|STRUGGLE OF A SOUL
Lord Father, do not put my soul to the
test. I am beset with temptations of every kind. Invisible forces crowd in
upon me and I cannot see Your Face. The Presence that gave me courage in
trials, peace in turmoil and strength in difficulties has all but
disappeared from view. I call and You do not answer, I seek and do not
find, I search but to no avail. I seem to catch a glimpse of You at times
but it is only a memory of the past. I see nothing but myself in the
depths of my being. I see only the evil person that I am capable of being.
I see my soul as three rooms. One room is called Memory, one Intellect and
one Will. There are times, my Father, I am locked in the room
Memory. All is dark and filled with the ugly presence of the real me. At
times it is like a room without an exit and then the least sign of love
from my neighbor
smile, a touch, a prayer, suddenly opens a door ever so slightly and I
breathe a sigh of relief. And then the door is closed again and the
struggle goes on. There are times of hope as I somehow escape to the room
called Intellect, whose door is never closed. I go in and reason my
plight, but I do not seem to be able to stay long. All the methods and
arguments I find there to keep that invisible force from destroying me,
merely confirm what I already know in the depths of my being. I go into
that room to find new weapons, but only find the old ones I have been
using. My soul is frightened at the prospect of no relief, but then a
friend passes by and again a glance of love and concern calms my soul.
As I walked away from the room called Intellect, I heard a voice say,
"Look into the room called Will. I walked inside and the gentle voice of
Faith said, "Take me with you
not fear." I found in that place pure love
determined love. I found new weapons
Will and Love
kind of love that is not dependent on feelings
kind that is consistent, like God's love. Yes, Lord Father, I would like
to live in this room
room of Will and Love.
I stumble into the room almost feebly, and look at the power and
Presence within it. It is a paradox
seems that suddenly the darkness in my memory and the Faith in my
intellect join forces and let me stand in the door way of Will. Faith
beckons me to do rather than rest in darkness
accomplish rather than question why
admit what I am before You, Lord Father, and do Your will with love
to be willing to suffer the vacuum in my soul, the darkness of my
mind, the uncertainty of my way and still accomplish Your Will
to say "I love You" when only the deafening sound of silence
rings in my ears
say "I believe" when the void before creation calls out to me
understand that this is for my good when futility surrounds me like a
Do you hear my sighs of pain as I struggle to rise above the darkness?
Yes, I know You do. Does it hurt You to see me struggle and search to be
what You want me to be? Will I ever cross that bridge called Humility so I
can accept myself and keep my eyes on You? Can I stand before You willing
to feel my sinner condition and keep my eyes on Your beauty?
Give me a pure heart and a strong will so my seeking will ever reach
out to You as I feel my weaknesses. Strengthen my faith so I will never
look for reasons or excuses. Let my hope grow deeper as I realize Your
power is working in the darkness of my soul.
There is something deep within me that makes me somehow feel a Presence
in the midst of an absence, Your compassionate Heart in the midst of one
so empty, Your merciful glance that somehow wishes things were not so, but
knows there is no other way but the cross.
Why do I feel like I'm alone on a desert waste? How is it I know I am
so loved by God and yet feel so lonely? What a wretched state to think
even for a moment that the knowledge of God's love is not enough. Are you
saying, my Father, that my heart is not all empty so You can fill it? Must
my walk be in pure faith, my only assurance Your providence and my
strength Your Will? Must my soul cry out in anguish and then hear only the
sounds of its own echo?
I have come to realize, O God, that You are not my All. I thought my
heart was detached from everyone and everything, but the purifying fire of
Your Spirit touches my soul and suddenly I see myself on the bottom rung
of the ladder, barely able to climb. I stand before You, Infinite Holiness
, wanting to shield my eyes, but not daring, even for a moment, to take
them from You. I look at Jesus, who took on my humanity and struggled as I
struggle. I know He understands and yet I feel I have disappointed Him. I
want to run, but there is no place to go. I want to be transformed, but my
lack of courage keeps me from making that giant step. I say "Yes, Lord,
take all" and fear grips my heart. I say "No, Lord, I cannot" and
disappointment envelops me. Tears flood my eyes and I am ashamed of my
lack of courage. Do You cry in me, with me? I do not want to cry alone.
Why do I feel trapped
know this will pass. I know Your love never leaves me. I know You see my
every action, my thoughts are open to you
yet I feel as if I were in a battle
battle of wills. I feel my very weaknesses are somehow tools in my hands
to fight the enemy. Where is my weakest point? Is the knowledge of my
weaknesses my stumbling block or am I fighting that knowledge? Perhaps I
seek perfection thinking Your love would be a reward. Do I find it
difficult to accept the reality that Your love is a gift to me a sinner?
You love because you are so good and I am a bungling child, stumbling
along each day. Why do I find it so hard to face myself and plunge myself
into Your mercy and love? Why can't I honestly present myself before You
and drink in Your love? Would this be humility? Am I running from a secret
weapon to fight the enemy?
