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  #1  
Old Nov 12, '10, 7:23 pm
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Default Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

Hi, I'm hoping someone can help me with queries about questioning faith, doubts and the Dark Night of the Soul.

Firstly I would like a basic overview of the elements and 'steps' of the Dark Night of the soul. I tried reading an online version of St John of The Cross' theories on it, but it got confusing.

I want to understand it better and know whether or not questioning and doubting can be elements of it.

Thanks.
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Old Nov 12, '10, 7:49 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

There are two dark nights... one is dark night of the senses, the other is dark night of the soul.

The dark night of the senses involves aridity and is meant to purify the senses.

The dark night of the soul is generally for those who have already been through the dark night of the senses, and the reason it is painful is because God fills the soul with His light but the soul feels it as darkness (in terms of unknowing, not in terms of evil) because it is unable to see and respond to it. Through this trial, the soul is purified and is then able to be much closer to God than before.

In my understanding, one of the characteristics of the dark night of the soul is a feeling of being rejected by God. In reality, God is very close to the soul.. but the soul feels completely alone. It is a sharing in the Passion, when Christ cried out to the Father from the Cross.

St John of the Cross gives different ways to distinguish a dark night from something brought upon by sinfulness. If the person has great love for God during this time, and doesn't find consolations in worldly things, and is striving towards God, - yet feels aridity, rejection, etc - that is more like the dark night. If the person finds consolation in the world and if the trial started from a lack of prayer or unrepented sin, then it is not a dark night, and they should seek repentance and Confession. In any case, humility and repentance is always important and always something we should seek. Also, the person who is going through a dark night has many difficulties understanding spiritual things, or using imagination in prayer.

I don't know for sure, but I think that questioning and doubting can be part of the dark night of the soul, because the Saints went through this. In her dark night of the soul, St Therese of Lisieux felt like there is no Heaven. This was a heavy trial for her, and at the same time, she was dying from tuberculosis. She continued to love God and this dark night transformed her into a Saint.

St John of the Cross said that God purifies souls in different ways. Not everyone goes through a continual, complete dark night of the senses, and then a continual complete dark night of the soul. There are Saints who have gone through this, but for the average Christian, this would destroy them spiritually! So for most people, they go through it in segments, and God sends consolations to encourage them. Other people never go through the dark night of the senses but still have trials. St John also said that only a few experience the dark night of the soul, it is not common.

If you are wondering if you're going through either of the dark nights, it might be important to find a good spiritual director who can guide you and tell you what is going on. Hopefully someone who is familiar with St John of the Cross.

I'm not an expert on this but these is just what I remember from the book..
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Old Nov 12, '10, 7:50 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

Here is how St Faustina described her dark night of the soul.


The second year of the novitiate was approaching. Whenever I recalled that I was to make my vows, my soul shuddered. I did not understand what I was reading; I could not meditate; it seemed to me that my prayer was displeasing to God. It seemed to me that by approaching the Holy Sacraments I was offending God even more. But despite this, my confessor (Father Theodore) did not let me omit one single Holy Communion. God was working very strangely in my soul. I did not understand anything at all of what my confessor was telling me. The simple truths of the faith became incomprehensible to me. My soul was in anguish, unable to find comfort anywhere.

At a certain point, there came to me the very powerful impression that I am rejected by God. This terrible thought pierced my soul right through; in the midst of the suffering my soul began to experience the agony of death. I wanted to die but could not. The thought came to me: of what use is it to strive for virtues; why mortify oneself when all this is disagreeable to God? When I made this known to the Directness of Novices, I received this reply, "Know, dear sister, that God has chosen you for great sanctity. This is a sign that God wants to have you very close to Himself in Heaven. Have great trust in the Lord Jesus".

That dreadful thought of being rejected by God is the actual torture suffered by the damned. I fled to Jesus' Wounds and repeated the words of trust, but these words became for me an even greater torture. I went before the Blessed Sacrament, and I began to speak to Jesus: "Jesus, You said that a mother would sooner forget her infant than God His creature, and that even if she would forget her infant, 'I God would never forget My creature'. O Jesus, do you You hear how my soul is moaning? Deign to hear the painful whimpers of Your child. I trust in You, O God, because heaven and earth will pass, but Your word will last forever.' Still I found not a moment of relief.

