than love.  And I don’t want to go to hell — I who once dreamed of rushing into the arms of my Savior after breathing my last.  No fear then.

I have long since given up trying to find out Why.  I have turned my life inside out looking for a reason.  I cannot find one.  It is as though I have fallen into a deep dark well, and there is no way out.  And not one ray of light.

I have asked a few different priests what they thought, but in the rush of a few moments in the confessional, or a 20 minute exchange on retreat, they have not understood, and I cannot blame them.  But I thank them for listening.

“Dark night of the soul”,  a holy nun  with the gift of healing told me.  “But,” she added, “IF you are praying.”   So, all bets are off.

Am I praying?  What is prayer now?  There is no question that I could pray more, much more.  How much do I have to pray to be in the purification of a dark night rather than the lukewarmness of a soul who has left the narrow way and wandered onto the wide road?

I tell Jesus that I believe it will always be this way now.  I no longer allow myself to hope that I will ever again experience His Presence, or my own heart leaping within me at the sound of His Name.  I am so very grateful for those memories.

He has given me more than I could have ever hoped for.  It is His to give, and His to take away.  If I have driven away His favors by my lack of generosity, I pray, as best I can now pray, that I will not one day cause Him to leave me too.

My prayer  is simple now.  It is that of the dying thief:  “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”


11 thoughts on “When the turtledove no longer sings…

  1. I read your post with great interest since I am experiencing the same state of soul. There are no words of love, no feelings…just numbness. BUT my spiritual director told me as long as we are perservering in our prayer time…going to Mass, Confession, praying LOH, and spending time in quiet prayer (no matter how *blank* it may seem), still concerning ourselves with God’s will…it would not be lukewarmness but a state of aridity and purification of our soul. We can still pray the words of love and thanksgiving even though we feel absolutely nothing. Love is no longer a feeling, but a matter of the will…to love amidst the dryness of the desert. You are in my prayers my friend.

    • Theresa, thank you so much for your encouraging words, and for sharing that you too are on this desert journey. Your comment certainly brightened my morning. I am glad that you have a spiritual director. I had one for several years until he died in 1998. There was such peace in knowing that when I obeyed him, I was obeying God, and so it was easy for him to put my soul at rest when I was troubled. It was like he could wipe away all the cobwebs and enable me to see what God was saying or doing in my life. On my own, I am befuddled to say the least! But God is good, and I cling to Him in faith. There is still joy in this dark place, don’t you think? Perhaps not the beaming, radiant, effervescent joy of the past, but a quiet, trusting and peaceful joy in the Faithful One. I am most grateful for your prayers. And I will pray for you too. It is so good to have a new sister in Carmel.

  2. Your post saddened me. I am sorry for what you are going through. Having read many lives of the saints, it seems that you may be going through one of these times of spiritual trial. I will pray for you, that God will allow you to feel His presence again just as soon as He sees fit. Don’t give up or give in!

    • Dana, please don’t be sad, but please do pray for me. I know other people who have experienced this — perhaps you noticed the first comment on this post. The most painful part is worrying that you yourself may have caused the problem, rather than it being a purification sent from God. In the latter case, it would truly be a blessing — to be able to give Him the gift of loving Him without experiencing Him ,or any sweetness in prayer, etc. St. Therese spent most of her life in the monastery that way. But in my case, I worry that I let my prayer life suffer during some difficult and challenging times during the past decade. I couldn’t keep up because of matters beyond my control – like health issues, caring for my parents in their last years, moving into a rural area where daily Mass is difficult, etc…. I am always trying to do better, falling and getting up again. But although I try, I know I could try harder, and so it’s difficult not to blame myself for this seeming absence of God in my prayer life. Advice is always welcomed, and prayers are doubly welcomed : ) Thank you for caring!

