Monday, June 4, 2012

Desert Dwellers Unite!

                                                            I have dibs on the last tree!

Feeling a bit "dry" lately? Spitting out Hail Mary's through gritted teeth? Are your parched throats choking on Our Fathers? Wondering if your bones have turned to dust yet? Or even worst, has the dust blown away and left bits of you scattered all over the desert's wide expanse? (You know...for the birds to pick at.)

Oh, you DO know?

But wait. Repulsed at even the thought of prayer? Is spiritual reading like reading the dictionary (only worse because at least you can understand one or two of the words in the dictionary). Reduced to tucking your Rosary under your pillow (just in case) or clinging to your favorite holy card (blessed of course...just in case)?

 Holy water in your nightstand?

 You know...just in case.

 In case of what? Who knows, but it's comforting simply knowing it's there.

Hey wait! Is that an Oasis over there?!

Cool! I knew this journey couldn't last forever! Relief at last!

You crawl in the dirt under the hot desert sun only to find...
it was just a mirage.

So you sit in the hot sand...

...and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Well, I just wanted to say:

Greetings from one desert dweller to another!


  1. Who are you and how did you get into my head?

  2. The second tree looks pretty good, Kathleen :) Oh wait, I forgot, I can read Theresa's mind too and she just claimed it. So sorry! You can share mine!

  3. I've been struggling so much with prayer and spiritual reading, Mary, that this hit me like an electric shock. Do you ever blame yourself for being lost in the desert or do you wait patiently, knowing that God is leading you through? I seem to seesaw between the two thoughts but, always there seems to be that glimpse of an oasis when the discouragement starts to set in.

    Thank you for this encouragement, Mary:-)

  4. Waiting with you. And greetings back!

  5. Mary,

    I wish I could feel as excited at the thought of prayer and spiritual reading as I do about writing and blogging. Something is definitely wrong here. Maybe I have to just force myself to choose the better over the exciting and hope God comes to rescue me. Know what I mean?

    God bless, with prayers!

  6. It's at these dry times that our Faith is tested.

    God bless.

  7. Awesome Mary! Your writings and leading of the Holy Spirit has taken a wonderful turn. Blessings.

  8. Oh, I claim the first one...the one with no leaves! LOL!

    Hence the reason I renamed my blog *my desert heart*.

    I am in excellent company it appears, thank the Lord...smiles in the desert.

  9. Mary...leave it to you to put a smile on my face after being up since 4:30 am and no coffee yet.

    God bless you!

  10. Hi Vicky,
    Of course I blame myself for being left to wallow in the! I'll have to right a post about some of the god-sized (god being myself and needing a good boot off the throne) tantrums I have thrown over the years over this "what seems to be abandonment". I've also tried to wait patiently too. Right now I'm waiting...and waiting...and...waiting...
    Patiently? Hmmm, that's questionable!

  11. Hi Nancy,
    Many thanks for the good company! We can all chow on a few tumbleweeds together while we eat our slices of humble pie :)

  12. Hi Sue,
    I can relate :) But it even continues during my blog breaks (which are months long sometimes) so I'm not sure it makes a difference in my case. Besides, the day yawns before me and I can only scrub my cactus counter and vacuum my "tree" for just so long ;) Oh, I get a "perk" now and then... but it comes from the coffee pot.

  13. Ros,
    Join the crowd! Misery loves company! (Well, "misery" might not be the exact word for what I feel..."nothing" might express it better.)

  14. @ long as you are still concerned with doing what is pleasing to God and still can say *I love you* without any feelings attached, and still pray, distracted and dry as it it, you do not need to blame yourself for being in the desert. God permits it many times to test our's in the desert He truly speaks to us.

    On the other hand, if you are cutting corners with prayer time, falling back into venial sin or habitual faults and really not making an effort in your relationship, then I would say, you have placed yourself in the desert.

    Hope that helped a bit.

  15. Victor,
    Yep! It sure is! It is tested over and over and nauseum (beg pardon, good Lord, please notice that I did not choose the term "ad infinitum"...didn't want you to take me up on it).

  16. Lol, Theresa! If you can claim THAT tree I think you're in pretty good shape! Count your blessings...that one looks to me as if it will catch on fire at any second now :) Once we catch on fire a good "dousing" will surely follow, right?



  17. Hi Grace,
    I have nothing left to write! I have to resort to potty talk and humor at this point ;) Thanks for the words of encouragement, my friend. Maybe you see something I can't see yet. That blind Bartimaeus comment you left the other day struck a chord in me.

