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Saints who endured desolation in prayer

It’s easy to read the most quotable lines from the saints and assume they were all one Hail Mary away from ecstatic prayer. But for many of the saints, prayer was often dry. Worse, it was often haunted by doubts and utter emptiness. We, too, can experience this desolation, these months or years when prayer is only ever a chore, when lifting our hearts to heaven immediately fills us with doubt and loneliness. On Holy Saturday, as we sit beside the tomb of Jesus and think of the moments in our lives where all hope seems lost, let’s take comfort in the faith of the saints who persevered in prayer even when it was empty and dry.

St. Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) famously found no consolation in prayer for 50 years. Though in her youth she had known the sensation of joy in the Lord, for decades her joy was not a feeling but a decision, the choice to believe in the power of the resurrection when all within her felt dead. “There is such a deep loneliness in my heart that I cannot express it,” she wrote. “How long will our Lord stay away?” And again, “Sometimes the pain is so great that I feel as if everything will break. The smile is a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains.” We have hundreds of saints who served the poor as devotedly as Mother Teresa; were that her only attribute, devotion to her would likely wane over the next few decades. But a saint who served with such palpable joy while enduring decades of desolation will console and strengthen the faithful for centuries to come.

Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez (1918-1963) was a chronically ill Puerto Rican man who shared his deep love of the liturgy through the newsletters he produced, the talks he gave, the study groups he organized, and the retreats he ran. During his last months, Carlos felt abandoned by God, living the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, but before he died the light of Easter came back into his life and with it the joy of being loved by God. But even in his darkness, he had loved so beautifully that after his death, the staff at the hospital refused payment from his family, insisting that in his many months of agony he had given them far more than they had given him.

Read more at Aleteia

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