On Meeting Mary & Learning to Pray… (Part IX)

Author: Padraig Caughey
Issue: 25 – May 2008

On Meeting Mary & Learning to Pray… (Part IX)
Dark Night

Id like to talk next about how I got sentenced in court and a bit about happened when I was released and more about prayer at this time.

Saint John of the Cross not only puts forward the idea of the Night of the Soul, but a kind of a night within a Night, or a prison within a prison, a kind of spiritual rock bottom as it were. I think Jesus touches upon this when He tells the parable of the house built on sand. When the great storms came the house on sand collapsed. The house built on stone however, stood. So with Job, these black winds that blow are purifying and intense and we have to ask ourselves questions about the very nature of our faith.

After leaving the monastery I continued to pray constantly and to go to mass every day. But it was a bit like someone who walked through very dark deep waters. However our love for God, our prayers, dont depend on our emotions. As I suppose anyone who has ever been married will say, love is about a whole lot more than hugs and kisses.

A year or two later my twenty-six year-old brother Colm died of Hepatitis, caught during a heart operation. Colm was always the complete atheist and laughed at even the mention of the word God or an afterlife. I know I tried to argue with him about it a few times, to his amusement.

However the morning after he died he came to me in a park were I was walking, smiled and said, You were right and I was wrong He paused and laughed, But dont get too proud about it, I know a lot more than you do about these things now! He laughed and faded into the sky.

I was foolish enough to tell folks about what I had seen and had to put up with a great deal of scorn and mocking about attention seeking. This upset me, a lot more than it would now, and I went down to see my Spiritual Director, Father Bernard, who assured me that seeing the souls of the departed, especially the recently departed, was really quite common. However, unlike me most people have the good sense to keep their mouths shut about it. Im glad to say that I had the last laugh, When my mother died a couple of years ago several people told me they had seen her. One of them being among those who had mocked me earlier. Times have changed I suppose and people nowadays are more open to these things.

A couple of years after this my other brother Cormac, again 26, his wife Teresa and their two year old daughter Shona were all killed in a car accident and I had to go to the mortuary to identify them. When they pulled back the rubber sheets it was like the De Profoundis sounding in my heart. Saint Teresa of Avila had a vision one time of Our Lady holding Our Lords body after it had been taken down from the Cross. She said Our Lady didnt cry, that she was frozen like a statue with grief. I can sympathise with this as I was frozen too and said the De Profundis;

Psalm 130
130:1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. 130:2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 130:4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. 130:6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 130:7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 130:8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

After this my brother- in-law Brian died aged 32 leaving my sister, Eithne, with four small children to care for. Sometimes I think prayer pilgrims are like camels and we store up the graces of prayer for the bad times ahead. Thus people who pray indeed build their houses on foundations of stone.

However I dont believe that our greatest trials in prayer really come through the great trials that life leaves at our doors. The greatest trial lies in the ordinary things that each day brings us; loosing our car keys, forgetting the groceries, an intemperate boss and a nosey neighbour. In a way life is like some great whirling sandstone wheel fashioning in beauty the soft wood of our hearts. But only if we accept truly and deeply that for those who love God all things work together unto the good. The person who does not love God, who does not pray is perpetually neurotic and at war with the lived reality in which he finds himself. The prayer pilgrim, on the other hand goes with the grain of lifes wood, knowing in prayer that all has reason and purpose and wonderful end.

One of the things that hurt me most in those dark days was that although I very much still felt called to be a priest, I was constantly rejected by Bishops and Cardinals. They all said I had a vocation but each passed me on to someone else, each thinking, I suspect, that I being an ex-prisoner would be better planted in someone elses diocesan garden. Eventually I went to Our Lady and left matters in Her hands. If She wanted me in the priesthood She could arrange it herself, I felt I tried often enough and had endured enough disappointments.

The greatest trial of my faith came after four years just before the end of the Dark Night. The Loyalists had already tried to kill me while I was driving the taxi….

To be continued…


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