    God bless!

  18. Uhm...Vicky? That would be "write" a post. Though, no doubt I could "right" a few posts too. Not gonna though. Still, I find it slightly humorous that my daughter is home from school with a stomach bug right after I write a potty talking post ;) The Lord thinks He's funny, me thinks. (Okay, okay, you ARE funny Lord...don't let that bolt of lightening go just yet.) Sheesh! You know things are getting really bad when You feel you have to fanny the Lord. (In a nutshell - the Lord gets a bit insulted when I try to "people" please Him and assures me He is above all that nonsense that we humans do so that others will like us.)

  19. Just dropping back in to say it looks like the desert dwellers HAVE united!! And are helping each other get through. As someone who has only been "on the Internet" for 9 months, I feel I'm seeing it at its best....

  20. I like this post, especially for the fellowship aspect! I am behind on my rosary intention, my spiritual reading intention, my adoration hours intention, etc. I don't think I am in a St. John of the Cross desert though. It just seems that it is my fault, so I don't think I can claim spiritual dryness... I think I am caving in too easily to the addiction to distraction, and thirst for escaping the pile-up of things to deal with and instead of any faithfulness on my part to at least show up regularly with an appointment in prayer, even if it isn't the rosary . . . maybe if I get a tatoo of the Holy Spirit dove on the entire back of my right hand that I use to type comments to blogs etc. I might remember to pray Come Holy Spirit and try to be quiet? I don't know. I am losing the battle, but i don't know that I am waging it in the right way, acknowledging my dismal weakness and pleading for the Holy Spirit to lift me up and pleading for Mary to protect me under her mantle from the adversary applauding my non-response to God's grace. Not writing to convict anyone else, just yelling out my own deficiency.

  21. Being an ocean girl myself, the thought of being in a place with nothing but sun and sand scares the bejeebers out of me. I can feel my mouth frying up as I write this! That being said, I know those desert days will come, most of them from my own sinfulness. After doing all that I can to clean myself up-confession, prayer etc., if God chooses to keep me there for awhile, then that's where trust and surrender come in- not easy in a place like this, but this desert can bear much fruit in our souls.
    Still, I rather the sea :)
    As all the trees seem to be taken, I am coming to visit you all under them :)
    Thanks for a great post, Mary.

  22. Theresa,
    I know you left that comment for Vicky but it's something for me to ponder on too. In other words - thank you.

  23. Nancy,
    I was just on one of your blogs and saw that your post fits well with our situation. I tried to leave a comment but couldn't find where to do it. (I'm guessing you keep it off?) Anyway, I really enjoyed your blogs and will place them in my sidebar.

    Yes, I guess we have united, haven't we? So let's all pray for each other :) I promise to bring all of you to Mass and Adoration with me tomorrow.

    Welcome to blogland, Nancy!

  24. Mary, you said it so well! Loved this post, and all the comments from our fellow desert dwellers..gee, the Lord is "drying out" many it seems :)

    If anyone feels up to it, reading St. John of the Cross's Ascent of Mt Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul will help to give many insights into this dry and empty place on the spiritual journey.

    The Carmelite mystics advise us to just be faithful to prayer..even if it means sitting there for the entire prayer time and just telling the Lord how hard it is to pray. The big temptation is to get frustrated and cut back on prayer time.

    At least we are in good company. Therese spent most of her 9 years in the convent in this state. St. Teresa of Avila suffered from dryness about 20 years, and Blessed Mother Teresa, about 50 years!

  25. Colleen,
    That was an excellent comment and definitely something we each have to consider. I smiled at your comment about the "Holy Spirit tattoo" - maybe all bloggers could use one of those :) Theresa touched upon this a bit in her comment to Vicky. I moderated it at the same time as yours so it wasn't up yet when I got your comment.
    I think my aridity is a mixture of stuff and I'll probably write another post about it. As for "slacking" in prayer, etc...yes, that can certainly leave one feeling off kilter. I think it's about balance. I have overdone it at times and "underdone" it at times but I think it's key to set aside time for the Lord and stick to it even if one feels dry.
    Great comment because this is the area that we first have to look at.

  26. At the risk of standing out here ...

    May I say, it's OK to feel tired and not wanting or willing to pray. It's OK sometimes to want to do something else, like Blogging, going for a walk or whatever.

    God does not want us to endure this life. He wants us to enjoy it.

    When we meet St Peter I'm sure he will not check whether our knees are callous through endless prayers and Rosaries. Instead, he will check our intentions and deeds on this earth.

