A Sacred Way
Dryness of the Mind
Dryness of the Heart
Dryness Leads to Detachment
Dryness Leads to Humility
Dryness Leads to Patience
Dryness Helps Us to Persevere
Dryness Prepares us for Higher Degrees of Prayer
Prayer of Strength
Prayer of the Heart
Prayer of the Mind
Dryness Leads to Unceasing Prayer
In Praise of Dryness
"A SACRED WAY" Isa. 35:8
Every Christian who strives for holiness of life experiences dryness of
soul. It is to most people a heart-rending experience. It is a paradox,
for the soul becomes confused when it realizes the harder it strives the
further away Jesus seems to be.
How strange is a spiritual life that draws a soul to a fire only to
make it feel freezing cold! It is, to all appearances, a contradiction. In
the world, the closer we are to a friend or loved one the more secure and
unafraid we become. The deeper the love the more glowing one feels in the
presence of the beloved. And so it is as we grow in the love of God. He
wants us to love Him "in Spirit and in Truth" and this kind of love is
above human loveas
much above as is the difference between the flicker of a match and the
Human love in all its beauty and warmth must be raised to a level above
itself. The air at the foot of a high mountain is easier to breathe, even
though it is not as pure as the air on the summit. To breathe that pure
air our bodies would have to adapt themselves to the atmosphere of the
mountain peak. The peace and quiet and the view from that height are well
worth the effort and the pain of climbing.
We would, however, encounter one phenomenon during our climb and that
is a certain kind of loneliness. The further up the mountain we travel,
the fewer companions we have. There comes a time when all things seem to
drop behind and we find ourselves alone. When we finally arrive on the top
the loneliness is gone for we see things very differently. We see all our
former companions and possessions as they really are with no illusions, no
regrets, and no attachments. In this rare air of God's Love we possess
Wisdom, which is the Word of GodJesus.
We see things as He sees them because the breath of His Spirit fills our
souls to overflowing.
To those who live in the sunshine of the valley, our life atop the
mountain is forever dull and lonely but it is only because they do not
share the view. Sometimes we come down the mountain and bask in the
sunshine, but soon we must ascend again and fill our souls with the fresh
air of His Love.
This is but a faint picture of dryness of soul and the beautiful work
it accomplishes. There are times in life when God seems very close. The
sun of His Love shines brightly. Our hearts exult and our being is rapt in
the joy of His Presence. There are other times however, when His Presence
fades away like a morning mist and we find ourselves shivering from the
cold. Though the whole world were to love and applaud us it would all be
as nothing, for the sunshine of our lifeGodseems
gone, and our soul cannot be consoled except by Him.
We wander from place to place looking for Him, we try to pray, to
meditate on His life, to imitate His virtues, but nothing seems to
alleviate the emptiness in the depths of our being. Our life goes on and
we work, eat, sleep, laugh and cry but none of these functions fill the
There is a longing for God that does not seem to be satisfied by
anything or anyone. A darkness descends but in it we do not sleep or feel
refreshed. It is a darkness that keeps us ever awakeever
yearning for the dawn.
It is a thirst that is never quenched, for every drop of "living water"
makes us thirst for more. Days, months and years can be spent in this
state of dryness. Sometimes doubts as to the very existence of God
surround the soul with their icy embrace and the blackest midnight
descends and fills the soul with emptiness.
Though our poor human nature rebels at this state of soul, it realizes
that somehow great work is being accomplished. The silent Hand of God
moves on, purifying the faculties of our soul, detaching us from
possessions, people, and ourselves, raising us to various heights of
prayer and increasing our capacity for love.
This dryness is like a spiritual anesthetic. It numbs our soul while
the Master Sculptor 'shapes it into His Image. We have no feeling of
anything being accomplished. It is as if we were suspended between heaven
and earth. We desire nothing of this world but we are still not ready for
the pure air on the mountain of God. We wait, not always patiently, while
we roam along unknown paths, thinking at times we are lost, but always
finding a new path to take, a new cave to hide in, a dim light to follow.
God speaks to our souls but we are so busy looking for Him we do not
near His Voice. We are desolate and become aggravated with ourselves and
others. Not possessing the humility to realize we can do nothing of
ourselves, we become feverishly active, perform more good works, read
books, and distract ourselves from the emptiness that fills our souls.
Without realizing it, we are actually running away from the fire and
into the cold, dark night. Our souls are restless for the warmth of His
Love and we do all we can to bring back past consolations. Our Memory
serves us well by recalling what used to be and we look back with great
longing, convinced that somehow we are being chastised for some weakness
This is not to say that dryness is not caused by lukewarmness, because
it often is, but we must examine ourselves to judge the cause. We cannot
torment our souls with scruples and doubts.
If our dry spell causes us pain, increases our thirst for God, makes us
strive for virtue, and during prayer makes every other thought outside of
God distasteful to us, then we can assume that the dryness we experience
is of God. God is calling us to a higher form of prayer and a deeper union
Those who are lukewarm do not miss His Presence; they do not imitate
His virtues and their prayer time, if any, is spent in willful
distractions geared towards their own pleasure and convenience. For these
souls we pray. We ask God for the grace of perseverance for ourselves so
we do not fall away from His Love and Mercy.
In order to better understand the power and beauty of spiritual
dryness, we will look at its various aspects and try to reap the fruit of
this call to greater things.
DRYNESS OF THE MIND
"See where He stands, behind our wall. He looks in at the window, He
peers through the lattice." (Songs 2:9)
In the beginning of our spiritual life God floods our souls with
consolations, but before long His Love demands that we rise above the
feeling level and adore Him "in spirit and truth."
So begins a kind of hide-and-seek. As the Sacred writer records, God
stands "behind a wall" blocked from our view but He often "peers through
the window" to give us a glimpse of His beautiful Face. At other times it
is as if a "lattice" were between the soul and God; we see Him and yet we
In this state of finding yet not finding, the soul is content with at
(past a little consolation. It becomes aware of His Presence even though
that Presence is obscured by the things of this world and the frailties of
In the past, meditations were a sheer joy and the soul believed that it
had arrived at perfect peace. Its passions were in control and prayer was
a glorious experience.
It is easy to be virtuous under these conditions. God lifts us out of
ourselves and carries us along with ease. Our inner selves, enjoying the
consolations of God, are so rapt in the sweetness of His Presence that
there is little chance of a permanent change. The Presence of all Goodness
is like a magnet drawing us to Himself, our weaknesses and passions are
not gone, only dormant. They sleep while we are free to roam the realms of
love in peace.
This state of soul cannot last for long. We have been given the grace
to participate in the very nature of God. To fulfill this God-given role
we must become more and more like Him. We cannot do this if we
inordinately cling to the emotions of our human nature.
In our daily life human love rests for the most part on a sense level,
but since God is Spirit we must communicate with Him on a spirit-to-spirit
level. We must be detached from the world and ourselves and seek Him for
Himself alone. It is for this purpose that Jesus tells us "every branch
that does bear fruit the Father prunes to make it bear more fruit" (Jn.