I used to think humility was a matter of humiliations, but, Lord
Father, is there any humiliation comparable to the reality of seeing my
true self and how I stand before you? Will I ever accept myself and then
be free to try and be like You? Will I ever be able to feel my sinner
condition, expect Your power and then plunge into the ocean of Your mercy?
My self-knowledge is no surprise to You, Lord Father. My soul is
distressed because my new realization as to the depth of my degradation
has made me aware of my need of Your love and Presence while I feel almost
pushed away from Your sight. It is as if Your Eyes were cast down at the
sight of me. As each new day begins, it seems the distance is further away
and as my soul cries out "I love You," the echo of my own voice returns
and my heart sinks once more into another depth of anguish. I shall wait
in hope for Your Eyes to turn toward me. Does it hurt You to wait for the
fire to accomplish its work in me? Does Your Heart throb as You hear my
voice cry out, "Oh God, lift Your Eyes and look at me
look upon this empty vessel
fill me with Your love
chastise me, but never leave me"?
I see Your image reflected in my neighbor, in nature, in events and my
soul is thrilled at the sight, but when I look for more traces of Your
Presence, You are gone. My soul becomes restless and tosses to and fro as
a child with a high fever. I thirst and a little Living Water only
increases my thirst. It brings back the memory of those times we were at
home together, content in each other's Presence. Those days seem so long
ago. My heart is consoled at the realization that You knew me then as I
know myself now and still You love me. I must wait with patience for Your
Thank you, Father, my soul somehow feels as if a door is opening. It is
like hearing a familiar foot step and waiting for the key in the lock that
will open the door to a loved one. The room of Memory is still dark and
troublesome and little things seem to stir it up easily. As I seek You,
even though my soul is in darkness, I feel Your Eyes are no longer cast
down. Are You glancing at me? How powerful You are, Lord God, for Your
slightest glance brings peace in the midst of turmoil. I seem not to fear
the darkness. Have I begun to look at myself without surprise and perhaps
accepted my weaknesses? Will I be able to keep my glance ever on You?
If I keep looking at myself I will be facing raw truth and that sight
keeps me in a state of unmitigated turmoil. Help me to be able to feel my
weaknesses but keep my eyes on Your beauty and power. This would be
the ability to accept human truth and keep my eyes on Divine Truth
possess knowledge of my natural worth without losing sight of my
understand I am capable of any evil, but fully aware that Your grace is at
its best in my weakness
have a consciousness of the possibility of falling, while resting secure
in Your mercy
feel the icy chill of separation while ever resting in Your Love
see as I am seen and not flinch at the sight, but see the glorious
goodness of God as You accomplish a holy work in an imperfect being.
Can I be like Jesus when I find it so difficult to be kind, patient and
understanding? My soul is constantly plunged into darkness and the tiny
glimpse I may have had of You only makes the darkness more black when You
are gone. My soul is like a rudderless boat bounced back and forth by the
flesh, the world and the Enemy. Just when I think I have conquered all
three, I suddenly find myself bound up in one of them.
Why are there three sources of temptation? Are the temptations of the
flesh in the faculty made to Your Image, Father
the Memory? Are the temptations of the world in the faculty made
to the Image of the Eternal Word
Intellect? Are the temptations of the Enemy geared toward the faculty made
to the Image of the Spirit
Will? There is within my soul a battle on three sides. I cry out to You
for help, my Jesus, and I do not hear Your voice. There are times the
battle is so fierce I question Your power and my endurance. Forgive me
seek only Your Will and the glory of Your name.
It seems that the Seven Capital sins often take up residence in a
particular faculty. Does God permit this to enable me to make right
to confound the Tempter
utilize grace, to witness to His Power?
It seems as if Lust, Gluttony and Sloth, the tempters of the Flesh, try
to influence the Memory and Imagination. Covetousness and Envy are used by
the World to influence the Intellect
while the Enemy desperately tries to acquire the Will by Pride and Anger.
What do I possess, Lord Jesus, to fight such foes? Yes, I possess Your
Spirit, Your grace, Your cross, Your presence, Your love. You have asked
me to be merciful and compassionate and to recall the words of Scripture
and to pray so that I am not put to the test. And yet, with all these, my
Lord, I seem hopelessly entangled in a maze of darkness. What is the
shield to fight such powerful foes? Am I to be passive and let the storm
rage as I live in Your Presence? Am I to fight the battle of Wills as St.
Michael did long ago? Am I to love more when I feel hatred
be more gentle when anger takes hold of me?
My Lord and Father, I have tried them all and each in turn gave me an
oasis on which to live for a while
breath of fresh air to revive my drooping spirit
new direction to take
a new plan of attack. Yes, all these ways of fighting the foe
have served me long and well.
Is there a new way
new path for me to trod? Have I perhaps begun and do not see it? Is this a
vacuum that comes from an absence or an emptiness that comes from Light
the Light in the darkness
Light that penetrates my being and makes me see myself as I stand before
my Creator? What do I do at such a sight? What does He want me to do?
