When the heart is in the dark let’s look for Jesus

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In his catechesis for the general audience, the eighth in the cycle on spiritual discernment, Pope Francis referred to the state of spiritual desolation that leads to a “shaking of the soul.” And he said that it should not be avoided because without feelings we are inhuman. It is an opportunity to grow in life


Desolation was the theme of the eighth catechesis of the Holy Father Francis on discernment. The Pontiff developed it after the usual ride, in a popemobile, among the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square who were waiting for him to attend the general audience, during which, once again, he took five children on board.

The Bishop of Rome pointed out, first of all, that desolation – “when everything in the heart is dark, sad – can be an opportunity for growth, because if there is not a bit of dissatisfaction, a bit of healthy sadness”, if not one has the “healthy capacity to live in solitude”, to be oneself without running away, one runs the risk of “always staying on the surface of things” and not reaching the center of one’s own existence.

A perfect but “aseptic” serenity, without feelings, when it becomes the criteria for choices and behaviors, makes us inhuman: we cannot ignore feelings, we are human and feeling is part of our humanity, Francis also said.

Not living feelings makes one indifferent to the suffering of others and unable to accept ours – added the Pontiff – an “aseptic distance” is created. And he continued:

“This is not life, it is as if we lived in a laboratory, locked up to avoid microbes, diseases”

An invitation to free

On the other hand, restlessness – a healthy restlessness, a restless and searching heart – can be a decisive push to turn life around. This was the case of Agustín de Hipona, of Edith Stein, of José Benito Cottolengo, of Carlos de Foucauld, Francis recalled, noting that important choices have a price to pay, with the heart “a price of decision, the price of carry out a small effort”, but within everyone’s reach.

“It is the price that we all pay to get out of the state of indifference, which always brings us down”

In addition, desolation “is also an invitation to be gratuitous,” the Pope continued, “not to act always and only with a view to emotional gratification.”

“Being desolate offers us the opportunity to grow, to begin a more mature and beautiful relationship with the Lord and with loved ones, a relationship that is not reduced to a mere exchange of giving and receiving”

We experience this type of relationship as children when we look to our parents “to obtain something from them”, therefore “for an interest” – as are many of our prayers, the Pope clarified – “requests for favors addressed to the Lord, without a real interest in him. The same thing happened to Jesus, “often surrounded by many people who were looking for him to obtain something, cures, material help, and not simply to be with him.”

be with jesus

Francis then stressed that being with Christ “is a very beautiful way to enter into a true and sincere relationship with his humanity, with his suffering, even with his unique loneliness.” With Him, who wanted to share his life with us until the end”. It is good to learn to be with the Lord “without any other purpose” – added the Pontiff – it is like “with the people we love: we want to know them more and more, because It’s good to be with them.”

“Spiritual life is not a technique at our disposal”

The spiritual life is not a technique at our disposal, it is not a program of inner “well-being” that it is up to us to program. No. It is a relationship with the Living, irreducible to our categories. Desolation is then the clearest response to the objection that the experience of God is a form of suggestion, a mere projection of our desires.

Unpredictable results of prayer

This is also demonstrated by the unforeseeable results of prayer: it happens that “experiences and passages from the Bible that have often moved us” may not arouse any enthusiasm and that, “unexpectedly, experiences, encounters and readings to which we have never lent ourselves attention or preferred to avoid – such as the experience of the cross – bring an unexpected peace”.

Facing trials with the help of God’s grace

The lesson that desolation offers for Pope Francis is that “in the face of difficulties” one must never be discouraged, and that one must face the test “with determination, with the help of God’s grace that never fails us.” As for that insistent voice within us “that wants to keep us from praying, let us learn to unmask it as the voice of the tempter” – urged the Pontiff – and invited not to be impressed, and simply to do “the opposite of what it tells us”. .

From the abstract in Spanish

speaking in our language The Pope also said:

“Desolation is also a call to be free, to never seek emotional gratification. This is the basis of an authentic and mature relationship with God and with others; It leads us to accept the other for himself and not for what he brings me.

And “if we deeply grasp the humanity of Christ as the door to heaven – he continued – we will be able to ask him: ‘How are you?’, learning to love him precisely in his suffering and loneliness, and to make them ours”.

While greeting the groups coming from Latin America and Spain, the Holy Father offered them a suggestion:

“I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims. let us ask Jesus crucified, stripped of everything, who cries out to his Father: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”, to help us to follow him even in desolation, giving us a solid faith, an unshakable hope and a charity capable of unconditional abandonment at your will. Thank you very much”


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