15:2). It is those who are putting forth great effort to become like Jesus
that God plunges into the darkness of dryness and into an awareness of
their imperfections. So begins the purification of our facultiesMemory,
Understanding, and Willand
the beginning of our ascent to the Mountain of Holiness.
The faculty that is of great help in our meditations is our Memory. It
can recall incidents in the life of Jesus and picture them to our minds
and make meditation a sheer delight. It is easy to recall Jesus in the
Agony in the Garden and imagine ourselves kneeling beside Him and
consoling Him in His hour of need. We may be content to lovingly look at
Him in His fear and feel His pain.
Our Memory can serve us in a beautiful way during a meditation by
bringing back the words of Jesus, His gestures and His beautiful Face.
This use of Memory and Imagination can be of tremendous help by giving us
a strong motive for following Jesus. It can fire us with zeal for His
Glory and inspire us to work for the salvation of souls.
The Memory excites our emotions and our senses. Both virtue and sin can
find a home in our Memory and drive us to sanctity or damnation. Our five
senses, prodded on by our Reason, can lead us to heroic deeds of valor or
black despair. Our Wills, strong and powerful, can become so weak that we
are "reeds shaken by the wind."
In a state of dryness, however, God purifies all three of these
faculties in order to raise them up to the level of Jesus. When Paul asked
us to "put on the mind of Christ" he was speaking of a purification
initiated by God that raised our faculties to a spiritual plane. This
purification is one we must accept, endure and courageously persevere in
as long as God wills it.
The first faculty to feel the pruning of the Father is our Memory. It
is as if all things good and holy were blanked out of our minds. We not
only find Meditation impossible but even distasteful.
We endure this state for a few days thinking it will pass as all other
trials do, but when the days pass on to weeks and months, sometimes into
years, our Intellect tells us we are wasting our time.
It is at this state of soul that the evil spirits, who realize the
importance of dryness, tempt us to give up prayer, or torture us with the
thought that some past sin has incurred God's anger upon us and He has
left us to our miserable selves.
Only the grace of God keeps us from despairing for He gives us enough
light and courage to continue praying despite the dryness inside and the
assaults of the evil one outside.
Another phenomenon occurs in this state of soul and that is an
exaggerated view of our weaknesses, faults and imperfections that we have
long accepted and fought against; they become so big that they engulf our
souls like a huge monster.
Those with whom we live or work become aggravating and unbearable. It
is as if the whole world were determined to destroy us. Sometimes sickness
besets us and this, too, is borne with impatience and fear.
We are so engulfed in the pain of dryness and the avalanche of trials
that we are under the impression we fight alone, unloved by God and
distressed by our neighbors.
It is at this point that we "don't do the things we want to do and do
the things we don't want to do" (Rom. 7:19). What we fail to see is God's
loving hand guiding us and leading us gently up the Mountain of Holiness.
We feel so unholy, wicked and lonely that God and His Kingdom are far
removed from our hearts. There is such a difference between His Infinite
Holiness and our poor distressed souls that all we feel is unclean.
Our Intellect, reasoning on a human level, keeps telling us that
sanctity is not for us. It is obviously for those who have fortitude to
accomplish great deeds and possess great talents and gifts.
As if to add fuel to the fire, our Wills begin to vacillate and are
confused as to the course to take. Our ability to accomplish anything on a
spiritual level is difficult. A "do nothing" attitude grips our souls and
lukewarmness tries to wrap its arms around us.
It is near impossible for the soul to see how any good could come from
this state of mind. But if the soul perseveres in its prayers and acts of
virtue in spite of how it feels, it will soon begin to realize that its
purification is good and freedom of spirit will be its reward.
Even though distractions plague its prayer time, the soul calmly
returns to its seeking of the Lord as soon as those distractions are
noticed. The danger here is for the soul to seek consolations by
deliberate distractions. Meditative reading is put aside and the soul
spends the whole time of prayer reading a book that gives it consolation
but little fervor. The shortening of prayer time is a real danger for the
fear of "wasting" time takes hold of the soul. It seeks more action and
soon the good works that bring consolation replace prayer time and the
soul falls prey to great danger.
It is important to persevere in praying, even in lengthening the time
of prayer, for the purification of dryness far outweighs the few
consolations the soul derives from active works to distract it. To refuse
to accept dryness is to refuse growth in the spiritual life. It is the
vertical beam of our daily cross.
This is not to say that everyone suffers from dryness in the same way
or length of time. Some souls suffer little from this type of purification
and God can and often does lead them to great sanctity.
Jesus compared the Spirit to a wind when He spoke to Nicodemus, "Do not
be surprised when I say, "You must be born from above.' The wind blows
wherever it pleases; you hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes
from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are born of the
Spirit." (Jn. 3:7,8) The Sanctifier of our souls leads each one in a
different way. It is not our duty to question how or why. We need only to
trust His guidance of our souls and if "dryness" is our constant
companion, it is our waythe
way of Faithof
Dryness sharpens every faculty. It forces us to great degrees of Hope
when our Memory and Imagination are dulled. It increases our Faith for we
must seek Him as He is and believe His Word. It strengthens our Will by
making it follow His Commandments and imitate His virtues.
Our faculties seek this Lord as a deer seeks running water and they
constantly look out for Him in an effort to find Him. "Have you seen Him
whom my heart loves?" (Songs 3:3) the soul repeats over and over as it
does all in its power to find what it feels it has lost.
As the soul is not aware of the life-giving blood flowing through its
body, neither is it aware of the life-giving grace increasing in itself
through the quiet flow of dryness.
Detachment is one of the greatest works of dryness. It is great because
it is detaching ourselves from ourselves and not from things. Things are
comparatively easy to give up when we feel the loving arms of God around
us. We are strangely very much aware of ourselves at this time. Though we
enjoy the Presence of God, it is the joy we are experiencing that occupies
our mind and heart. So conscious are we of our sweet feelings that the
loss of consolation causes us great pain. A void is created but how often
that void is more an absence of ourselves from feelings rather than an
absence from His Presence.
Our Faith tells us that God is always Present to us and by grace He is
in our souls. Dryness then forces us to live by what Faith teaches rather
than what our feelings make us desire. Unless God bestows upon us the
searing power of dryness we shall forever be swayed by emotional feelings
designed to prod us on but never capable of changing us.
How true is the passage from the Song of Songs, "Catch the foxes for
us, the little foxes that make havoc of the vineyards, for our vineyards
are in flower." (2:15) Truly the soul is ready to bloom in the Presence of
it's Creator but first those attachments, imperfections and weaknesses
must be overcome. The soul must be free to live in the Presence of its
Lord at all times. Its Memory must be calmed and controlled, its Intellect
raised above itself in pure Faith, and its Will strong enough to follow in
the footsteps of the Master.
How beautiful is the cross that brings about such marvelous changes in
the soul. How grateful should we be to God for His patience with us even
though we struggle against His Providence and Guidance. Let us not become
giddy as we climb the Mountain of Holiness and forget our goals, our
desires and our way. If we ask God for sanctity we must believe that He
has heard our prayer, and everything in our moment to moment existence is
designed by Him for that end.
