The first advice they give to someone going through a dry patch in the spiritual life is to keep showing up. After a particularly difficult week, I decided to do just that and reached out for one of Regnum Christi’s online retreats. Even with the dysfunctions in the Legionaries and the disgusting life of their founders, the resources are good and unless crimes are committed by the people who create them I will not punish them for the sins of the people around them. I intended to do one of the Lent ones, as a preparation for this season of spiritual renewal, but the one on spiritual growth caught my eye. Later, as I looked at Youtube videos to find inspiration for this week’s prompts, I stumbled upon a retreat on St Thérèse. If you read yesterday’s post you already know how much I love her, and how I just had to watch the talks. Little did I know that the first talk was on the same subject of the stages of spiritual growth.
I liked the metaphors in the RC retreat of spiritual growth as the passing of the seasons, even though the second talk really goes deep into the writings of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange and Fr Tanqueray in understanding the stages. In a way, I can see how we experience different seasons in the stages. It’s like a spiral, you circle back but deeper. Sometimes all the progress goes away and you circle back but higher up. That’s where I feel I am at right now. Being ill for a long time and having little work to do have meant a lot of just numbing my dissatisfaction with games or TV and films. I guess I could have prayed more, but prayer just feels like ticking the boxes of different devotions that I do and saying a prayer for those who ask on Twitter. I know some churches stream holy hour but I’ve never really been attracted to Facetiming with Jesus. It only makes me feel worse about not being able to get to visit in person (can we be done with these storms already?).
I have a tendency to compare myself to those who are healthier and abler than me rather than the many who have it worse and for whom such technological advances are a true lifeline. It’s like I have a hard time accepting I am ill enough and to be able to do as much as I’d like is not in the cards for me in this season. Instead of embracing this season of suffering, which coincides with winter because it’s always caused by lung issues, and not letting it turn into a winter of the soul, I do exactly the opposite and before I know it my spiritual life is an Arctic wasteland.
Sometimes consolation comes in the winter, and yesterday was one such moment. What it taught me was that, far from being a season of abandonment, it’s a season of growth and preparation. I’ve at last understood what they were talking about in a recent episode of The Gathering Place when they said sometimes God is so close we can’t see Him. This post will go live on Ash Wednesday, which in the Catholic Church is one of the mandatory days of fasting. Fasting is an ancient spiritual practice that we see time and again in the Bible.
St Basil the great said that:
Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.
Yes, there is always a tendency to spiritual pride when doing things like fasting, and it can be hard to fast from food when you have struggles with eating disorders, but we can still find something that is enough of a sacrifice to count without triggering bigger problems. There’s a season for everything, and we’re about to enter the season of fasting. At the time of writing, I’m not sure yet what my fast will look like, and even if I had discerned it beyond doubt I probably shouldn’t say. It’s true that it can help me being accountable to it, but I fear I have too much self-importance for that to work for me. In fact, doing things in private may be the self-mortification I really need. Perhaps I will not fast at all this Lent, and face the judgement of the Pharisees in my head and the dark corners of Catholic Twitter if they ever find out.
Whatever I will do, my goal for this season is to walk through the valley I’m at now, and reach Easter ready to renew my baptismal vows a slightly better person than I was before Lent started. It’s not a task I can achieve on my own, and that’s entirely the point.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2020 on the subject “Spirituality”. Find the rest of the series here
Meet your hosts:
Brita of BelleBrita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.
Sarah of Sarah Nderi
Sarah is a 22 year old Digital Content Creator who loves reading, writing, fashion, music, travel, coffee and a blank screen (page). Her favourite things to do are reading, swimming, making animation films, hiking and listening to music.