Chapter 11 – The Dance of Suffering, “The Dark Night of Enlightenment”

Journey to Christendom
To order Journey to Christendom – The Freedom Dance, visit the book page on my author’s site at JoanandTherese.us.

The Dance of Freedom had
Crossed
The Bridge of Reason
But I was not prepared for
What came next

In fact, I am not sure how to
Tell it
My new saintly sister and my
Friends
Led me to the valley of necessity

The Valley of Tears
How can I begin?
Except to tell you I have
Never seen such courage

The clouds grew dark
And began to cover the
Sunlight
A storm was coming – and not
Just any storm

The wind began to pick up
It was becoming harder to dance
Though I pretended to
Smile, I was afraid

The sun began to set
And a terrific and awful
Feeling overpowered me
I felt as if the sun would not
Rise again…

My saintly sister Thérèse was peaceful
But somber
She looked at me not with
Dancing eyes

But with suffering eyes
Not sad eyes
But powerful, courageous
Suffering eyes

I shook, for this was my
Journey as well
I braced myself for the
Challenge
The challenge of courage

And nobility
And honor
And virtue

Attributes, characteristics
I had never known before in a
Life of self-indulgence
This would be like dying, in
Fact this was dying

Thérèse and her friends spoke
With me as we
Prepared to descend
Because if I were to find my
Purpose

If I were to meet my destiny
The Valley was the path
In fact, it was the Apostolic
Path of the Dogmatic Creed

It was, she explained
Uniquely the path of the
Fathers, the Apostolic Fathers
For others who wished to
Reach our destination

Tried other paths
Paths that avoid the valley
Paths that only seek
Pleasure – and many fell lost

It would be absolutely critical, she
Added
To stay on the path of the Creed
For only orthodoxy and the
Dogmatic path would be visible in
The storm

And so
Down we went
To the Valley of Darkness

Thérèse and her friends held
Their cloaks
Tight
As the gale force winds began
To hit all around us

They told me, to give me courage
That on the other side of the
Valley
Were the King, the Queen and my
Destiny

As I began to stumble and
Fall
For the earth shook
They held me up

Thérèse yelled through the blasting
Rain
“Your strength and your power, that of
Yourself are not your safety!”
“Your safety is Fidelity, Faithfulness
To the path – stay on it!”

I could see nothing but the
Path
The Dogmatic Path of the
Creed was all
Around it was darkness

I crawled and cut myself
I was bleeding
And cold, feeling near
Death

As the storm raged
Thérèse explained to me
The nature of the malady
The reason for the Valley

“In your dark forest” she began
“You blasphemed the very
Science and Reason
That you sought to worship”

“For by stretching the material beyond it’s
Noble place” she came down to me
“You attempted to make it a first
Philosophy
You defined all from that start
And in the dark forest you fell!”

“And in that dark forest” softly
Spoke Thérèse
“Of misguided first-philosophies
Your evolution became involution
Enlightenment became darkness!”

“Now” Thérèse stared through me
“You must be
Created in the True First
Philosophy”
I felt my eyes close, in sleep or in
Death, I could not be sure

I woke suddenly
The sun was shining, I was alive!
My clothes were new, my body
And spirit filled with enormous
Strength

My saintly sister Thérèse and
My friends
Were there smiling again
They beckoned me to hurry, to
Stop dragging my feet

But I needed to turn and stare
At the dark valley behind me
The young warrior woman
Appeared again and with
Thérèse stood next to me

“That path had been closed to all”
Said the warrior, The Maid of Orleans
“Until the One, the Logos, the
Reason, Love itself
Opened it for all by suffering through
It, now we are free”

I turned toward the light
Distant, I saw a beautiful place, a
Palace on our path hence
I ran after my friends again, being
Newly made, and heading to my
Destiny next…

JandT mont st Michel 2

The juncture on the Freedom Dance that I will describe to you in this chapter best explains the value of following Catholic Dogma. The limitations of human reason became apparent when my saintly friends took me further along the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed to the Valley of Suffering, the Dark Valley. Here, let all voices fall silent before the almighty suffering God on the Cross. Here is true Christianity; it is dying on the Cross to be resurrected to new life.

Human reason cannot interpret sufficiently on its own a suffering God who redeemed his created children through his own willingness to die for them. The finest intellect in human history could not figure this out through pure logic and scientific discovery. The Church calls this revelation. God reveals to us that which he wants us to know but which we are incapable of understanding on our own. Revelation is reasonable even though that may not be apparent; it is simply bigger than the capacity of our human intellect. It is “super-logical” because it is “super-natural.” This is why it was so critical for my friends to lead me first over the Bridge of Reason, to understand the correct first-philosophy of “In the beginning was the Word.” Crossing the Bridge of Reason transformed me intellectually in the first philosophy of The Word. The Dark Valley following transformed me experientially through the revelation and mystery of suffering.