Jesus has promised that when the Father sees us bearing fruit He will
prune us so we may bear more fruit. It is by dryness again that God
purifies our hearts. Our love, like His, must be pure and unselfish. It is
in this area that dryness does its most glorious work.
DRYNESS OF THE HEART
Although our minds find it difficult to pray or concentrate on
spiritual things during aridity, it is bearable when we have at least some
knowledge of the love God has for us.
Our striving to pray and practice virtue in the midst of dryness gives
us some assurance that we do love God or we would not endure this trial.
And so it is that a knowledge of God's love for us and our love for Him
becomes the strong rope that we cling to as we climb the Mountain of
But one day this prop is also taken away and our hearts are left
without the least sign of love. The special assurance is gone and we feel
the cold wind of the heights. Only the elements remain to strengthen and
purify our hearts of all self-indulgence and selfish love.
We are offered the opportunity to love God for Himself without
expecting anything in return. We are given the chance of loving Him when
there are no manifest gifts and no consolations to encourage us. We are
bereft of any feeling of love, and the desire for this sweet gift wells up
in our hearts only to be disappointed by no response.
Now we stand alone before the Majesty of God, and the brightness of
that light makes us recoil at the difference between us. We feel unloved
and unloving. When dryness attacked our minds there was at least a shred
of love residing in our hearts but now that is gone and we are forced to
love only because we want to.
We are so accustomed to love on a human level that we find loving God
for Himself either impossible or beyond our capabilities. We tend to love
those who appeal to us, render us a service or are good to us. In the
degree they perform these various services we love them.
We often say that this particular person is our best friend. Usually
this means that person has the same goals, ambitions, likes and dislikes
as we. This friend makes us feel at ease in his presence and so we are
fond of his company. What we most often like is the consolation afforded
us. This is why in times of trial, sickness or hardship, some friends
drift apart and find each other boring.
However, a true friend loves us in every possible circumstance or
trial. In fact, differences deepen our friendship because true love is fed
Because God is spirit, invisible and all-perfect, our relationship with
Him is often built on the "Rich Uncle" concept that he has everything to
give and we have only to receive. That we have anything to give upsets our
theology and increases our responsibility. Any friendship not based on a
mutual giving will not last. Selfish love cannot exist between friends for
very long, and if that love is the basis of our relationship to God, it is
a disaster. Yet to love on a selfish level is so basic to our nature. We
tend to love Him on the same level as we love our neighborfor
what He does or can give us.
Dryness of heartthat
our love of all selfishness and raises it to a level of unselfish love. We
begin to love freelybecause
we want tobecause
God is all-lovable. The wrenching of self from our prayer time with God,
by this inability to "feel" any love in our hearts, raises us to the level
of the New Commandment. On this level of prayer, we pray and love God for
Himself alone, not for the gifts or consolations He gives us. This new
attitude and degree of love extends itself to our neighbor and we begin to
love him in the same way God loves usunselfishly.
Only through the pain of drynesswhere
we decrease and He increasescan
we begin to love God in the way He wishes us to love. When we pray we are
doing so on our will power for our poor human nature receives no
compensation for its efforts.
Faith tells us that God is present when we pray and Hope tells us He
listens, but only Love makes us continue to pray when darkness, boredom
and even disgust fill our souls to overflowing. Only a true love will
persevere in praying despite darkness and confusion.
Must God try us so? Yes, because He wants us to love as He loves and be
holy as He is holy. Through His Grace, His Presence and His Love in our
souls He cries out for us to love Him as He is and to be so attuned to His
Spirit that the mere whisper of His Voice enkindles our hearts with love.
This is difficult for our human nature to understand. Human love is
associated with feelings, such as the feeling of benevolence, the feeling
of confidence, the feeling of filial or paternal love, the love born of
friendship and the love that makes a man and woman desire to live together
in a State of Marriage. All these kinds of love are connected in various
ways to feelings and so it is natural for us to think that our love for
God should be on the same level.
This conviction is strengthened by the fact that when we first found
the Lord we experienced a tremendous emotional uplift. Our hearts sang the
praises of God with great enthusiasm. We bore pain with joy, and if
misfortune overtook us we accepted it with a flare of detachment that was
never experienced before.
When God began to prune that which was so good in the beginning, it was
natural to think consolations would continue. We expected to work hard and
give up muchbut
the fire of His Love, so sweet to our taste, would never leave us.
The knowledge that His Presence never leaves us adds to the cross of
dryness because we think that Presence must be felt. We are slow to
understand that God wants us to have both a yearning and an assurance of
His Presencebut in Faith. His Presence dwelling in our hearts increases
our capacity for love. His Grace, ever gratuitous and independent of our
good actions, increases our degree of love and permits us to return love
for love. His love in usas
we are emptied of selfbecomes
our love for Him. We begin to love Him with the love of the Spirit ever
dwelling in our hearts.
Through the purification of dryness of heart, the Holy Spirit becomes
the greatest love in our souls. We begin to love God with our Will. We
choose to love Him, to spend some time with Him, to prefer Him to
ourselves. It is a hard lesson to learn but God slowly guides our poor
hearts towards Himself and frees us of all the attachments that keep us
from giving ourselves to Him totally.
Dryness takes away the wrong kind of love in our hearts and leaves the
heart empty and ready for a Divine influx of Gracea
greater participation in the Divine Naturea
purer, unadulterated lovea
love that is God Himself.
Like all operations, this is extremely painful because it strikes at
the very source of "feelings," consolations, and the sense of well-being
that we call happiness. It cuts deep into our selfish love and ruthlessly
carves it out. It is when we gaze up to the Father in anguish of heart,
lonely and empty, that the Spirit of Love accepts the ashes of our human
love and begins His work of transformation. It is time for Jesus to bear
fruit in our souls.
DRYNESS LEADS TO DETACHMENT
Perhaps one of the first fruits the Spirit bears in our souls through
the purification of dryness is detachment.
The people and things we are attached to are the things we love
selfishly. We find comfort and consolation in them, and in proportion as
our souls cling to these feelings, in that proportion we are attached.
Attachments to spiritual experiences lead to spiritual gluttony. We
seek consolations, become disconsolate without them, jealous of those who
possess them, and are never satisfied with God's plan in our lives. We
demand from God or bring upon ourselves consolations, the fruit of which
is a repugnance for suffering in any form. We run from the pruning hand of
the Father, and in so doing deprive our souls of the consolations at the
heights of prayer. We are not willing to give up the sweetness of being
aware of the Presence of God for the growth of Faith in our lives.
This unwanted and unappreciated dryness of soul brings about the virtue
we do not have the courage to exercisedetachment.
It has the power to strip us of the things we desire and covet most of allfeelings.
By the stripping down of feelings, dryness leaves our souls open to
objective thinking, clear thinking, and an unselfish concern for others.
If we are patient with our dryness, we will see clearly how it
separates our personal feelings from prayer and various incidents of daily
life. The constant demand made upon us during prayer habituates us to
If we are strong enough to love and commune with God, without feelings,
we shall do the same with our neighbor. We shall love that neighbor with a
detached love. This means we make loving more important than being loved
The soul realizes that in this short journey of life, it has the
opportunity to manifest its love for Jesus by comforting Him, being
zealous for His Glory rather than its own, and growing in that God-like
love whose seed was planted in the soul at Baptism.
