Ask a Carmelite Sister
Sometimes the living of my Catholic faith is a lonely walk for me. Why is that? Am I doing anything wrong? Sometimes I think, “Am I the only one feeling this way?” I’ve never had theology classes and would appreciate anything you could send my way to help me understand why I feel so alone sometimes in my faith-journey.
A lovely plant sits on a desk near our office’s east window. The deep green leaves instinctively reach for the sun. Its roots dig deeply for life-giving water. It cannot think, yet it has some inner compass which reaches for that which gives it life – sun and water.
Nature’s mysterious recipe of sunlight and water becomes the fuel of its life, its energy. It is likewise a mystery how the plant knows where the sun is and how to turn toward it. At the same time, it remains a fact that, indeed, it does know.
Faith is like that plant.
There are two kinds of faith:
- Natural faith
- Supernatural faith
Within each human being lies the natural law which, when followed, leads to a life of virtue and happiness. Because of this inner natural law, human beings have a natural turning, as in the plant, to goodness, truth, beauty, and unity – the four transcendentals. This includes natural faith.
At baptism, something magnificent happens – an infusion – not a natural infusion like an IV infusion given in the hospital, rather, a supernatural infusion of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love into the soul. These theological virtues are directed toward God – faith in GOD, hope and trust in GOD, and love of GOD.
Much like nature’s mysterious recipe of sunlight and water as the fuel of the plant’s life energy, the soul not only receives the supernatural life, the spiritual energy, of grace at Baptism, but it directs the soul toward God. This means there are two kinds of faith – natural faith and supernatural faith.
Each human person who follows this innate natural law practices a life of natural virtue. A baptized person possesses the natural law and, in addition, the theological virtue of faith – and supernatural hope and love as well.
Hard Times and Times of Testing
Many terms and expressions describe this supernatural faith: Deposit of faith, faith-journey, light of faith, legacy of faith, keep the faith, share the faith, live the faith, have faith, hold on to faith, to name a few.
When times grow hard and the light grows dim, in times of testing and trial, it is then that the virtue of faith comes into action. Belief can be a powerful motivator, and a deep faith keeps us moving through the darkness. Into each life, sooner or later, comes this time of testing. It takes many forms, probably as many different forms as there are people in the world. Faith tells us, “Hang in there. Hold on. Look ahead.
The only way out of it is through it.”
Because of supernatural faith, we cling to the hope that God has a plan.
Faith: My Supernatural GPS
The saints, including the Carmelite mystics – John of the Cross, Teresa of Jesus (Avila), Thérèse, Elizabeth of the Trinity – all tell us that it is faith that will guide us safely into port. If they were living today, perhaps they would liken supernatural faith to a car’s GPS. Before beginning the journey, set the goal and you are guided to your destination. Supernatural faith gives us the goal and it leads us to that goal. A car’s GPS gives on direction at a time. If we do not follow it or follow it incorrectly, then an adjustment is made and we are sent on with a new directive – all the way until we reach our goal. A good analogy, don’t you think? Just don’t turn the GPS off!
We believe in God and in His revelation, His revealed truths, and because we believe Him, we have faith in Him and in what He says. We are secure in following His lead. Carmelite spirituality, especially the writings of St. John of the Cross, describes a night of faith during what he calls the dark night of the soul. Those who are serious in their spiritual journey will come to this point. It is then that each soul must walk alone in faith. Those who are called to Carmel, to its prayerful way of life, are also called to this walk in total faith.
It will come. Sooner or later, it will come, and not only to Carmelites but to all who steadfastly walk their faith-journey.God creates, God reveals, God calls to relationship – and promises a blessing (or blessings) in return for our faith-filled response; we respond in faith using our intellect and our will.
This is what St. John of the Cross writes about, i.e. the role of the intellect and the will in our faith-journey, especially during the dark night. John of the Cross says that God wants us to give Him everything – to surrender all that we are and all that we have to Him alone. John goes on to say that God will keep us in the dark night until we make this surrender.
St. Thérèse died at the age of twenty-four. During the trial of faith which she mystically endured during the last years of her life, she wrote out the articles of the Creed in her own blood. The Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne went to the guillotine during the French Revolution in faith, singing of their faith. The opera “Dialogues of the Carmelites” re-tells their martyrdom and the faith leading to it. Eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred.
In every generation, since the time of Christ, there has been martyrdom for the faith. This, too, is a mystery. The quotation,“the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”proclaims the faith of so many martyrs who shed their blood for their Faith in Christ. Given the times in which we are now living, this gives us all something to think about.
Thank you for your question. I hope that one or more of these thoughts will help you!
Until next time,
Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.
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