No matter how far the modern mind advances in science, we will never comprehend the mystery of suffering. It is beyond science, but it is completely reasonable; suffering leads one into this truth, just as the journey over the Bridge of Reason anticipated.  Only Christ could open the path through the Dark Valley, and there is no other way to paradise. All the saints followed this path, just read their stories. All paths that deny the true Cross of suffering and death as the only way to our resurrected end are lies leading you to the second death, the one that never ends. Only through the first philosophy of The Word do we realize our true destiny. The first philosophy of Nothing leads one over a precipice in that Dark Valley.

My understanding of this truth is trivial in size and scope when compared to my sister Thérèse, for I simply do not have her size of soul, not even close. Still, I will tell you how my saintly sister helped me through this. Though I cannot comprehend this great and essential mystery with her spiritual acumen, I will tell you the most important thing that I do know. We must imitate the saints, seek their friendship, and draw on their treasury of merits, as the Church wishes that we do, while remaining in the knowledge that we are still sinners who have not yet arrived “to our destination” as Thérèse explains on the path. By imitating the saints and seeking their friendship in Christ, we gain through their treasury of merits the freedom and power expressed by St. Paul who said:

“Wherefore, so that I should not get above myself, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to batter me and prevent me from getting above myself. About this, I have three times pleaded with the Lord that it might leave me, but he answered me, ‘My grace is enough for you; for power is at full stretch in weakness.’ It is, then, about my weaknesses that I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me; and that is why I am glad of weaknesses, insults, constraints, persecutions and distress for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10)

Christ with Mary Magdalene

Loving Christ and his family in the Father’s Kingdom; sacrificing unto even our death out of that love; living in helpless but freeing abandonment before our God, these are the transforming outcomes of the storms and suffering of the Dark Valley. These not only transform us but also bring the grace of God into the world to transform it. Christ saves the world through sacrificial, redemptive suffering. With obedient and sacrificial love, Joan of Arc crippled the Hundred Years War through the power of Christ. It is the path to eternal glory; it is the path to God as demonstrated in the life of Christ. Is not this what Christ revealed to us in his life, passion, death, and resurrection, that is, love of humanity including his very enemies, sacrificial death on the Cross, and abandonment to the Father through it all? Did he not redeem the entire world, past, present, and future, through those actions?

This is the answer that God gave humanity in the short geological timeframe of thirty-three years. The crucified and resurrected Christ is the only path to freedom and eternal life. This is his message, the message of the Apostles, and the message of the Church for the past two thousand years. The result was that the world crucified Christ, martyred the Apostles, and hated the Church through the ages.

The saints taught me through their friendship that suffering is the key mystery that leads us to Christ. We must not only accept suffering, we should desire it for love of Christ. St. Thérèse did not attain earthly wealth as the result of her suffering; she ended up dying. Yet, she offered it all in union with the suffering Jesus so that others might live. For me, the recipient of such love, it is the redemptive work of Christ, as he is the only mediator and pure sacrifice before the Father. Yet, he welcomed the selfless outpouring of love that this young woman offered in union with him. Christ seeks that union and the sacrificial outpouring of love from every soul on earth. It is a mystery too great for me. The eyes of my reason cannot penetrate it. Only by accepting the leadership of my saintly friends on the path of the Dogmatic Creed can I walk through this mysterious valley.

This begins with our willingness to seek the suffering Christ, even if we find it difficult to do so. We can begin this part of the journey by spending our time with him in Eucharistic adoration, by doing sacrifices and penances out of love for him, his mother, and his Kingdom of loving souls. This is not the “self-affirming” or “feel good” part of the journey, but it is the necessary path to paradise, and there is no other. The Cross is the one true objective reality here. Every other path merely leads to dead ends or dangerous precipices.

Our Lady of the Sign

Christ deserves our love, more than any person who has walked the face of the earth. It is our free choice to love him or not. What is the perfect love for another? Is it not to give your very heart to that person? Is it not to desire to lose everything you have to shower gifts on that person? Is it not to desire union with that person? How can we love our almighty Lord and God in his humanity and not desire to fall to the ground with him, to cry out to him as he hangs dying on the cross as the result of our very own sins. We will discover our eternal purpose only while on our knees with this dying God and his mother.

Once you have a real encounter with Christ, your love will no longer allow you to step over his dying body to attend mindlessly to worldly affairs. You can image now why a Christian would be offended at the blasphemies hurled at Christ each day in the media, movies, and television. We take it personally because it is about a person.

Desiring to suffer with Christ. That is the mystery of love. Love is sacrifice for the one you love.

I will tell you this one story.

In July of 2006, my wife decided to attend a silent healing retreat given by a Vincentian Priest from India who had a real gift from God for healing – spiritually, mentally, and physically- in Christ’s name. The retreat center was not far from our home, approximately one hour away by car. I dropped her off wishing her a good time, but I did not intend to make a six day, silent retreat myself. I was just not in the mood. Over the years, I took medications due to chronic physical and mental pain. This was a great suffering for my family as well as for myself.

On about the third day of the retreat, she called to tell me that the priest wanted me to go to a retreat myself the following week. He felt it was important that I attend the full six days. I did not refuse her on the phone, as I did not want to upset the spirit of her retreat, but I was not going to do that. I simply said that we would discuss it when I picked her up that Saturday for the closing public Mass.