One day, just as I had awakened, when I was putting myself in the presence of God, I was suddenly overwhelmed with despair. Complete darkness in the soul. I fought as best as I could till noon. In the afternoon, truly deadly fears began to seize me; my physical strength began to leave me. I went quickly to my cell, fell on my knees before the Crucifix and began to cry out for mercy. But Jesus did not hear my cries. I felt my physical strength leave me completely. I fell to the ground, despair flooding my whole soul. I suffered terrible tortures in no way different than the torments of hell. I was in this state for three quarters of an hour. I wanted to go and see the Directness, but was too weak. I wanted to shout but I had no voice. Fortunately, one of the sisters (another novice, Sister Placid Pottery) came into my cell. Finding me in such a strange condition, she immediately told the Directness about it. Mother came at once. As soon as she entered the cell she said "In the name of holy obedience get up from the ground". Immediately some force raised me up from the ground, and I stood up close, to the dear Mother Directness. With kindly words she began to explain to me that this was a trial sent to me by God saying to me "Have great confidence; God is always our Father, even when He sends us trials."

I returned to my duties as if I had come out from the tomb, my senses saturated with what my soul had experienced. During the evening service, my soul began to agonize again in a terrible darkness. I felt that I was in the power of the Just God, and that I was the object of His indignation. During these terrible moments I said to God, "Jesus, who in the Gospel compare Yourself to a most tender mother, I trust in Your words because You are Truth and Life. In spite of everything, I trust in You in the face of every interior sentiment which sets itself against hope. Do what you want with me; I will never leave You, because You are the source of my life". Only one who has lived through similar moments can understand how terrible is this torment of the soul.

During the night, the Mother of God visited me, holding the Infant Jesus in Her arms. My soul was filled with joy, and I said, "Mary, my Mother, do you know how terribly I suffer?" And the Mother of God answered me, "I know how much you suffer, but do not be afraid. I share with you your suffering, and I shall always do so." She smiled warmly and disappeared. At once, strength and a great courage sprang up anew in my soul; but that lasted only one day. It seemed as though hell had conspired against me. A terrible hatred began to break out in my soul, a hatred for all that is holy and divine. It seemed to me that these spiritual torments would be my lot for the rest of my life. I turned to the Blessed Sacrament and said to Jesus, "Jesus, my Spouse, do You not see that my soul is dying because of its longing for You? How can You hide Yourself from a heart that loves You so sincerely? Forgive me, Jesus; may your holy will be done in me. I will suffer silently like a dove, without complaining. I will not allow my heart even one single cry of sorrowful complaint."
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Old Nov 12, '10, 7:50 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

The heaviest suffering for me was that it seemed to me that neither my prayers nor my good works were pleasing to God. I did not dare lift up my eyes to heaven. This caused me such great suffering during the community exercises in the chapel that one day Mother Superior (Raphael) called me aside after the exercises and said to me, "Sister, ask God for grace and for consolation, because I can see for myself and the sisters keep telling me that the very sight of you evokes pity. I really do not know what to do with you Sister. I command you to stop tormenting yourself for no reason."

But all these conferences with Mother Superior brought me no relief, nor did they clarify anything for me. Rather, even greater darkness hid God from me. I looked for help in the confessional, but not even there did I find it. A saintly priest wanted to help me, but I was so miserable that I couldn't even define my trouble, and that vexed me even more. A deathly sadness penetrated my soul to such an extent that I was unable to hide it, and it was apparent to those around me. I lost hope. The night was growing darker and darker. The priest to whom I went to confession said to me, "I see very special graces in you, Sister, and I am not worried about you at all; why are you torturing yourself in this way?" But at that time what he was saying and was extremely surprised when, by the way of penance, I was ordered to say the Tea Deem or the Magnificat, or to run fast around the garden in the evening, or else to laugh out loud ten times a day. These penances were very surprising to me; but even with that the priest was not able to give me much help. Evidently, God wanted me to give Him glory through suffering.