    Jesus knows when we don't feel like praying. He had the same trouble with Peter in the Garden of Getsemany just before He was arrested.

    God bless.

  27. Grinning at your comment, Karin! St. Padre Pio (just can't seem to dump the padre part) claims aridity IS our own fault. But God understands our weaknesses and brings good out of them. As I write this, I'm getting a word that people need to focus on love...God's love...BE LOVE (once again) and one of the reasons we suffer from aridity is because we place too much focus on ourselves, our lives, our problems, our sufferings, etc...
    You get my drift. This "Be love" word has become a constant word and correction recently so I know there is something there. I wrote about it but obviously He still feels the need to impress it upon my spirit until I REALLY get it.

    I think opening one's self to His agape love is key. And then spilling this love onto others.

  28. Patricia,
    Gee...thanks for the consoling remark about St. Therese, St. Teresa, and Blessed Mother Teresa - in one fell swoop you have sent the hearts of many falling to their feet ;) Just kidding, our hearts are already at the Lord's feet...can't resist teasing you. I know you're a fellow desert dweller!

    Here is what is interesting:
    Some saints say DO pray and other saints recommend NOT praying during these times. Me, I think pray but that is just a personal observation. Some say forcing prayer disturbs the peace of the soul and further worsens the situation. This gets confusing at times. I guess it depends on what the individual person's difficulty and personal makeup is.

    Looking at all the Teresa' wonder Theresa picked the first tree. I'm going to pray that all of them intercede to set her tree aflame ;) That tree looked pretty "dried out" and ready!

  29. Yes Patricia....beautifully put dear sister in Carmel!

    It may mean constantly having to return to God's presence after being distracted or to a scripture verse or spiritual reading during prayer, but the faithfulness IN the dryness is so much more pleasing to God. It may mean God is calling some to a quieter, less forced prayer too. I disagree with St. Pio (yikes...don't strike me!) is apparent throughout all the Carmelite readings (three of which are Doctors of the Church) that it can be permitted by God and is even considered a great long as we remain faithful...that is key.

    As I said previously in so many's when you don't care any more that should be the concern. That doesn't sound like the case in this company. Also, sickness, fatigue and stress can contribute too although these seem to be more short term.

    Yahoo got the comments going today...on fire!! (yes...I need to be lit *on fire* trust me).

  30. Me yet AGAIN, to say thank you so much, Mary!! As of a few minutes ago, thanks to the help of one of my (grown) kids, the "breadbox" blog is now open to comments (neither of us could figure that out). In the meantime, I am carrying around the idea that it's only a tree tested by dryness that can be truly set ablaze.

  31. Hi Victor,
    I agree that the Lord does not want us on our knees ten hours a day :) There's time for both God and fun too and they shouldn't be separated...but they are right now. God is my joy, my life, my breath though, so the walks and fun pale in comparison to Him. When I feel His Presence even scrubbing toilets is fun. Seriously. My difficulty right now is that the yearning for God becomes painful to the point where it obliterates everything else. And yet, at the same time I know He is right with me. The yearning is like a deep, deep, hole in the center of my being and God keeps enlarging this hole each time I go through these periods of dryness in prayer. Then, each time, the suffering of not being able to have Him totally gets greater and greater. I think this is the wound that original sin has wrought in us. I live in Jesus' pierced side which is why Karin's post touched me so much. Mass, Communion, and Adoration bring me great relief but this hasn't always been the case.

  32. So obviously, this is the place to hang today. I know Mary we are keeping you from getting anything done today LOL!

    Nancy...LOVE THAT last line: *only a tree tested by dryness that can be truly set ablaze*.

    Are your comments open on The Cloistered Heart?

    Okay...time to leave you alone a bit...great discussion and glad I had time to be part of it.

  33. Theresa,
    Many thanks to both you and Patricia for your input on this issue. I and many others seem to have a lot of questions about this. St. Teresa of Avila is my patron saint and I've always been drawn to her and I deeply respect her works. Actually, the Little Flower is a favorite of mine too :) So maybe God draws our hearts in the direction He wants us to go, yes?

    St Padre Pio could send a lightning bolt at that pitiful tree you picked maybe? I'm still snickering at your choice - gave me a bit of a glimpse at just how deep into the desert you are!

