Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ennui, Apathy, Acedia

My spiritual life is not being lived at the level it should be. I know that’s always going to be true – even a high-functioning mystic (and that’s definitely not me!) is gong to feel spiritually incomplete on this side of the beatific vision (i.e., the presence of God enjoyed by the holy souls in heaven). But I’ve been occupying a place lower than I should reasonably expect.

I have to admit that it’s largely my own fault. Today’s gospel is about perseverance in prayer. I, however, am easily deterred. I’ve neglected the Liturgy of the Hours (not that it’s required, for lay people), and it’s been a long while since I’ve made a holy hour. I make excuses for the lapses, usually claiming that other responsibilities demand my attention. The liturgy has not been a refuge. I’ve attended, but entering fully into the mystery has eluded me. The only prayer that I can admit to is the rosary, silently recited on a finger ring while running.

Spontaneous prayer has never been a strong suit of mine. When I try to express my prayers in words, two things happen: First, I quickly run out of words and start repeating myself with words that are completely inadequate to begin with. Second, I find myself having to take back the literal meaning of the words themselves. My prayers end up being a vague uplifting of spirit and intentions.

Sometimes, that feels entirely inadequate. My daughter was in the hospital recently. I knew that I should pray for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to do any more than the vague lifting of intentions. I can only guess that this is what St. Paul was getting at when he wrote, “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26)

That’s not the only reason for my spiritual listlessness. I follow the headlines in the Catholic press, but the only stories that seem to be new are the scandalous ones. Every message from the pope or one of the bishops just seems to be a repetition of what’s been said before. No matter how inspirational the words might be, my reaction lately is an indifferent shrug. The need to reject relativism? Already heard it. A new initiative encouraging families to put Christ in the center? Well, duh!

In short, what I feel is at variance with what I know. I know that what is needed is perseverance. I know that the liturgy is the work of the church and that the Eucharistic celebration makes present the entire Paschal Mystery. I know that reality doesn’t depend on my feelings or on my perception of it. I know that dryness happens, and prayer shapes the soul even then. I know these things, but not feeling the fire is a real drag.

1 comment:

Inspector Clouseau said...

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