That priest consoled me, saying that in my present situation I was more pleasing to God than if I were filled with the greatest consolations. "It is a very great grace Sister" he told me, "that in your present condition, with all the torments of soul you are experiencing, you not only do not offend God, but you even try to practice virtues. I am looking into your soul, and I see God's great plans and special graces there; and seeing this I give thanks to the Lord". But despite all that, my soul was in a state of torture; and in the midst of unspeakable torments, I imitated the blind man who entrusts himself to his guide, holding his hand firmly, not giving up obedience for a single moment, and this was my only safety in this field of trial.

O Jesus, eternal Truth, strengthens my feeble forces; You can do all things, Lord. I know that without You all my efforts are in vain. O Jesus, do not hide from me, for I cannot live without You. Listen to the cry of my soul. Your mercy has not been exhausted, Lord, so have pity on my misery. Your mercy surpasses the understanding of all Angels and people put together; and so, although it seems to me that You do not hear me, I put my trust in the ocean of Your mercy, and I know that my hope will not be deceived.

Only Jesus knows how burdensome and difficult it is to accomplish one's duties when the soul is so interiorly tortured, the physical powers so weakened and the mind darkened. In the silence of my heart I kept saying to myself, "O Christ, may delights, honor and glory be Yours, and suffering be mine. I will not lag one step behind as I follow You, though thorns wound my feet."
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  #5  
Old Nov 12, '10, 7:52 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

Darkness and Temptations.
My mind became dimmed in a strange way; no truth seemed clear to me. When people spoke to me about God, my heart was like a rock. I could not draw from it a single sentiment of love for Him. When I tried, by an act of the will, to remain close to Him, I experienced great torments, and it seemed to me that I was only provoking God to an even greater anger. It was absolutely impossible for me to meditate as I had been accustomed to do in the past. I felt in my soul a great void, and there was nothing with which I could fill it. I began to suffer from a great hunger and yearning for God, but I saw my utter powerlessness. I tried to read slowly, sentence by sentence, and to meditate in this way, but this also was of no avail. I understood nothing of what I had read.

The abyss of my misery was constantly before my eyes. Every time I entered the chapel for some spiritual exercise, I experienced even worse torments and temptations. More than once, all through Holy Mass, I had to struggle against blasphemous thoughts which were forcing themselves to my lips. I felt an aversion for the Holy Sacraments, and it seemed to me that I was not profiting from them in any way. It was only out of obedience to my confessor that I frequented them, and this blind obedience was for me the only path I could follow and my very last hope of survival. The priest explained to me that these were trials sent by God and that, in the situation I was in, not only was I not offending God, but I was most pleasing to Him. "This is a sign" he told me, "that God loves you very much and that He has great confidence in you, since He is sending you such trials". But these words brought me no comfort; it seemed to me that they did not apply to me at all.

One thing did surprise me; it often happened that, at the time when I was suffering greatly, these terrible torments would disappear suddenly just as I was approaching the confessional; but as soon as I had left the confessional, all these torments would again seize me with even greater ferocity. I would then fall on my face before the Blessed Sacrament repeating these words: "Even if You kill me, still will I trust in You!" (if Job 13:15). It seemed to me that I would die in these agonies. But the most terrible thought for me was the conviction that I had been rejected by God. Then other thoughts came to me: why strive to acquire virtues and do good works? Why mortify and annihilate yourself? What good is it to take vows? To pray? To sacrifice and immolate yourself? Why sacrifice myself all the time? What good is it - if I am already rejected by God? Why all these efforts? And here, God alone knew what was going on in my heart.
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Old Nov 12, '10, 7:52 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

Once when I was being crushed by these dreadful sufferings, I went into the chapel and said from the bottom of my soul, "Do what You will with me, O Jesus; I will adore You in everything. May Your will be done in me, O my Lord and my God, and I will praise Your infinite mercy." Through this act of submission, these terrible torments left me. Suddenly I saw Jesus, who said to me, "I am always in your heart". An inconceivable joy entered my soul, and a great love of God set my heart aflame. I see that God never tries us beyond what we are able to suffer. Oh, I fear nothing; if God sends such great suffering to a soul, He upholds it with an even greater grace, although we are not aware of it. One act of trust at such moments gives greater glory to God than whole hours passed in prayer filled with consolations. Now I see that if God wants to keep a soul in darkness, no book, no confessor can bring it to light.