  3. My spiritual director is a woman who is Byzantine Rite and is discerning a solitary vocation. She is such a blessing…a friend and a mother! I know what you are saying when there is consolation knowing you are following God’s will and that affirmed by someone else. You can really feel quite lost. Rest knowing you have the greatest spiritual directors in the Church…St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese. They all experienced what we are going through…they all persevered and found peace in accepting ALL God sent them…their love for Him was so great. OH…that I may aspire to that love instead of self-love! Bless you…

    • Bless you too, Theresa! Yes, it certainly helps to have affirmation from a trusted person when you find yourself on an unfamiliar spiritual path — one that isn’t marked with clear signs, and even seems to lead you in circles. We are so richly blessed in Carmel with our great Doctors of Prayer, as you mentioned. Right now, I am findiing some help in reading P. Marie Eugene’s, OCD, I Am a Daughter of the Church. It’s from the two volume set: “A Practical Synthesis of Carmelite Spirituality,”. The first volume is titled, I Want to See God, from which I co-opted my blog title : ) I’ve had these books about five years, and hadn’t yet read them. Am so grateful for them now.

      Self love? Hmm, do you suppose we will take it to the grave with us? Whenever I think I’ve gotten somewhere with this, Our Lord lets me fall flat on my face! Truly, without His Grace, we are a mess! We are so blessed to walk in Carmel’s light and to have the prayers of our amazing Saints.

  4. WoW! This was a year ago? Well….I still feel the same exact way Patricia. I mean you said it perfectly “I tell Him that I love Him (because I do), but avoid terms of endearment which once tumbled out of my entire being in a litany of praise and adoration. Such passion would seem hollow, even phony now. And I am sad for it.” I said it in my comment last year and I have to keep telling myself…as long as I am concerned with pleasing God, it doesn’t matter that sweet aspirations don’t leave my lips. It doesn’t mean I am lukewarm. I can say *I love you God* and mean it…even if I don’t *feel* it.

    Thanks so much for posting this again and have a blessed weekeend.

    • Hi Theresa. Some things never change….even after a year. 🙂 As you said in a previous comment, “Carmel IS the desert.” And you know…my progression from consolation to this place began shortly after I entered Carmel in 1995. It has slowly evolved through the years. In the beginning, God did not remove everything, only the sensible consolations, but mental prayer was still a rich feast. Then slowly He began to take that away. But like you said also, eventually we find peace with it.

      Actually, reading St. John of the Cross makes me prefer this way. I am only disturbed when I begin to worry that something I did (or didn’t do) caused it. But those periods eventually pass and I am at peace again. I’ve kept journals for years, and sometimes I go back and read those litanies of praise and adoration. But I remember Therese writing somewhere that beautiful words are meaningless if we aren’t doing God’s Will. And like you, I can still say, “I love You, God,”…even if without all those adjectives and adverbs!

      Thanks for hanging out with me for a whole year! 😉

  5. Hi Patricia, your post resonated with me too. I think the loneliness comes in because of the world we live in. It’s so very difficult to stay focused on Christ and I think the silence He uses at times, helps us to grow closer to Him and to learn to trust Him more. I don’t think He is a fickle God that comes and goes on a whim….He has a purpose for it and one day we’ll understand. Praying for you, my friend!

    • Noreen, thank you so much for your prayers! I will pray for you too. I agree with what you wrote…that God uses these dry and empty times to teach us to trust Him more. It’s easy to trust when prayer flows and God showers us with consolations. For sure He has a purpose, and a perfect time for each of us. So glad you understand, and love you for the prayers!


  6. This is so much how I FEEL, I FEEL I have let God down and I no longer deserve hes love or Mercy, I go on with my days feeling so lost and lonely for those priests esp. one who is struggling and the bishop wont speak to, it makes me wonder why good priests are so hurt, its turns me off my faith ~ also so to find a spiritual director which I am finding hard to find…where is God in all this and why does he allow me to go through the Dark night of the soul, Thank you for sharing it is beautiful what you have written
    Thank you and God bless for you encouragement

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