This is the time to console Jesus by a perfect union of our will with
loving acceptance of the work of His Spirit in our souls.
There are so many things in life to which we become attached. We are
encouraged by the world to possess as many things as possible. The concept
of poverty of spirit is foreign and unacceptable to the world and it is
abhorrent to the demons.
It is necessary then for God to place us in a position of detachmenta
kind of involuntary renunciationthat
will prune our souls and lead them to freedom. We are slow to detach
ourselves and when we manage some kind of voluntary detachment, we begin
by doing without the things we care for the least. Those things dear to
our hearts we rationalize into keeping or we leave them till last.
The Spirit of God assists us in this painful mortification by giving us
a dryness of soul that does not find pleasure or comfort in anything. Even
nature, beautiful and majestic as it comes from the Power of God, leaves
us cold and unimpressed.
The love of friends only makes us realize how much we miss His
Presence. The thought of past spiritual experiences, when we were aware of
His Love and Goodness, only creates a greater void that nothing can fill.
The more we reach out to creatures to fill the void in our hearts, the
deeper that void becomes. Like the Bride in the Song of Songs, we cry out
to everyone, "Have you seen Him whom my heart loves?" (Songs 3:3) What a
blessing that God's pruning does not permit us to find comfort in anyone
or anything. Surely, we would cling to the least comfort and be willing to
forego our climb up the Mountain of Holiness if we could find solace in
We are so caught up in our own miseries that our soul becomes very much
aware of itself. Like bodily pain, when the mind focuses itself almost
entirely on one small part of the body, the soul becomes painfully aware
of its finiteness and its total inability to accomplish any good work on
its own. Now it is that it becomes detached from the desire for
consolation. The sight of its limitations forces the soul to depend
entirely upon God and His Grace to bear fruit. It has begun to realize
that without Him it "can do nothing." (Jn. 15:5)
It is important at this stage for the soul to possess a healthy
self-love. If it does not, the consciousness of its imperfections,
weaknesses and frailties, plus the dryness, will bring the soul to near
despair. By "healthy" self-love is meant a realization of the soul's value
and uniqueness before God. So much is the individual soul loved by the
Father, that He gave His only Son for its salvation and eternal happiness.
It must understand and make a distinction then between who it is and what
The weaknesses it is guilty of can be changed and transformed by the
love of Jesus and the grace of His Spirit. The realization of the dignity
of the soul after Baptism must never be smothered under the frailties of
its nature. The individual is a child of God, an heir to the Kingdom, and
the thought of God's Infinite Mercy in its regard must ever keep the soul
elevated above itself.
If we cannot love ourselves as a masterpiece of God's Power and at the
same time hate the sins we commit, we shall be unable to relate to our
neighbor in love. When we find sin we shall hate the sinner and fail to
make the distinction between our neighbor and his weaknesses. It will be
difficult to love that neighbor in the way God loves Him because that
neighbor must be near perfect before he is the recipient of our love. The
Commandment will be merely an ideal that is not realistic in modern day
When we are detached from ourselves we suddenly find that loving our
neighbor is easy. We no longer make distinctions between those we "like"
and those we "love." The selfish motives that attracted us to some and
repelled us from others, have been swallowed up in the chasm of our own
nothingness. Jesus has filled the void created and sustained by dryness.
His Love in our hearts reaches out to love everyone, while it sees
material possessions as passing trinkets in time.
DRYNESS LEADS TO HUMILITY
One of the most painful lessons that Dryness teaches us is the spirit
of Humility. Our total helplessness in the face of our inability to pray
can almost annihilate our pride. We may rebel against this feeling of
inadequacy, but if we accept it we can make a giant stride towards a
spirit of Humility.
The humility that is the fruit of dryness is not self-imposed, so the
soul is guarded against a false humility which says it can do nothing of
itself but does not really believe it. Neither is this humility the fruit
of persecution or misunderstanding. It is, therefore, a safeguard against
the resentment that often accompanies the clashes of personality traits in
our relationship with others.
It is a crushing blow to our pride to realize we must wait upon the
Lord to pray well or to pray at all. We often read and reread Jesus'
statement that without Him we can do nothing but this hardly reaches an
experimental stage in our lives. When we kneel before Him, helpless, dry,
and in a state of confusion, we begin to "feel" our finite condition. A
reality of life becomes an experience for usit
becomes a startling fact that without Him we can do nothingnot
It is good to have an intellectual awareness of our dependence upon Godto
understand how great He is and how very small we are in His sight. But
when our very bones feel the crushing weight of His Holiness upon us and
we are conscious of our sinner condition, then we pass from knowing about
God to knowing God, for the former is knowledge and the latter,
Though the essence of dryness is a lack of feeling, the consciousness
of one's unworthiness, with all the weaknesses of human nature strong and
operative, is very much a "feeling" but one not to our liking. We try to
run away from the feeling of our nothingness that overwhelms us but we
cannot. It is one of the many phenomena of the spiritual life that "no
feeling" produces a "feeling." The soul's awareness of its wretched
condition can do more to its pride in five minutes than a thousand
humiliations in a lifetime.
Not only does the soul possess a new sense of its dependence upon God
but its self-knowledge is increased to an alarming degree. Every fault is
magnified and the soul sees weaknesses within it that never before came to
This self-knowledge is the very root of Humility and when the soul sees
itself as it really is and then gazes at the Infinite God who loves it,
the reality of the vast difference between them engenders Humility,
provided that this knowledge is accepted with a deep sense of gratitude.
This gratitude is not only for the light given but for the gratuitous
love bestowed upon the lowly soul by the Infinite God. The reality of
God's personal love for a poor weak human being sends the soul into
transports of joy, even though the feeling of dryness fills the soul with
consternation and its weaknesses overwhelm it. In its very depths, there
begins a quiet acceptance of itself and of God, and a determined effort
evolves that drives the soul on to a deeper love in a spirit of sacrifice.
The soul slowly understands what humility of heart means. It does not
feel crushed or broken but it is overwhelmed by a "sense" of its sinner
condition, of its capacity for evil, and the thin thread that separates it
from God whose "power is at its best in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9)
It is no longer discouraged by its tendencies towards sin; it is more
surprised at what it does not do, and implores the grace of God to ever
stay in His favor. Its striving for perfection becomes more interior, and
with the effort to overcome exterior faults it tries to improve its
motives. It strives to be gentle not only in action but in heart.
There comes to the soul a realization that but for the grace of God it
is capable of any sin. It therefore is more humble in its attitude towards
the weak and more gentle if and when correction is necessary.
The inner conviction of the soul's capacity for evil, though it ever
strives for holiness, prevents that arrogance that finds fault with
others. Only the soul that "feels" it is nothing but keeps its eyes on
Jesus can begin the climb up the mountain of perfection. The soul at this
stage does not expect much of itself since its self-knowledge has been
increased. It does expect much from God, however, because it realizes the
real source of its power. And so the soul learns to harmonize
self-knowledge that expects little good from itself, and Hope in God from
Whom it expects everything.
