VIII. Aridity
(Little Catechism of the Life of Prayer, 5.9-16)

"O God, you are my God-- for you I long! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, like a land parched, lifeless, and without water." (Psalm 63.2-3)


When consolations ebb away,
And the heart thirsts without relief,
The will must stand alone to pray
As love rests solely on belief.

The thirst may have been self-induced:
When zeal's lost to tepidity,
Or seeking comfort has reduced
Prayer to thirsts of aridity.

The trials of life, with their pain,
Can rob the heart of joy and peace.
Sometimes His mercy falls like rain;
Often, the dryness will not cease.

The heart advanced in ways of prayer,
Strengthens fervor in times of drought:
Redoubling faith and willpower,
When prayer is more dry than devout.

The Lord seeks to perfect the soul;
Detachment from comfort's the goal.

"It is a curious thing: here we are, meeting with hindrances and suffering from imperfections by the thousand, with our virtues so young that they have not yet learned how to walk… and yet we are not ashamed to be wanting consolations in prayer and to be complaining about periods of aridity. This must not be true of you, sisters: embrace the Cross which your Spouse bore upon His shoulders and realize that this Cross is yours to carry too… Words are not enough, any more than they were for the young man when the Lord told him what to do if he wished to be perfect. Ever since I began to speak of these Mansions I have had that young man in mind, for we are exactly like him; and this as a rule is the origin of our long periods of aridity in prayer, although these have other sources as well. I am saying nothing here of interior trials, which vex many good souls to an intolerable degree, and through no fault of their own, but from which the Lord always rescues them, to their great profit, as He does also those who suffer from melancholy and other infirmities." (St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle, Second Mansions)

Holy Spirit, increase my faith and strengthen my will in times of dryness, that I may seek the Lord alone in prayer, without expecting gifts of comfort. Amen.

(c) Paul Buis, 2007