O Mary, my Mother and my Lady, I offer You my soul, my body, my life and my death, and all that will follow it. I place everything in your hands. O my Mother, cover me with Your virginal mantle and grant me the grace of purity of heart, soul and body. Defend me with Your power against all enemies, and especially against those who hide their malice behind the mask of virtue. O lovely lily! You are for me a mirror, O my Mother!

O Jesus, Divine Prisoner of Love, when I consider Your love and how You emptied Yourself for me, my senses fail me. You hide Your inconceivable majesty and lower Yourself to miserable me. O King of Glory, though You hide Your beauty, yet the eye of my soul rends the veil. I see the angelic choirs giving You honor without cease, and all the heavenly Powers praising You without cease, and without cease they are saying: "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Oh who will comprehend Your love and Your unfathomable mercy towards us! O Prisoner of Love, I lock up my poor heart in this tabernacle, that it may adore You without cease night and day. I know of no obstacle in this adoration, and even though I be physically distant, my heart is always with You. Nothing can put a stop to my love for You. No obstacles exist for me. O my Jesus, I will console You for all the ingratitude, the blasphemies, the coldness, the hatred of the wicked, the sacrileges. O Jesus, I want to burn as a pure offering and to be consumed before the throne of Your headiness. I plead with You unceasingly for poor dying sinners.

O Holy Trinity, One and Indivisible God, may You be blessed for this great gift and testament of mercy. My Jesus, to atone for blasphemers I will keep silent when unjustly reprimanded and in this way make partial amends to You. I am singing within my soul an unending hymn to You, and no one will suspect or understand this. The song of my soul is known to You alone, O my Creator and Lord!

I will not allow myself to be so absorbed in the whirlwind of work as to forget about God. I will spend all my free moments at the feet of the Master hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. He has been tutoring me from my most tender years.

"Write this: before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy. Before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort.

"All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. Then the sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light up the earth for a period of time. This will take place shortly before the last day."

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy, for us, I trust in You!
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  #7  
Old Nov 12, '10, 7:54 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

We can see several things from this..

- she greatly loved God
- He supported her, though she didn't feel it at the time
- her confessor saw her spiritual progress, but she did not
- she felt rejected by God
- God Himself ended her trial, when the time was right

quite an experience to go through I am sure
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"I know but one thing now - to love Thee, O Jesus!" St Therese
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Old Nov 12, '10, 8:40 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

Thank you so much for your time, thoughts and research.
This has helped me greatly.
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Old Nov 12, '10, 8:45 pm
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

You're welcome God bless.
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Old Nov 13, '10, 5:26 am
nordskoven nordskoven is offline
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Default Physical and spiritual aspects to "dark night of the soul."

Questioning is grand but it shouldn't become a lifestyle or thought habit. Doubt is a black hole that should be given a wide berth. Faith, hope and charity are the givens of proper relations with God. Doubt, fear and anger are the antithesis of faith, hope and charity. Doubt, fear and anger constitute diabolical misdirection. There's a fine line between questioning and doubt. St. Augustine was a fine and discerning scholar, and had some questions about a perceived irregularity with Daniel's time line foretelling the coming of the Messiah. The years given didn't add up to Christ's coming. But St. Augustine didn't indulge in doubt! That's the difference. Having known the counterfeit as part of a gnostic cult, St. Augustine was enough of a scholar to know the Bible was otherwise rock-solid; and knowing the Lord in both a mystical and rational way, knew he could trust in God.

Delightfully, the time line was rectified in our era when a retired Scotland Yard detective had the Greenwich Observatory crunch the calendrical numbers using the canonical Jewish year of 360 days, not the 365 day year. Voila! St. Augustine's question answered. Satan's first act in approaching the Woman was to instill doubt. "Why did the Creator say you couldn't eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..." Doubt is satanic.