Dryness again becomes the pivot point for a balance of opposite
repentance and great love, fear of the Lord and confidence, distrust of
one's own strength and hope in His power, fear of one's own weaknesses and
trust in His Grace.
Though failure, pain and suffering humble our minds, it is the power of
dryness that God uses to humble our hearts. Jesus warned us that it was
from men's hearts that evil arose, and so it is our hearts that God
purifies and humbles so that the seed of evil, sown by the enemy, may not
DRYNESS LEADS TO PATIENCE
One of the most difficult virtues for our human nature to acquire is
Patience is that ability to wait in peace.
There are few of us who possess Patience on a natural level, for our
modern day world has conditioned us to perform every duty in record time.
We purchase whatever food is instant, and whatever mode of travel is the
faster. Though we complain of boredom we are in a hurry to get anywhere we
are going, and then we rush when we arrive so we can return in the
shortest possible time.
We are "victims" of a hurried societypart
of a perpetual merry-go-round that is constantly in motion but never
leaves its place. Our feet run on an invisible treadmill that keeps us out
of breath while we rush from one activity to another.
Loud music and clashing sounds keep our nerves frayed and our emotions
at a high pitch. Like the voice of a circus barker crying "Hurry, Hurry,
Hurry," the world keeps us all in some kind of motion so we do not have
time to think, pray or otherwise get our wits together.
The Holy Spirit cannot work in this din and clamor. As Elias realized
the Spirit is like a gentle breeze, quietly inspiring, and speaking softly
in the silence of our hearts. Rushing, noise, uneasiness, lack of
self-control, and the constant move towards more and more action, drowns
His Voice and nullifies His inspirations.
Though we feel impelled to runrunrun,
the Spirit moves slowly and quietly and we end up further and further away
from our only source of peace and contentment. As we insist on moving
faster and faster, His pace seems slower and slower to our whirling minds.
Our souls become like a bucket with a little water in the bottom being
spun around at great speed. There is no opportunity to fill the bucket.
The effort to keep that small amount of water in its place necessitates a
faster and faster motion.
We have not lost God or religionwe
only possess such a small amount of both that in a hurried society of
survival of the fittest we cannot stop long enough to see what we possess.
Perhaps we are afraid that if we stop we will be forced to take inventory
and face the truthwe
possess very little living water.
When we begin to realize there is a vacuum in our livesa vacuum only
God can fillwe
find Jesus in a new way. We are aware of our tremendous need of Him in our
daily lives. The joy of finding Him is accompanied by a desire for
holiness. It is in this desire for holiness that we carry some of our
worldly concepts and demands for "instant" results.
We are so accustomed to the rush of modern-day living and so inebriated
with the desire for holiness that there seems to be some reason for our
becoming holy instantly. The world is in great need and much of our lives
have been wasted in dissipation, so the logical conclusion is that our
holiness must be not only different from the past but also be accomplished
in the fastest possible way.
We can repent in a split second but the changing of our lives and the
conquering of human frailties is the job of a lifetime. This is where
Patience matures into peaceful serenity.
It is the work of Dryness to bring about these spiritual wonders.
Dryness teaches the soul to wait on the Lord and to learn that if it waits
with impatience, the Dryness becomes unbearable.
Inner Patience is necessary to persevere in our quest for humility of
heart. If we cannot possess our soul in patience we shall find it
difficult to endure the time it takes to change, empty ourselves, become
generous and detached.
Without Patience, holiness will take on impossible dimensions and, like
the seed sown on a layer of thin soil, our desires will sprout but never
grow and take root. It is necessary then that we appreciate the beauty of
God's pruning in our spiritual lives. We must wait and grow during our
time of Drynessgrow
in Patience so we may bear another necessary fruitPerseverance.
DRYNESS HELPS US TO PERSEVERE
In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells us that we "will be
hated by all men on account of His Name." He then adds a statement that
makes it clear we must persevere in our seeking of God. Isolated acts of
goodness are not enough to become holy. He said, "The man who stands firm
to the end will be saved." (Matt. 10:21; Mark 13:13)
The words "to the end" and "will be" indicate a future event. Now all
men are saved by the Precious Blood of Jesus but all men do not accept the
call to be a son of God. There are those who reject God totally at the
hour of death and refuse God's forgiveness. This is the sin Jesus
mentioned would not be forgiven.
No sin is greater than God's Mercy, and God extends that ,Mercy to
everyone up to his last breath. It is the soul then who rejects God: God
never rejects the soul.
Man does not reach that state of total rejection overnight or by the
act of one sin. Rejection of God is something gradual and is made up of
little acts of lukewarmness, selfishness, nurtured resentments, cherished
hatreds and egotistical pridethe
kind of pride that never admits a weakness, never acknowledges a fault,
and is never sorry for past sins. A constant diet of these little and big
faults leads the soul further and further from a dependence upon God as
the Giver of all good things.
To continue rejecting these tendencies we need the virtue of
Perseverance. We need that strong determination that makes us forge ahead
no matter what obstacles and failures we face.
Dryness of soul makes us strong in Perseverance because we must
exercise this virtue if we are to continue in our prayer life.
Perseverance places our love, virtues, and good deeds on a "will" level as
opposed to the emotional level on which we usually live.
Most of us become lax in our resolutions because we do not feel the
enthusiasm of a newborn Christianone
who has just received the Good News. But unless the Gospel message always
remains fresh, good and new to our souls, our Perseverance will be
short-lived, our conversion insincere, and our resolutions weak.
We know that it is difficult to continue on a course of action that is
not approved of by the world, or to live by an invisible reality that is
opposed to the greed and permissiveness of the world.
St. Paul realized how important it was to stand and persevere in our
good resolutions. Repeatedly he encourages the Christians to keep doing
good and praying much in spite of persecutions. They could not rest on the
fact that they had heard the Good News and accepted it.
He tried to give the Hebrews motives for persevering and said, "You and
I are not the sort of people who draw back and are lost by it (suffering);
we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved." (Heb. 10:39)
When Paul told the Romans to be careful and to remember their glorious
destiny, he reminded them that, "We must hope to be saved since we are not
is something we must wait for with patience." (Rom. 8:25)
But lest they become discouraged, he told them that the Spirit would
help them in their weakness. It was then that Paul gave a most beautiful
description of the value of Dryness in Prayer: "When we cannot choose
words in order to pray properly, the Spirit Himself expresses our plea in
a way that could never be put into words." (Rom. 8:26)
Paul realized by the past experience with men and the world and a deep
realization of his own weaknesses that man had to persevere in praying and
in doing good and had to do this to the very end of his life.
Paul assured us that if we keep praying no matter how difficult it is
or how dry we feel, "God who knows everything in our hearts knows
perfectly well what the Spirit means and the pleas of the saints expressed
by the Spirit are according to the mind of God." (Rom. 8:27)
Yes, if we persevere and remember with St. Peter that we must be "calm
and vigilant, because the enemy, the devil, is prowling round like a
roaring lion looking for someone to eat" (Pet. 5:8), and if we recall with
Paul that God turns everything to good for those who love Him, then we
shall stand firm to the end. (Rom. 8:28)
Dryness is a great aid towards the strengthening of our will,
determination and effort towards holiness of life. It is that purifying
instrument in the Hand of God that appears cold, dark and painful but in
reality is warm, bright and healing to our imperfect spirits.