On the final day I went with our son to pick up my wife and attend the closing Mass. I prepared my excuses the entire trip over. I knew everyone would be “worked up,” and I wanted to be prepared to stand firm in my obstinacy. I always fancied myself as a thinker and one who prefers cool reason to unstable and irrational emotions. I did not like the idea of getting “emotional” at a retreat; I figured you would probably even have to sing. What I did not anticipate is that I was about to get a real heavy dose of the unexpected.

Jeanne d'Arc 1908, Bussiere

Soon after we arrived at the retreat center, I felt a tug on my heart to say a prayer. The prayer went something like this: “Dear Lord, if you wish for me to go to a retreat, give me a sign, something that will tell me you really want me to go. If there is any room for doubt, I will not be attending. I need to know for sure.” I got my sign; it was so big you almost could not see it. There could be no bigger sign than the instant conversion of my heart. The priest spoke just a few sentences, held up a crucifix, and I thought, “The Holy Spirit is with this man! I must go and let the Holy Spirit heal me!”

My newfound enthusiasm was great news to my wife and the new friends she made during the retreat, but there remained a couple of rather large obstacles. The first obstacle was that I had to work the next week. In the professional world, one does not call up on a Saturday evening to announce that he is taking a vacation the next week. The second obstacle was that the retreat began the next day in the Pocono Mountains, which are about a thirteen-hour car drive from our home. With all of this facing me, I pleaded with my wife that I could not go.

After arriving back home and all evening long, I prayed about it and discussed the situation with my wife. Even the next morning, Sunday morning, I went to Mass at our local parish thinking that the retreat was out of the question. However, Our Lady does not give up easily. Sitting at home after mass, I finally made my decision. I was going to go. We packed the car, and off I went alone for an all-night, thirteen-hour drive to find the retreat center in the Poconos.

The entire trip I drank coffee and prayed over and over to the Holy Mother of God, asking her to please send the Holy Spirit to heal me of the physical and mental anguish with which I lived for years and to help me live my life entirely devoted to her, without distraction or hindrance. I begged her, “You simply must give me the Holy Spirit!” I drove all night and arrived at the retreat center around 5:00 am Monday. The day I made my decision to go, that Sunday, and the day of my trip to freedom was July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of the Carmelite Order.

That evening, Monday, July 17, 2006, I went to the priest’s room to pray privately with him for healing in the name of Christ and under the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After we prayed, I left his room and walked immediately to the beautiful chapel in the retreat center. The chapel had a very large, beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary to the side of the altar where the Holy Eucharist rested in the tabernacle. I walked straight to the Virgin, and looked up at her statue. The moment I did, something happened. A strong presence in my heart said to me, not in audible words but in the language of the heart, “I am the channel of the Holy Spirit in your life. I have always been with you. You have always had the Holy Spirit.”

The next morning and into the next day, I was extremely lethargic. I barely had energy to walk to the room where the priest held his talks, much less to stroll outside at break. I felt as if my metabolism had stopped. I could barely move around, struggling to get to my room for a nap after lunch. Then it hit me. The medication I was taking slowed down my metabolism. Its purpose was to slow me down. However, now I almost came to a stop. The thought occurred to me, “What if I do not need this medication anymore and am now over-medicated?” I stopped taking my medication, began to recover rapidly within a day, and have not taken any medications of this sort since.

This effect was clearly associated with my visit to the Virgin’s statue after my prayers with the priest. My metabolism changed instantly. The Virgin brought about in an instant my complete healing from this agonizing pain after over twenty years of futility with scientific methods. I was, with my family, set free that night. The Holy Spirit freed me through the hands of the same Virgin who established me over two decades earlier on the rock that is her Son in the Catholic Church.

Alice Havers But Mary Kept All these things and pondered them in her heart

 

This healing was that to which the Great Event led me year after year, suffering step by suffering step through the Dark Valley. It was a momentous segment of my journey on the Freedom Dance. The Holy Spirit through Our Lady woke me from a dreadful death sleep. My saintly sisters Thérèse and Joan of Arc waited for me with the rest of my new friends. It was time to move on, no time to waste. My destiny was before me.

The world wants healing. The Christian wants resurrection. Why does God allow us to suffer? Why does God often times not heal us automatically when we pray to him? I think it is because the action must come at the exact moment, the moment of which only he is aware, that will not merely heal us but will resurrect us into new life. God could have healed me at any time. Only on July 17, 2006 was that action going to bring me the life I have now.

Think of the woman with the hemorrhage whom Jesus healed when she touched his cloak. (Luke 8: 40-48) She suffered for twelve years. Through her encounter with Jesus, he not only cured her but also saved her. Years before she might have had no interest in meeting Jesus. She would have missed her true destiny, her resurrection to new life by coming into the presence of Christ. Her salvation through Christ came only after twelve long years of suffering. Perhaps this story applies to me. Jesus brought me the reality and power of the Cross, just as the suffering woman’s life anticipated the same Cross.

The Cross is another objective reality. Reject all philosophies that reject the reality of the Cross.