In So Many Words
In her autobiography, St. Therese tells of a dream she had about a year before her death. At the time she was in a dark place, a storm was raging very strongly in her soul with no relief at all. One evening she was thinking of the mysterious dreams granted to some people and how consoling they must be. But such dreams, she felt, were not for her. She did not ask to be relieved of the darkness that enveloped her.
Early the following morning, as dawn was breaking she dreamt that three veiled Carmelites were coming towards her. “Oh, how happy I would be if I saw the face of one of these Carmelites!” she cried out. And just then one of the nuns came to her, lifted her veil and embraced Therese. At once she recognized Venerable Anne of Jesus, the foundress of the Carmelites in France. “Her face was beautiful, suffused with an unspeakable gentle light.” With great tenderness she assured Therese that God was very pleased with her.
Afterwards, writing to her sister Marie, she admitted that up to then she was absolutely indifferent to Anne of Jesus and never thought of her at all. And yet now, discovering how loved she was, Therese wrote, “I felt there was a heaven and this heaven was peopled with souls who actually love me, who consider me their child.”
We too can struggle with darkness, with a horrible sense that heaven is closed against us.
We too can struggle with darkness, with a horrible sense that heaven is closed against us. Our sins accuse us, our prayer hits an impenetrable wall and with no consolation to uplift us we are in danger of losing heart. But heaven is not shut, as Therese found; around us, unseen, unfelt are those who have gone before us.
We are part of the great communion of saints, that great “cloud of witnesses” who surround us and love us beyond our wildest dream. There is no need to “go it alone,” to prove that I am captain of my fate. We are not alone. We are, as St. Paul reminds us, “the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Cor 12:26)
“The great mistake of many people – among them even pious persons, is to imagine that those whom death has taken leave us. They do not leave us. They remain! Where are they? In darkness? Oh, no! It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed upon our eyes filled with tears. Oh, the infinite consolation! Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent. I have often reflected upon the surest comfort for those who mourn. It is this: a firm faith in the real and continued presence of our loved ones; it is the clear and penetrating conviction that death has not destroyed them, nor carried them away. They are not even absent, but living near us, transfigured: having lost, in their glorious change, no delicacy of their souls, no tenderness of their hearts, nor especial preference in their affection. On the contrary, they have, in depth and in fervor of devotion, grown larger a hundredfold. Death is, for the good, a translation into light, into power, into love. Those who on earth were only ordinary Christians become perfect…those who were good become sublime.” (Karl Rahner).
Columban Sr. Redempta Twomey lives and works in Ireland.