    I can see that people are very concerned over this issue. I understand - let's face's difficult especially with the other crosses we carry. We yearn for union with God...after all we were created for this union so not having it can bring immense suffering upon us. Yet, by the same token, numerous areas of our lives must undergo purification for this to take place. In my experience, the purgation is mixed with periods of illumination. I don't necessarily see one as coming after the other but rather the same rays both purge and enlighten at the same time. The more that is purged the more light the soul is capable of receiving. As the dross is burnt off the yearning for God also increases in intensity as He prepares the soul for its complete transformation in Him. It's similar to the souls in purgatory when you think about it. Their greatest suffering is not being with God. Just a thought.

  34. Nancy,
    This seems to be the case. Wet wood doesn't keep a flame well while dry wood is easily consumed.

    Glad you got your comments working! When I first started blogging it got a bit frustrating at times and a number of other bloggers helped me out so if you have any questions feel free to ask us :)

  35. Theresa,
    Tree dwellers run/crawl in packs I guess. I was actually supposed to be at work today but Michaela is home sick from school.

    And no, I haven't got much done :) Time to finish the kitchen I guess!

  36. I am probably throwing a monkey wrench into this wonderful discussion, Mary, but there are times I feel drawn to the desert because it is the only place I can find God. Your response comment about how the walks and fun, while all well and good (paraphrasing), pale in comparison to Him~that's where I am finding myself right now. God did something more in me while I was on retreat and I need to follow Him there. (that's a whole other post/comment :)
    I am not trying to minimize anyone's struggle with aridity of any kind.
    Interestingly you quoted St. Padre Pio in your response to my comment. I may have to quote him here again :) "Pray, hope, and don't worry." As Theresa said in her comment, if we are still praying, reading, etc., and not cutting corners, then God has brought us to the desert. If not and we see that we are truly cutting corners, then the good news is there are things we can do to get back on track.
    Sorry for this post-like comment.
    Please feel free to delete this comment if you feel it is inappropriate to the discussion in any way.

  37. Theresa and Mary,
    Thank you so much for your comments. They were helpful and I'll be pondering it all of today.

    Sometimes, I have difficulty deciding what is prayer. Is it having God in my thoughts, throughout the day, talking to Him and questioning Him? Does it matter that I've squeezed the Rosary in and have been really distracted through it? I wonder if that's making enough time for God or whether He's an after-thought.

    Like others here, my interests become a big distraction.

    On the positive, I find weekly confession saves me from drifting away and helps keep at least some focus, as does weekday Mass when we can. I wonder if other people have strategies for getting by in the desert?

    Thanks, Mary, for this post. I've skimmed the comments so I'm going back now to ponder them more. (I hope I haven't repeated - should have done it the other way round!).

    Oh, another thing - what is true devotion to Mary? Is it faithfulness to the Rosary? Trust in her protection and Hail Mary's? Or a grateful attitude? How do we know we are devoted to her?

  38. I pray for you Mary that this period in the desert may be a short one.

    It happens to most of us at one time or another. Mine lasted years.

    God bless.

  39. Karin,
    Your comment is very appropriate and fits in perfectly with our discussion. I knew this retreat was different for you. (I am having a witness in the spirit while writing this.) I didn't and don't know what happened but I picked it up immediately in your posts.

    Yes, everything pales in comparison to Him. Everything. Fr Scheier was right - heaven is real, we are the ones living in the shadow world. God placed us here but our hearts long for home.

    By the way, saint quotes are always welcome on this blog :) And I hope these comments help others who are going through similar things.

  40. Vicky,
    To me, it's all prayer. If you are thinking about Him all the time then He isn't an after-thought, is He? Giving everything to Him is prayer though maybe some don't think so. I offer up my distractions - I don't really want to be distracted and God knows this so I try to use them as stepping stones to Him. I've laid down my Rosary when distractions become so bad and lifted the distractions to him instead.

    I have desert strategies. Mass, Adoration, and abandoning myself to Him are a few of them. And I always turn to Mary also. Even if I can't pray the Rosary all the way through I fully trust in her spiritual motherhood. I "borrow" her Heart to love God better all the time.

    As for True Devotion to Mary - if your love for God is growing then you have this. Every bit of it is about loving Him. Her joy is bringing us closer to God. She is the spiritual mother of all and God has given her the gift of "grace giving". If your intent is to pray the Rosary well then that is more important than the distractions. Besides, you can "cheat" and borrow the Rosaries of others on bad days - I unite my Rosaries with all the Rosaries ever said on earth and with the prayers of the saints, angels, and souls in Purgatory. This way, even on my weak days I am strong because we are all one in Christ.

