“God’s call is mysterious; it comes in the darkness of faith. It is so fine, so subtle, that it is only with the deepest silence within us that we can hear it…
This call is uninterrupted: God is always calling us! But there are distinctive moments in this call of his, moments which leave a permanent mark on us—moments we never forget…
Prayer had become the most important thing. But it was still the hardest part of my daily life. Through my vocation to prayer I learned what is meant by ‘carrying other people’ in our prayer.
So after many years I can say that I have remained true to my vocation, and at the same time I am completely convinced that one never wastes time by praying; there is no more helpful way of helping those we love.”
–Carlo Carretto, Letters from the Desert
In The Shattering of Loneliness: On Christian Remembrance (2018), Norwegian bishop and monk Erik Varden mentions a memoir called The Woman Who Could Not Die. The author, Julia de Beausobre, was a survivor of the Stalinist labor camps.
I checked the book out of the LA Public Library years ago: buying a copy may be a bit pricey but well worth it. (Beausobre also wrote a biography of Russian hermit St. Serafim of Sarov called Flame in the Snow).
“While de Beausobre was engulfed in Stalin’s terror,” Varden writes, “she encountered an old nun who assured her she must one day leave Russia and convey a message to ‘our brethren beyond the border.’ She must make it clear to them, the nun said,
‘that they should keep burning on the altars of their hearts the flame that is tortured out of ours. If only some of them keep it burning, we will find it in our prayers, in our sleep and in our flight away from our tormented bodies. It will shine to us as a glowing beacon of light in the numbing darkness, and we shall be comforted and Christ shall rejoice.’”
As Carretto says, prayer is often the hardest part of our daily life. Aarrrgggh. I have things to do, I’m obsessing about something, I want to distract myself and dull the pain with books, movies, or news.
Or I’m just hollowed out and exhausted. This is where a routine and ritual come in: going through the motions is way, way better than not praying at all. And prayer, as we know, has next to nothing to do with how we feel about prayer or during prayer or after prayer.
Ireland is growing on me, but Co Galway has had about four hours of sunlight total in the last few weeks. Mary M., a local villager who is 93, told me the other day, “The weather hasn’t been this bad in July in a long, long, long, LONG time!” Naturally, I laughed heartily.
Overcast skies, wind, and rain have their own charm and even allure. I am tramping about exploring the bog roads, lanes, and downtown in my escapee-from-German-asylum garb, praying for the poor souls in Purgatory. and I hope affording the locals a huge dose of comic relief.
We do what we can.