DRYNESS PREPARES US FOR HIGHER DEGREES OF PRAYER
In the lives of the Saints we read of various degrees of prayer and in
each of them these types of prayer radiate in different ways. Some were
versed in contemplative prayer at the age of seven and others were
converted only at forty-seven. Some were so immersed in God that they were
raised to the third heaven like St. Paul. There were others, however, who
seemed never to have any extraordinary degree of prayer and yet the fruit
they bore manifested a deep interior life with God.
'God is glorified in all His Saints and their variety of spiritualities
gives God great glory and praise. He delights in using the weak and
sometimes the scum of the earth to show forth His Omnipotence.
His Infinite Mercy extends itself and manifests His Attributes in the
lives of His Saints. Each Saint showed forth some attribute of the Father,
or a facet of the life of Jesus, or the power of the Holy Spirit.
Though their varieties of Holiness were many, we find some common
denominators among them. They all loved much and to do this they emptied
themselves of themselves. They were all humble and they all sufferedmore
or less according to their mission and witness. And, most of all, they all
prayed often and fervently.
It is interesting to observe that all of them suffered from dryness and
desolation of spirit as they made progress in their prayer-life. It is
also noteworthy to see that this dryness was a kind of "lift" from one
degree of prayer to another. It was almost like going into a dark elevator
periodically to rise from one floor to another. As these holy men and
women were purified of all selfishness and loved God more and more for
Himself alone, they went through the dark tunnel of Dryness as a
preparation for new heights of prayer.
If we look at some of the various degrees of prayer in the light of the
First Commandment we find there are basically four: The Prayer of Strengththe
Prayer of the Heartthe
Prayer of the Mindand
the Prayer of the Soul.
Though the Holy Spirit breathes where He wills and follows no format,
it is none-the-less true that the majority of us seem to follow a
particular pattern. This is not so much the Lord's Will as our own lack of
cooperation with His Grace that sets us in a way that is often long and
tedious. Though it is humbling to realize we are not what we should be, it
is consoling to know that God takes our mistakes and vacillating wills and
turns them all to our good and His Glory.
PRAYER OF STRENGTH
The majority of people begin on this level of contact with God. In the
Prayer of Strength the sinner repents and accepts God's forgiveness. He
makes an effort towards relinquishing his weaknesses and spends his prayer
time petitioning God for the courage and strength to overcome his faults.
He becomes conscious of his need of God, and although he is not
convinced of his total need, he does have a conviction that in order to
avoid sin he must depend upon God.
On this level the soul seeks the protection of God and petitions Him
for His Providential care in every facet of his daily life. He is faithful
to morning and evening prayers, attends services on Sunday and is faithful
to the Commandments and the Precepts of the Church. He is a "good"
Christian, but somehow God is not a part of his total life. God is always
Creator and he, always creature. This man says that God is somewhere "up
there," and he lifts his head as he points to the sky.
The relationship between God and one in the Prayer of Strength is
servile rather than childlike. His reverence for the Majesty of God is
great, and though he often recites the "Our Father," the name "Father" is
not a real term but only a prayer to the Father of Jesus who is God and
This soul is on an "acquaintance" relationship with God and has not
realized his Divine sonship. The reality of being an adopted son is not
strong in the soul at this time. He is too busy with the business of
living and rendering fit homage to His Creator to even think of a
relationship that is more loving and personal.
The Father, who sees the sincerity of this soul, and desiring a deeper
relationship, begins to prune it as Jesus promised. He told us, "every
branch that bears fruit He prunes to make it bear more fruit." (Jn. 15:2)
It is now that Dryness begins its work. The Father creates within the
soul a vacuum. There is a void that gnaws at the soul day and night. The
soul seeks to satisfy itself by more work, pleasure, and friends, but the
vacuum only becomes greater, and the void a black hole that brings fear
It tries to pray and finds that all the vocal prayers which formerly
brought so much comfort leave it dry and without help. It becomes
desperate and reaches up to God for love and comfort. It is not interested
in asking for things; it is seeking God as a child in needas
one who has roamed the world for comfort and found noneas
one who realizes that only One Person can fill this voidand
that One is God.
The soul looks to the invisible reality as the only fulfillment of its
desires. Here again Dryness does its work well for God does not always
give the soul a prompt reply. Sometimes it seems the more the soul reaches
out for God, the further God goes away from the soul.
There is a kind of battle between the soul and God. Like Jacob
wrestling with the Angel, the soul pleads, petitions, and tenaciously
cries out for help. It is the soul's first actual encounter with the
All-Holy God although God's Holiness is still hidden. The soul, realizing
there is no happiness outside of God, desires to be possessed by this Holy
Lord, not because it deserves anything but because it has a great need.
This state of interior struggle may go on for days or years, but one
thing is surethe
soul begins to know its God better than ever before. It realizes that God
it first when it was a sinner.
Here is where man learns detachment and begins to give up all those
possessions that keep him from giving all to his Lord. He is not only
repentant for his sins, he stays away from those people and occasions that
lead him into sin. His discernment is greater and not only does he repent
of his sins, he desires to give up even those pleasures that make life
easier to live.
Then it is that God begins to manifest Himself in various ways. Peace
of mind and joy of heart enter the Temple of this Soul and many virtues
are exercised. The fruits of the Spirit, mentioned in Chapter 5 of
Galatians, begin to take root. This state may last for a short or long
time but Dryness has done its work and the soul enters the Prayer of the
PRAYER OF THE HEART
The period of Dryness has given the soul a sense of yearning for God.
It no longer uses Him as a Providerone
who satisfies all its needs. Now, the soul feels in both an emotional and
intellectual way the love of God. It is very aware of the need to love God
and to manifest that love by bearing the fruits of the Spirit.
The remembrance of past sins brings deep yearnings for greater love.
The love this soul now possesses is slowly being purified. Its attitude
becomes more positive and it seeks to tell others of its good fortune.
The soul is surprised to realize suddenly that God is so close and so
good. It is a real revelation to understand a truth one has always known
and believed but never experienced.
Everything takes on a new dimension. Nature is not only trees,
mountains, hills, insects and animals, it is a manifestation of the Power
of God, the Beauty of God, and the Goodness of God. There is in all of
God's creation a personal relationship with the soul. It is as if the
whole world were created just for itself.
People, too, take on a new look. They are more than fellow travelers,
they are brothers who share the same Father. There is an awareness of His
Spirit in each soul and the soul in the Prayer of the Heart reaches out to
his neighbor, not to be loved but to love.
Jesus is Someone very personal to those in this state of prayer. In the
Prayer of Strength, God was a name used for the Creator; Jesus' Redemption
was a past historical event; and the Spirit, who came at Pentecost, guided
the Church in a general wayand
that summed up the soul's concept of God.
is Father, Jesus is Saviour, and the Holy Spirit is Friend and Sanctifier.
