Rely On Faith, Not On Feelings
It is not my intention at this time to speak of the importance that the spirit of faith has in the spiritual life, or of the necessity of judging everything with a supernatural rule, or of performing all our works with aims and intentions of the same order. This is what I wish to insist upon and to call attention to in an empathic manner; the chief reason we disregard faith is our preconceived idea that we must feel God and divine things. Although we know speculatively that God is not felt, practically we hold the contrary.
Do we feel a sacrament producing its proper effect? Do we feel the increase of grace in our soul? Do we feel the death of the soul by sin and its resurrection by sacramental absolution? Do we feel the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist in such a way that if we did not perceive Him sensibly, we would not believe in it?
Without doubt there are times when our Lord allows Himself to be sensibly felt, yet it is not precisely grace that is felt, but often something else that accompanies it. We go to Confession to a priest who simply listens to our sins, gives penance, and absolves; and we feel nothing. We go to another who understands us, who helps us in our disclosures to him, who gives us helpful advice; and we feel such a peace and refreshment that upon arising, we seem to be other beings. Was it the grace of the sacrament that we felt? No. It was the profitable experience that we had with the second priest.
To be conscious of a thing and to feel it sensibly are not the same thing; neither is one’s whole spiritual life a thing of continual conscious awareness. If we read the life of St. Therese of the Child Jesus with attention, we shall be convinced that she experienced delight only a very few times in her spiritual life, and that she rarely enjoyed sensible consolation [with God]. She lived by faith, by the obscurity of faith, and she is one of the most marvelous examples of that life of faith.
How many of us, on the other hand, when we go to prayer and experience consolation, come forth content with the assurance that God loves us a great deal? But if we do not feel Him, we come forth brokenhearted, sadly thinking that He has no regard for us, or that we have none of Him. And simply because we do not feel Him!
The first secret in finding our Loud is faith. He does not hide Himself from the gaze of faith, nor can He elude it. Faith never has obstacles; it pierces all veils. If only we would understand the secret of living by faith, of going to God by the way of obscure faith!
We approach the tabernacle, and we feel nothing, just as though we were drawing near an empty tabernacle. We say, “Jesus is here,” but it is as though we were pronouncing words in an unknown language, for they move not a single fiber of our heart. But faith assures us that God is there, and if we would comport ourselves in harmony with what faith tells us, how different our prayer would be! We speak to Jesus, but we do not feel that He is listening to us, or that He is answering us. But faith tells us that Jesus listens to us and that He speaks to us, and that He needs neither external sounds nor extraordinary means in order to speak with us. He is the divine Master, who speaks and instructs without the noise of words. And if faith assures me that Jesus hears me, speaks to me, and loves me, then delights and consolations are not necessary – no, not anything at all.
The obscurity of faith, to be sure, does not accommodate itself to our sensible tastes. We would desire, above all else, to feel; and faith is not for feeling and savoring, but for knowing.
“I do not find God,” you may say. You do not find Him according to your way – that is, in a sensible manner. But do you believe? If you have faith, you already know that God does not stand far from you, because in Him we live and move and are; because He surrounds us on the right hand and on the left, above and below; because He penetrates us and lives by grace in the most intimate part of our soul; because He is present in that flower, in that fragrance, in that ray of light in that glorious sky, everywhere. Consequently, if we know how to profit from faith and to live by faith, we would always find God, and thus we would have solved our problem; we would have discovered the great secret of the interior life. end quote