I believe that observation in as objective a manner as possible can unlock many "hiding in plain sight" phenomena. There are, we now know, physical reasons for the "dark night of the soul." St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Mother Teresa, all were under tremendous stress with St. John of the Cross even suffering imprisonment by members of his embattled Carmelite order. There is a "God" zone in the brain that makes one feel a spiritual dimension. This feeling is absent in those with damage to that area of the brain. Cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone, can induce a kind of auto-toxicity that could impair the "God" zone of the brain.

Satan oppresses all in some fashion though temptation is from the world and the flesh as well. I note from my observations that it is darkest before the dawn. Demonic pressure is greatest before some kind of breakthrough in uniting with or serving God. That seems like an obvious tactic, to try to derail unity with God and sabotage holiness in relations among people. How much more so for those who are on the path of creating great and systemic advances in loving God and loving mankind for the love of God. St. Therese's writings; St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross' reforms of the Carmelites; Mother Teresa's harvesting souls with heroic love of the wretched and dying.

There is this element that I have observed and it is this: when the potential for demonic pestering is so grave, God draws into that person in a kind of transparency with the elect soul that is not easily observed by the person themselves. I believe it is to tone down the demonic rage as God's indwelling presence seems to be less able to be discerned by Satan. Many saints and those in their milieu report oppression by demons that has included pummeling and getting flung around bodily. That's a dreadful luxury, it might be said, that God affords those Job-like people who have the time and temperament to stay spiritually collected and united with Him. It might not be practical to send such trials on those who are forming whole orders of priests and nuns that will influence spiritual formation for centuries. So the Cure of Ars, isolated in his tiny parish, was pummeled; while Mother Therese, in the midst of a throng and moving untold souls to sanctity, was left feeling abandoned.

I most humbly pray that the Lord does not lead us into temptation but delivers us from the evil one. And I pray that we can discern and be comforted by our Creator's often subtle presence. "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age."
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Old Nov 13, '10, 9:15 am
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Default Re: Physical and spiritual aspects to "dark night of the soul."

Quote:
Originally Posted by nordskoven View Post
Questioning is grand but it shouldn't become a lifestyle or thought habit. Doubt is a black hole that should be given a wide berth. Faith, hope and charity are the givens of proper relations with God. Doubt, fear and anger are the antithesis of faith, hope and charity. Doubt, fear and anger constitute diabolical misdirection. There's a fine line between questioning and doubt. St. Augustine was a fine and discerning scholar, and had some questions about a perceived irregularity with Daniel's time line foretelling the coming of the Messiah. The years given didn't add up to Christ's coming. But St. Augustine didn't indulge in doubt! That's the difference. Having known the counterfeit as part of a gnostic cult, St. Augustine was enough of a scholar to know the Bible was otherwise rock-solid; and knowing the Lord in both a mystical and rational way, knew he could trust in God.

Delightfully, the time line was rectified in our era when a retired Scotland Yard detective had the Greenwich Observatory crunch the calendrical numbers using the canonical Jewish year of 360 days, not the 365 day year. Voila! St. Augustine's question answered. Satan's first act in approaching the Woman was to instill doubt. "Why did the Creator say you couldn't eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..." Doubt is satanic. . . .
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Old Nov 13, '10, 9:49 am
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

Can anyone recommend a version of Dark night? Either online or hard copy...
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Old Nov 13, '10, 11:16 am
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

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Can anyone recommend a version of Dark night? Either online or hard copy...
I recommend contained within The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, published by The Institute of Carmelite Studies (ICS Publications).

http://www.icspublications.org/
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Old Nov 13, '10, 11:51 am
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

You know what you might want to read. "Divine Mercy of my Soul, Diary of Saint Faustina"

Though she didn't struggle decade after decade like many did. And she received much Blessing as we can't know how or when others do. She gives all a window into this struggle and spiritual battle which is unique.

Its on-line and not a difficult read.

God Bless, GT
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Old Nov 13, '10, 11:51 am
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Default Re: Questioning, doubt and the Dark Night of the Soul

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Can anyone recommend a version of Dark night? Either online or hard copy...
Just be aware it is not an easy read. And since it is the second volume to The Ascent of Mount Carmel, I would read that first.
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