Though the soul has much to learn about the Trinity, it now possesses a
new concept of Goda loving God, a personal God. The realization that God
is his Father and forgives him, Jesus is his Lord and loves him, and the
Spirit pours that very love into his heart to make him ,a son of God,
fills the soul with an exuberance never before experienced.
Joy is an experience, too, that makes the most humdrum day a day of
glory. Difficult tasks become easy and the soul is eager to share his Lord
with friend, foe, and neighbor.
God's love is a deep reality to the soul and this thought carries him
through many trials with a spirit of detachment. Though this stage gives
the soul a true feeling of love, there are times the feeling is gone, but
he is not experiencing dryness of soulhis
soul rests in peace, knowing that God's Love sustains him.
The Virtue of Hope begins to blossom and bear fruit, for the promises
of Jesus become personal and something to look forward to. The soul
possesses enough self-knowledge to keep it from presumption and enough
experience of the Mercy of God to keep it from despair.
The soul in this state begins to forget itself and has a sense of
mission. He is no longer a pebble on the beach, one of God's millions of
creatures; he is a son and destined for the Kingdom.
In this Prayer of the Heart the soul has a deeper knowledge of the
Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Evil. It becomes more aware of
temptation and dangerous occasions of sin. It also sees God's work in its
life, His Love and Providence guiding small events to a fruitful ending.
There is in his life an awareness of the invisible reality as something
real and to be lived in, as much as the visible world. Somehow, the two
worlds begin to harmonize.
The soul understands what Paul meant when he said, "Ever since God
created the world, His Everlasting Power and Deity, however invisible,
have been there for the mind to see in the things He has made." (Rom.
1:20) When the soul earnestly seeks God, as it does in this kind of
Prayer, it finds Him everywhere and responds with greater love. Everything
gives the soul a "lift" because all God's Creation becomes a personal gift
from God to the soul. Even the Redemption is personal, and with Paul the
soul cries out, "I live in faith; faith in the Son of God who loved me and
who sacrificed Himself for my sake." (Gal. 2:20)
There develops a very personal relationship between the soul and God.
The Gospel is "Good News" in a personal way, and reading the Word is a
delight. The soul begins to be fed with spiritual food, and the love in
its depths makes it desire more and more to give a return of love to its
There is an exchange of Love at this stage, with the soul seeking ways
to sacrifice itself for the sake of Love. Then, at a time the soul least
expects, Dryness covers it again like a mantle. A deep feeling of loss
pervades the soul, making it seek God in a new way, making it pray to God
in a higher formthe
Prayer of the Mind.
PRAYER OF THE MIND
As the soul makes more progress in its spiritual life, the Dryness that
is necessary to lift it to other degrees of Prayer becomes more painful.
This is true because the more we love someone, the deeper is our grief
when they are gone.
In the Prayer of the Heart the soul began to experience God's Presence,
but now God seems to the soul to be absent. The soul feels an agony unlike
anything it has ever experienced.
It tries to meditate and cannot, it does more exterior works and finds
more emptiness. It gives of its possessions, thinking that the less one
has of worldly things the more of God will it possess.
However, nothing it does gives the soul any comfort or consolation. It
is then, in the darkness of its inner self, the soul is free to see a
light it has never before seen.
In its previous stages of Prayer, the soul saw clearly that it must
stay away from sin and become more humble and detached, but most of this
spiritual activity was on the outside of the soul. The blinding light in
which it now lives shows the soul its inner self. It sees clearly that it
must not only stay away from sin, it must cleanse its Memory of all
resentments, regrets, guilt and weaknesses. It sees the importance of
controlling the faculty of Imagination in order to possess that "purity of
heart that will enable it to see God." The soul now practices Hope in a
higher degree for it must trust both its past and future to God's Mercy
Dryness shows the soul that its Faith is weak. Faith assures the soul
that God is always present and cannot absent Himself from it unless it
rejects Him. Even then, it is God who pursues the soul and leads it to
repentance. The soul is now led to live on a Faith level instead of an
emotional level as in times past.
It begins to seek God "in spirit and in truth." (Jn. 4:24) The humility
it began to acquire grows by leaps and bounds, for now the soul compares
itself to God and not to its neighbor. It no longer sees the splinter in
its neighbor's eye, only the beam in its own.
It reaches out to God in pure Faith and often calls to mind the
Presence of God within it and around it. Though there is little
consolation in this spiritual effort, the soul slowly becomes more and
more aware of the Divine Presence. This Presence is an all-embracing
awareness that becomes part of the soul's life. The soul is no longer
dependent upon the fleeting consolations that come and go. It becomes
strong in the truth of His Revelations through that faculty of
Understanding by which it reasons and decides.
The faculty of Understanding that previously caused the soul so much
doubt is being elevated above itself through the power of Dryness. It now
sees God through a Faith vision. It becomes more humble as it realizes its
vast limitations in the spiritual realm. It acquires a childlike
dependence upon Jesus for help, realizing more and more that Jesus alone
is the bridge that keeps the way open between the soul and its Father.
The faculty of the Will is strengthened at this stage in a great
degree. In order to keep close to God in this period of Dryness the soul
must exercise its Will Power and mortify its desire for consolations. It
rises above the human level which desires only satisfaction. The Will is
now turned towards doing what does not satisfy the soul; it is moved to go
against the world and its own emotions.
The soul's Will is strengthened by the fact that it continues to pray
without consolations and to be virtuous without a feeling of
accomplishment. It goes against everything that its own human nature
dictates, and, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, it determines to
accomplish the Will of God rather than its own.
When the soul first began to feel Dryness it accepted it as something
to endure, but now it begins to understand the pruning value of Dryness.
Dryness does something for the soul that it cannot do of itselfnamely,
love God with a pure love.
In this stage then, the soul grows in Hope by trusting, in Faith by
believing, and in Love by loving. The soul must press forward in its quest
for God and never tire of the hardships of the journey Home. It begins to
understand the ways of God and realizes, in a way it never realized
before, that the Wisdom of God is not the wisdom of man.
DRYNESS LEADS TO UNCEASING PRAYER
In the depths of the human soul is a yearning for God that will never
be satisfied in this life. It is because of this yearning that Jesus has
given us the command to "pray without ceasing." (Luke 18:1)
We yearn to be united to God, to live in His company, to speak to Him
as a friend speaks to a friend. We desire to think as He thinks and to
love as He loves. These desires and yearnings, constantly living side by
side with our weak sinful nature, create contradictions, dilemmas and
anxieties too complex for us to solve.
It is like holiness and corruption living together as an uneven team,
each pulling and tugging at our soul in order to sway it to their
We spend much time planning a course of action, not unlike those in
worldly pursuits. We sit down and devise various means to overcome
ourselves, categorize our virtues and faults, read the lives of the
Saints, and then determine upon a course of action and a way of life that
will transform us into images of Jesus.
All this is good and admirable, but we soon realize that a period of
Dryness shatters our plans and guides us on a course we would not choose
Looking at our virtues suddenly seems futile, for Dryness has taught us
that we can do nothing by ourselves. Our weaknesses seem multiplied, and
the lives of the Saints, so edifying in the past, make us realize that by
comparison, we are like ants looking at giants. Our best laid plans have
come to naught and we gaze at God with a clogged mind and an empty heart.