The love that took upon Itself my sins "prayed the longer in distress,
fear and anguish of heart." (Mk. 14; Luke 22) In the Garden of Gethsemane
He prayed for three hours and asked His Apostles to pray with Him. The
Apostles' prayer was to enable them to keep from falling. Like Jesus they
were to pray for God's Will and the courage to endure the suffering that
would soon befall them.
Jesus was afraid, but He took His distress to His Father, He asked for
some other way, but there was none. Suffering was necessary to manifest
His love for me. Communion with the Father in prayer kept Jesus in union
with the Father's Will. No matter what the difficulty, Jesus saw the
Father's Will and accepted whatever that Will permitted in His life. I am
more like the Apostles, who slept, as St. Luke tells us, from "sheer
grief" as Jesus agonized in the Garden.
Obviously, prayer did not take away the terrible suffering that was in
store for Jesus and His Apostles. What then was the "test" they were asked
not to be put through? The test certainly was the way they endured that
suffering. I see in the Gospel that Jesus prayed and received strength to
face the trials ahead with courage. Humility enabled Jesus to submit to
the Father's Will in everything.
The Apostles' pride did not permit them to face reality, so grief took
possession of them instead of holy fear and prayer. As a result, the
situation forced them to act on an emotional, selfish level and they could
not see the Father's Will. They ran away from the situation first by
sleep, then by abandoning Jesus. They did not realize that in proportion
as they ran and hid, in that proportion they were miserable. Had they
prayed, they would have had the courage to stand by Jesus as His Mother
Mary did. I can be reasonably sure that she prayed constantly to the
Father for strength to endure the sufferings of Jesus.
Yes, my Father, I pray for the cross to be taken away for I do not
possess the humility necessary to say "Thy Will be done
not mine." I do not pray "earnestly and longer"
do not place my soul in darkness and temptation before You and depend upon
Lord Father, take my feelings, my anxieties, my fears and weaknesses
they are the only things that are mine to give
take my will and unite it to Yours. Let my strength be in a humble
acceptance of myself and my hope be steadfast in Your Will. Let our hearts
Yours and mine
united in pain, that I may comfort my neighbor in his sorrow. Let our love
be one love, that my love for my neighbor may be unselfish.
Oh, God, let the dark night within me unite itself to the Agony of
Jesus in the Garden that those who walk in darkness may one day see the
Light of the world, for with the dawn comes rejoicing. Truly, there is a
quiet awareness of Your Presence in this darkness and anguish. Though I
look and do not find, there is a nearness of Love Itself that brings upon
me a quiet calm. I push forward to live on a Will level and find myself
more patient with my neighbor because I am more aware of my own struggles.
I find myself more capable of loving my neighbor. It is as if the
faults that made him difficult to love at times are nothing any more. The
reality of my own weaknesses
weaknesses that are so present and so clear to me
makes me look upon everyone else with greater love. They suddenly seem so
much better than I
much more deserving of love than I. This darkness in my soul makes me love
all mankind with a compassionate and unselfish love. Through the maze of
their sins and faults I am able to see Jesus. Since I am so full of
weaknesses, their weaknesses are no longer an obstacle to my love.
I am free to love and to understand. The spiritual numbness that
sometimes accompanies the darkness makes me listen to others. The false
concepts of my own strength that made me unable to stop and listen to my
neighbor, has been lessened. I am happy with their questions and the
opportunity to be of service. The darkness in my soul sees only other
souls also struggling, also in anxiety of heart.
The purifying flame of Your Spirit that touched my soul and plunged it
into agony, forced it to rise above itself. Prayer is no longer a time of
conversation with God but a deep awareness of Holiness Itself
ever awesome. The weaknesses in me see the agonies of Jesus as He
lived on earth and the tender justice of the Father. It is as if I am all
sin, gazing at infinite holiness. It is frightening and yet without fear.
His love for me seems so much more important than my love for Him. He is
all and I am nothing.
The struggles and darkness that force me to live on a Will level make
me seek God's Will as a welcome haven of rest. My sinner condition makes
me want to do His Will over my own. I am no longer sure of my will since
the real me is ever present before me. Now I see the wisdom in His Will,
His timing, His designs. I watch Him evolve events and then I step into
them with confidence, for He alone is my security. Whatever happens in my
moment to moment living, I am only to make myself available to its demands
without worry, for He alone bears fruit.
What a paradox! "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies
it remains alone." My refusal to face myself keeps me from "falling into
the ground" and prevents me from dying to myself, but His Love plunges me
headlong into the ground of self-knowledge and in the darkness of humility
the seed of my soul grows into a tree
tree that is beginning to bear the sweet blossoms of His fruit.
How great You are, Oh God, for You still call out to the void
to nothingness and say "Let there be light."
The author prays that all those who read this booklet will have a
deeper awareness of the Father's Mercy, the Son's Love and the Spirit's
Printed with the ecclesiastical approval of:
JOSEPH G. VATH, D.D.
Bishop of Birmingham
©1976 Eternal Word Television Network, Inc.
Scripture Quotations taken from Jerusalem Bible unless otherwise