    Now if someone prayed the Rosary without thought on purpose then that would be insulting I think. But who gets distracted on purpose? Yes, maybe there are things in our life that are out of order which add to distractions but Mother Mary is good at untying knots.

    Sorry, that sounded like a sermon:)

  41. Bigfoot,
    Thank you - prayers are always appreciated :)

    How many years are we talking? Lol! You don't have to answer that ;)

  42. Mary,

    This discussion has been so helpful! Sorry to keep adding more but something's beginning to click.

    The distractions of daily life - when we do them for God they become a prayer, right? Now, I understand God leading me away from my art blog. You see, that was success for me whereas sharing in the Catholic community is for His glory (if I do it well enought).

    It's the same with other distractions, don't you think? If we do it for His glory, is it more a prayer than a distraction? This may be obvious but I'm slow with these things:-/

    I agree with the desert having wonderful times - it seems to show up 'worldly' things as just emptiness and our love for God seems to grow stronger, I think.

    Your last comment has me thinking of strategies to turn the distractions of the children, during prayer time, into ways of drawing them in.

    Thank you, Mary - i'm going on a bit but this has been so helpful. {{}}

  43. Vicky ... and Mary,

    If I may add something about Vicky's comment about being led away from the art Blog.

    Years ago a friend encouraged me to join the Knights of St Columba. They meet about once a month for a meal and a social event. It is important for all members to attend these event because, it was explained to me, "you are a gift to other people in this world. Whoever you are, there's something about you that make other people enjoy your company. And not attending such events would deny others the pleasure of your company."

    What this friend was explaining is that we are all gifts to each other. Some people are interesting and lively, others can sing, some like Mary are funny and amusing, or like Vicky artistic and talented.

    To detract from such gifts (or talents) even to spend more time in prayer would be wrong. Don't misunderstand me please, I'm not saying we shouldn't pray. Of course, God loves our prayers, when we ask Him for our needs or thank Him for what He has done for us. But He also wants us to use our talents, whatever they are, for the benefit and enjoyment of others. Whether we are good at medicine, business, the arts or whatever ... such talents are given us to be shared with others.

    Mary is right, we all go through desert periods; for some longer and harsher than others. I suppose it takes His grace to see us through them, and it's nothing to do with our own efforts and doing.

    God bless.

  44. Vicky,
    I believe everything (and I mean everything) can be a prayer but it depends on the disposition of the heart. Working, errands, scrubbing poopy diapers, cleaning, laundry, blogging, cooking, your art (that is a gift) etc...
    I believe that God, by becoming man and living among us sanctified all aspects of life. I don't know if you've read this post before but I thought it might explain what I mean a bit:
    My mom had five kids and worked more than full time so I think her post may be helpful to you if you haven't read it yet.

    These words are beautiful, Vicky:
    "I agree with the desert having wonderful times - it seems to show up 'worldly' things as just emptiness and our love for God seems to grow stronger, I think." Thank you!

    Your artwork is a gift that God gave you and anytime we use His gifts with love they glorify God, don't you think?

    Every time we lift our minds to God we are praying and when we lift our entire lives up to God we become an endless prayer, a living song to God. This is what I think the Lord is trying to tell me with the "BE love" words. We are called to BE as little Christs in this world. And Christ was love.

  45. Victor,
    You and I are in perfect agreement on this one! Gifts are meant to be shared and every person has different gifts. It is everyone's loss when gifts are not shared. If you did not share your wisdom and humor, I and others would not reflect or laugh as much. And so it goes with the gifts and talents of everyone. Each person is unique and irreplaceable.
    God bless!

  46. Nothing like being late to the party...but last night I was thinking about this, and wanted to mention that sometimes I can be lifted out of the depths of the dryness by praise and worship music, and by some images of Jesus. I wonder if it's because those things bypass the intellect and go straight to the heart..the power of art.

  47. I used to use sacred images to help during dry periods but this stopped working about ten years ago. Music works on occasion but not like before. Funny you should mention this because I was thinking about these things today. I have come to the conclusion that everything on earth so pales before the beauty of God that eventually nothing works except grace alone. I might do another post on this - it's an area that many of us think about obviously. Sacred images used to move me powerfully so I really felt this loss.

  48. You write this SO well...I am glad (in a selfish way) to know it isn't only me who feels so far away sometimes...even though distance is the last thing I want.

  49. Lol, Colleen! Yes, I'm glad (in a selfish way) for the same reason :) Who wants to be alone in the desert? Well, now you know that you have plenty of company!