At this time, only one thing rises above everything else in our lives,
and that is a burning thirst for God. It is both sweet and bitter-sweet
because the very thought of God fills us with love, and bitter because the
more we love, the more we thirst, and the more we thirst the more empty we
feel. It is a sweet contradiction and a happy dilemma.
This state is sweet yet bitter, peaceful yet confused, happy yet sad,
restful yet yearning, tranquil yet painful. It is the state of a pilgrim
content with the difficult journey because he anticipates the end in view.
Without realizing it, we begin to pray without ceasing. Thirst for God
and emptiness of heart slowly condition the soul to seek God every moment.
This seeking puts the soul in a state of prayer that sets no time limits.
Because the Dryness within is constant, the effort to alleviate it must be
continuous, and it is this persevering effort that prepares the soul for
Detachment, humility, a thirst for God, and great determination give
the soul that thrust forward so necessary to arrive at a state of prayer
that is constant rather than intermittent.
We must realize that only one thing is necessarya
companionship with God that is reverent, filled, deep, and burning with
love that is enhanced every moment by the nearness of His Presence, His
action in our lives, His Mercy in our souls, His tenderness in our
sorrows, His strength in our pain.
Dryness dispels the cobwebs covering our minds and the superfluities
that keep us entangled in a maze of nothingness. We are free to roam the
limitless realms of His Love, which are ever there to be grasped in a new
This seeking, grasping, possessing, and then seemingly losing His
Presence, keeps us striving towards Him in a peaceful attitude of Prayer.
It is here that we realize the necessity and the possibility of continuous
In all the other stages that Dryness thrust us into, we learned forms
of Prayer. We called out to God for Mercy, meditated on His Life, gazed at
Him in an act of silent love, and said many short prayers that were darts
of love to remind Him of our desire to be all His.
These many kinds of prayer become a habit and, coupled with the freedom
that Dryness brings to our souls, we find ourselves able to use one and
then another with great freedom. We are suddenly detached from forms of
in His Spiritfree
to use wordy or wordless prayers, ready to silently gaze or joyously
proclaim our love for Him, ready for consolation or desolation, ready for
sickness or health, ready to see Jesus in our neighbor unhampered by his
faults, ready to do His Will and prefer Him to all things.
We finally realize that saying prayers is only a meansa
continuous prayer. Prayer in itself is a constant companionship with God
as Father, Saviour, and Lordan
uninterrupted awareness of His Presenceconsciously
when we think or speak of Him, and unconsciously when we do everything for
love of Him.
Unceasing Prayer is to love God so much that when we are not speaking
to Him we speak of Him, and when we can do neither, our heart rests in an
awareness of His Presence, doing whatever we do for Him.
Jesus told us that not all those who say "Lord, Lord" will enter the
Kingdom. We begin to understand what this means for we realize now that we
are praying when we love Him, but we do not necessarily love Him when we
are saying prayers.
The intensity of our life of continuous prayer will vary as our Love is
deep, our Hope is sure, and our Faith is living. It takes Faith to see
Jesus in order to speak to Him; it takes Hope to speak to others of Him;
and it takes great Love to desire nothing but Him.
The one thing necessary has become the prayer without ceasing. The soul
has shed its complexities and wrapped itself in the simple cloak of Unity
with the Trinity in love and peace. It is truly free.
IN PRAISE OF DRYNESS
makes us seek God for Himself.
detaches us from selfishness and selfish desires.
makes us aware of our limitations. strengthens our Faith, Hope and
empties our Memories of self-indulgence.
empties our Understanding of doubts and our Will of lukewarmness.
purifies our soul so we can reach for God.
creates a vacuum that only God can fill.
exercises us in patience, humility, and compassion.
gives us a deep understanding of the difference between God and
is the transition period between various degrees of Prayer.
makes us more aware of the beam in our own eye than the splinter in
gives us a yearning for God and a renewed Hope in His Kingdom.
increases our thirst for God.
empties our soul so the Spirit has freedom to direct us.
increases our resolutions to do God's Will rather than our own.
increases our desire for holiness.
helps us to practice the Beatitudes.
gives us an appreciation of suffering.
makes us see the loving Hand of a loving Father guiding our every
leads us to pray without ceasing.
This is not all Dryness of Soul accomplishes for us as we rise, fall
and stumble towards living a holy life. Neither are the degrees of prayer
mentioned here the only degrees to which Dryness leads. What is written
here is written for the purpose of lighting up our path on the dark road
which empties us of ourselves.
Our journey Home will be less tedious and more filled with joy when we
catch a faint glimpse of the beauty, purpose and power of Dryness, and how
in the Father's Hand this rough tool carves a most beautiful image of
Jesus in our souls.
Dryness leads us gently from vocal prayer, where we learn to speak to
God; to Meditation, where we think of God; to Contemplation, where our
heart merely gazes upon. Him with a love too deep for words.
Our minds gradually begin to think like Jesus and be ever at peace in
the midst of pain and turmoil. Our souls reach a serenity that is close to
that perfect peace of the Blessed, for our Will and His become joined as
The mystery of pain is solved because our one desire is to imitate
Jesus in every facet of His Suffering Life.
The ability to love our neighbor, previously so difficult, now
overflows from that burning love of God in our hearts. We begin to
experience in the depths of our being a change so sublime and hidden that
we know for certain "nothing will ever separate us from the love of
Christ." (Rom. 8:35)
Our thoughts are in Heaven, though our serviceunselfish
to all men. There is instant forgiveness in our hearts and gentle speech
on our lips.
Compassion for sinners is fed by a deep awareness of our own weaknesses
and the humility which is truth.
God's Grace gives us all of these qualities because He is Good. Along
with other trials and sufferings, the tool of Dryness in the Hands of this
Master Craftsman, chisels away those inner failings too hidden for us to
Let us go forward, therefore, with great Trust, knowing that when
Dryness comes upon us and our hearts yearn for God as our only joy, He is
truly Present. Indeed, He is so close that the brightness of His Light
darkens our soul as the fire of His Love possesses our being.
"Pray constantly: and for all things give thanks to God, because this
is what God expects of you." (1 Th. 5:18)
"You have shown your Faith in action, worked for Love and persevered
through Hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Th. 1:3)
"Be persevering in your prayers and be thankful as you stay awake to
pray." (Col. 4:2)
"Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying." (Rom. 12:12)
"The heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully." (James
"Pray not to be put to the test." (Luke 22:40)
"Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm
and sober mind." (1 Pet. 4:7)
"Pray for those who persecute you." (Mat. 5:44)
"When you pray, go to your private room and when you have shut your
door, pray to your Father in secret." (Mat. 6:6)
"Then He told them a parable about the need to pray continually and
never lose heart." (Luke 18:1)
The author prays that all those who read this booklet will have a
deeper awareness of the Father's Mercy, the Son's Love and the Spirit's
Printed with the ecclesiastical approval of
JOSEPH G. VATH, D.D.
Bishop of Birmingham
©1976 Eternal Word Television Network, Inc.
Scripture Quotations taken from Jerusalem Bible unless otherwise