Part 1: The Disheartening News
A few days ago, my wife sent me a text that I never expected. It simply read, “No apple orchard this year😢 ,” accompanied by a screenshot from our favorite apple orchard. The notice from the Orchard explained,
“APPLE UPDATE: An update we are devastated to share…With great sadness, we are not able to offer U-Pick Apples out in the orchard this season. Due to the spring drought and apple thrip pest, our trees just weren’t able to produce the harvest we had hoped for.”
Disappointment washed over me as I absorbed this news. When you spend months looking forward to something the letdown is pretty steep when your hopes are dashed. This experience led me to contemplate the connection between life’s disappointments and spiritual dryness.
Part 2: Understanding Spiritual Aridity
Spiritual dryness, an often-overlooked aspect of our faith journey, cuts to the core of our spiritual walk. We’ve all experienced those profound moments of connection with our faith, those times when the presence of God felt tangible and reassuring. But what occurs when that profound sensation suddenly evaporates? This experience can be overwhelming, especially if it’s our first encounter with spiritual aridity. However, it’s crucial to understand that this arid phase isn’t a judgment on our worthiness or dedication. Rather, it’s a facet of our spiritual journey, a terrain we’re meant to traverse, not an indictment of our faith.
As we explore this intricate topic, let’s take a page from the saints’ playbook. These remarkable individuals, who left their indelible mark on our faith, also grappled with spiritual dryness in their journeys. Amidst their spiritual desolation, they discovered that these periods weren’t indicative of their lack of holiness or spiritual effort. Instead, they realized that God, in His divine wisdom, allows souls to undergo these purgative periods to deepen their relationship with Him. This profound insight serves as our guiding light. It reminds us that our own spiritual dryness isn’t a verdict on our devotion but an invitation to fortify our faith.
When the wellsprings of spiritual consolation seem to have run dry and our souls yearn for the divine presence, let us remember that this spiritual dryness is a natural part of our journey. Draw inspiration from the saints who navigated this arid terrain. We find solace in knowing that these droughts aren’t desolation but opportunities for spiritual growth and a deepening of our relationship with God.
Part 3: Transforming Aridity into Wonder
In an article I wrote for Catholic Exchange, I explored “Three Ways to Turn Spiritual Aridity into Wonder.” Drawing inspiration from saints like St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Maria Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross, I learned that dryness in prayer is not an indictment of our spirituality. Instead, it’s an opportunity for growth. Much like a desert, periods of spiritual dryness can serve as a place of purification and transformation.
Look to the Sacraments as Spiritual Oases
Just as travelers in a parched land seek water with utmost urgency, those facing spiritual aridity yearn for a source of spiritual refreshment. These oases in the desert, are the sacraments that Christ instituted to sustain us throughout life’s various stages. The sacraments, such as the Eucharist and Confession, stand as omnipotent oases, ever-flowing sources of God’s grace.
Living Water: A Promise from Christ
Recalling the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, we are reminded of His promise of living water. While this living water is not the physical water necessary for our survival, it symbolizes the grace found in the sacraments. These sacramental oases never run dry; they patiently await our journey to their wellsprings to receive God’s abundant grace.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1210):
“Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life.”
Journey to the Well: The Sacrament of Confession
At the end of a particularly challenging week I recognized the need to address my issues with anger and impatience at home. Seeking spiritual refreshment, I ventured to a nearby Catholic Church to confess my sins to a priest.
In that moment, the priest stood in Personi Christi, embodying the authority to forgive sins through the sacrament of Holy Orders. This power, passed down from Jesus to His Apostles—the first Catholic priests (John 20:22-23)—allowed me to receive the healing graces of Confession.
Armed with this newfound grace, I returned home better equipped to confront the temptations of anger and impatience that had plagued me. Just as travelers in the desert find solace in the oasis, I found solace in the sacrament, knowing that these spiritual oases never run dry, always offering refreshment to those who seek them.
Follow the Caravan
Autumn has always held a special place in my heart. It’s a season when nature’s vibrant hues signal the transition from the warm embrace of summer to the crisp embrace of fall. One of my favorite autumn traditions has been visiting the local apple orchard with my family. There’s a unique joy in wandering through rows of apple trees surrounded by the fragrant aroma of ripe fruit. Last year, we missed out on this experience due to a hectic schedule and an early frost that closed the orchard prematurely. So, this year, I eagerly anticipated our visit. Little did I know, a message from my wife would take me on a surprising journey, sparking thoughts about the connection between life’s disappointments and spiritual dryness.
We’re not meant to walk our Christian journey alone. Just as travelers in the desert rely on one another for support, we should seek assistance from our fellow believers. Building a network of friendships and seeking guidance from trusted individuals can provide much-needed companionship on our spiritual journey.
In my article “Catholic Camaraderie: Unity in Suffering, I emphasized the importance of finding a community to support and uplift us in our prayer life. In our shared faith, we discover the strength that comes from praying together and bearing one another’s burdens. This sense of unity in suffering reinforces the idea that our Catholic faith isn’t just an individual endeavor but a communal one.
As we navigate the spiritual terrain, building connections within the Church provides a support system that extends beyond the pews. Trusted friends and mentors offer guidance, share their experiences, and help us persevere through our own trials. Following the caravan of fellow believers allows us to draw strength, solace, and inspiration from the Catholic community, making our spiritual journey not only more bearable but also deeply enriching. In unity, we find the companionship and encouragement needed to endure the desert’s challenges and emerge stronger in our faith.
Look to Mary in the Dark Night
In times of spiritual aridity we can turn our gaze toward the gentle presence of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Venerable Fulton Sheen poignantly captured the essence of Mary’s role when he said, “The Blessed Virgin Mary reflects her divine son. Without him, she is nothing. With him, she is the mother of men.” This profound statement encapsulates the beautiful truth that Mary, like the moon reflecting the light of the sun, illuminates our path and guides us to her Son, even when we struggle to feel His immediate presence.
Just as the moon’s glow lights the way for travelers in the night, Mary’s spiritual radiance can lead us to her Son, Jesus. Her intercession has been likened to the moon’s light breaking through the darkest night. Through her unwavering love and maternal care, she provides solace and guidance, reminding us that even in the darkest moments of our spiritual journey, Mary is there to lead us to her Son’s loving embrace.
One profound example of Mary’s role as our spiritual guide is seen in her journey from heartache to hope. Just as the moon’s glow dispels the darkness, Mary’s intercession can pierce the darkness of our struggles and lead us to the radiant presence of Jesus. Her enduring love and guidance offer hope, transforming despair into a deep and abiding faith.
Final Harvest: Wrapping Up 🍎🍏
As I reflect on these three ways to transform spiritual dryness into wonder, I’m reminded of the unexpected turn of events this year. Although we couldn’t visit our local apple orchard, my mom surprised us with apples from her city’s orchard. In that unexpected moment of generosity, I found a glimpse of the wonder that can emerge from life’s disappointments. Just as we can find refreshment in the midst of a dry orchard season, we can also find spiritual renewal during our moments of spiritual aridity. It’s all part of the journey.
So, when life leaves you feeling parched, remember, the oasis is closer than you think. Seek solace in the sacraments, companionship with your fellow travelers, and guidance from the Mother who reflects the divine. In this way, even the driest of deserts can become places of profound spiritual wonder.