Pope Teaches Spiritual Life Is Not An Interior Well-being Program

Pope Teaches Spiritual Life Is Not An Interior Well-being Program

In his Catechesis this week, the Pontiff continued to reflect on discernment and in particular addressed “desolation” as an “occasion for growth.”

“Being desolate offers us the possibility of growing, of beginning a more mature, more beautiful relationship with the Lord and with loved ones, a relationship that is not reduced to a mere exchange of give and take,” Pope Francis stressed during your Catechesis this week.

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At the end, the Vicar of Christ painfully recalled the recent “massive missile attack against Ukraine” and reiterated his call to pray asking the Lord “to convert the hearts of those who still bet on war and make the desire for peace prevail for the martyred Ukraine, in order to avoid any escalation and pave the way for ceasefire and dialogue”.

POPE FRANCISCO

GENERAL AUDIENCE

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Catechesis on discernment 8. Why are we devastated?

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning, welcome!

Today we resume the catecheses on the subject of discernment. We have seen how important it is to read what moves inside of us, so as not to make hasty decisions, in the emotional wave of the moment, only to regret it when it is too late. That is, read what happens and then make decisions.

In this sense, also the spiritual state that we call desolation, when in the heart everything is dark, it is sad, this state of desolation can be an occasion for growth. In fact, if there is not a bit of dissatisfaction, a bit of healthy sadness, a healthy ability to dwell in solitude and to be with ourselves without running away, we run the risk of always remaining on the surface of things and never taking contact with the center of our existence. Desolation causes a “shaking of the soul”: when one is sad it is as if the soul were shaken; keeps awake, promotes vigilance and humility and protects us from the wind of whim. They are indispensable conditions for progress in life, and therefore also in the spiritual life. A perfect serenity, but “aseptic”, without feelings, makes us inhuman when it becomes the criteria for decisions and behaviors. We cannot ignore feelings: we are human and feeling is a part of our humanity; without understanding feelings we will be inhuman, without living feelings we will also be indifferent to the suffering of others and incapable of accepting our own. Without considering that such “perfect serenity” is not reached by this path of indifference. This aseptic distance: “I don’t get involved with things, I distance myself”: this is not life, this is as if we lived in a closed laboratory, so as not to have microbes, diseases. For many saints and saints, restlessness has been a decisive impulse to turn their lives around. This artificial serenity does not work, while healthy restlessness is good, a restless heart, a heart that tries to find a way. This is the case, for example, of Agustín de Hipona or Edith Stein or José Benito Cottolengo or Carlos de Foucauld. Important decisions have a price that life presents, a price that is within everyone’s reach: that is, important decisions do not come from the lottery, no; they have a price and you must pay that price. It is a price that you must pay with your heart, it is a price of decision, a price that must be carried forward, a little effort. It is not free, but it is a price within everyone’s reach. All of us must pay for this decision to get out of the state of indifference, which always depresses us.

Desolation is also an invitation to be free, not to act always and only in view of emotional gratification. Being desolate offers us the possibility of growing, of beginning a more mature, more beautiful relationship with the Lord and with loved ones, a relationship that is not reduced to a mere exchange of give and take. Let’s think about our childhood, for example, when we are children, it often happens that we look for our parents to get something from them, a toy, money to buy an ice cream, a permit… And so we look for them not for themselves, but for an interest. However, they are the greatest gift, the parents, and we understand this as we grow up.

Many of our prayers are also a bit of this type, they are requests for favors addressed to the Lord, without a real interest in Him. We are going to ask, ask, ask the Lord. The Gospel points out that Jesus was often surrounded by many people who sought him out to obtain something, healings, material aid, but not simply to be with him. He was surrounded by crowds, and yet he was alone. Some saints, and also some artists, have meditated on this condition of Jesus. It might seem strange, unreal, to ask the Lord: “How are you?” And yet it is a very beautiful way to enter into a true, sincere relationship with his humanity, with his suffering, also with his singular loneliness. With him, with the Lord, who wanted to share his life with us to the fullest.

It does us a lot of good to learn to be with Him, to be with the Lord for no other purpose, exactly as it happens to us with the people we love: we want to get to know them more and more, because it is beautiful to be with them.

Dear brothers and sisters, the spiritual life is not a technique at our disposal, it is not an interior “well-being” program that we must program. No. Spiritual life is the relationship with the Living, with God, the Living, irreducible to our categories. And desolation then is the clearest response to the objection that the experience of God is a form of suggestion, a simple projection of our desires. Desolation is not feeling anything, all dark: but you seek God in desolation. In this case, if we think that it is a projection of our desires, we would always be the ones to program it, we would always be happy and content, like a record that repeats the same music. On the other hand, those who pray realize that the results are unpredictable: experiences and passages from the Bible that have often excited us, today, strangely, do not arouse any enthusiasm. And, equally unexpectedly, experiences, encounters and readings that had never been paid attention to or that one preferred to avoid -such as the experience of the cross- give immense peace. Do not be afraid of desolation, carry it forward with perseverance, do not run away. And in desolation try to find the heart of Christ, find the Lord. And the answer comes, always.

Faced with difficulties, therefore, never be discouraged, please, but face the test decisively, with the help of God’s grace that never fails us. And if we hear within us an insistent voice that wants to distract us from prayer, let us learn to unmask it as the voice of the tempter; and let’s not be impressed: just do the exact opposite of what it tells us! Thanks.

Cheers:

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 unwavering hope and a charity capable of unconditional abandonment. at your will. Thank you very much.

CALL

It is with deep sorrow and concern that I have received the news of a new massive missile attack against Ukraine that has caused deaths and damage to many civilian infrastructure. Let us pray that the Lord converts the hearts of those who still bet on war and make the desire for peace prevail for the tormented Ukraine, in order to avoid any escalation and open the path to ceasefire and dialogue.

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