Joy Not Sadness

This third week of Advent comes as a rest in the penitential spirit of this season and is known as Gaudete Sunday. We take this time to express our joy in the nearness of the Lord’s coming. There is one more Sunday before we will celebrate Christmas. The pink candle on the wreath is lit and represents our joy in that Christ has come into our world! 

This Sunday gets its name from the second reading taken from First Thessalonians, “Rejoice always.” We as Christians should always be filled with joy, even in our sufferings, because of Christ. He is the source and the cause of our joy. As St. Paul tells us we should rejoice in the Lord always, pray without ceasing and give thanks to God for everything, counting all to be pure joy. St. Teresa of Jesus teaches that we should have “a calmness and glory within” and she even went so far to say that we should “rejoice in the fact that all are rejoicing”. (Way, 30, 5)

Joy is the fruit of God’s grace. The Gospel is a source of joy since its message is that God loves us, He cares for us and He is with us!  This joy fills the heart and moves us to serve others. St. Teresa of Jesus invites her nuns, and by extension to all of us, to “be happy to serve” (Way, 18, 5); we are to put ourselves at the service of others and to do this with selfless love.

It is difficult for people to be joyful. Life isn’t easy. We are often weighed down with problems. Yet we were made for joy! Today I am hoping to raise awareness to this fact: that God is the God of joy and wants His children to be happy.

We have a soul and this is what is in us that tunes us to the inner life of the joyfulness of God. It is our soul that enables us to enjoy God in prayer. Did anyone ever teach you that you were to enjoy God in prayer? Enjoying God in prayer- seems like the concept should be self evident, but for some reason it isn’t. The little known secret of discovering enjoyment in prayer is that God is present to us and He is the God of love and joy. If we truly believe and understand this then prayer will be a joy!

“From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.” (Attributed to St. Teresa of Jesus)

Do you think of prayer as drudgery or perhaps as something altogether boring? True joyfulness, that joyfulness that is seen in the saints, comes from being rooted in and nourished by a deep prayer life. Prayer is the grace-filled secret to joyfulness.

The greatest enemy of joy is sadness. It is so easy to serve God fervently, to spread goodness and practice virtue when we are aware of God’s presence in our lives. However, when we experience feelings of sadness and despondency, we act in the opposite manner. We have no inner peace; we are troubled and down-hearted. We go about weak and all our good resolutions have diminished. We may even avoid praying. Yet prayer is what we really should do.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” (James 5:13)

When we are suffering from sadness we should turn to prayer so that our hearts can be strengthened. Prayer puts us into God’s presence and this will lift our spirit and fill our souls with confidence. Our joyful awareness of God’s presence will bring peace, the peace for which our hearts long. 

In this Sunday’s Gospel from St. John we see that John the Baptist had to point out Jesus to the men the Jews had sent to him in the desert. He had to tell them that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize”.  Jesus is really in our midst. He is present in our Tabernacles and by grace in our souls. We can help others recognize Jesus’ presence today in the joy we express in our own lives because we have Him. God is our infinite joy. Let us always live joyfully so that all can see this joy and want it too! 

Let us recall as we continue our Advent journey that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22) Remember that the Lord is with us and He will help us to see Christ in all things and will move us in love to bring the joy of His presence to all men.  And isn’t this what our world needs of us now more than ever?

“When one loves, everything is joy. The cross doesn’t weigh down. Martyrdom isn’t felt. One lives more in heaven than on earth.” (St. Teresa of the Andes)

Spiritual Dryness

Dryness, or aridity, is when satisfaction and delight, that was once enjoyed during prayer and devotion, has dried up. It can have several causes. One reason for dryness is that the soul has neglected or set aside the practice of prayer. St. John of the Cross sums this cause up succinctly in The Sayings of Light and Love no. 39, “My spirit has become dry because it forgets to fed on you.” When we strive after various forms of recreation and the gratification of our senses, we will “find spiritual dryness and distraction”. (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 3, Chap 42,1). The devil can cause dryness too. He can do so through visions and locutions, but the effects “are unlike those produced by the divine”. “The devil’s visions produce spiritual dryness in one’s communion with God and an inclination to self-esteem” and the pride of thinking one is important for receiving these. (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 2, Chap 24)  When the origin is from the devil there is never a good effect. St. John of the Cross emphatically counsels in regard to locutions and visions, in order to avoid “delusion or hindrance”  that,  We should pay no heed to them, but be only interested in directing the will, with fortitude, toward God; we should carry out his law and holy councils with perfection.” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 2, Chap 29, 12) Dryness can also be caused by God as a way to purify the soul. When God is the cause it is usually in those souls who are already quite solicitous in their love for Him and have already moved from the practice of discursive meditation to the state of contemplation. (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 2, Chap 13) 

Two things one can do when experiencing dryness according to St. John of the Cross in The Spiritual Canticle are to first continue praying with love and devotion; second to ask the Holy Spirit for His assistance. The Holy Spirit “will dispel this dryness and sustain and increase” love. (Stanza 17, 2). Another thing the Holy Spirit does is to move the “soul to the interior exercise of the virtues” of faith, hope, and love. 

The Bride in the poem The Spiritual Canticle invokes the Holy Spirit in this way:

“breathe through my garden”

The Holy Spirit “awakens love” in the soul, which is the “garden”. Upon one of these visits of the Holy Spirit, the soul is refreshed, the will is awakened, and the “appetites that were asleep” are now filled with “the love of God”. (Stanza 17, 3-4) When the Holy Spirit breathes through the soul, He touches and puts “in motion the virtues and perfections already given”, and when this happens, “the Bridegroom, the Son of God, is himself sublimely communicated” evident by the beautiful fragrances that are released. (Stanza 17, 8) 

Dryness in prayer is an interior trial. Although interior trials involve much more than just a lack of devotion, dryness (or aridity), is a common phenomenon among those souls who have taken up prayer.To make an issue of dryness, according to St. Teresa of Jesus, shows a lack of humility.

St. Teresa exhorts beginners to begin with determination and to persevere in prayer. Dryness and difficulty at prayer will come and we are to not let this cause us to give up prayer. She advises us to not become “distressed or afflicted over dryness or noisy and distressing thoughts. . .  For, clearly, if the well is dry, we cannot put water into it. True, we must not become neglectful; when there is water we should draw it out because then the Lord desires to multiply the virtues by this means.” (from The Book of her Life ~ St. Teresa of Jesus)

During periods of aridity and excessive activity of the imagination, the soul can turn to meditative reading. When the soul is unable to meditate it can turn to a book to help collect the wandering thoughts and bring its soul in touch with God. St. Teresa confesses to not being able to meditate without a book for many years and recommends this practice.

The choice of a book should be one that is devout and will help in the time of prayer. The Gospels are always a good choice and are of great assistance in this matter. The book can also be one of the writings of the saints. It should be one that is practical and affective, not too speculative or intellectual. This is to foster love, a work of the heart, rather than that of the mind.

The purpose of reading is to put the soul in a proper disposition for a conversation with God. Read until enough has been read to arouse good and holy thoughts. Then when devote affections occupy the mind, stop reading and with the attention directed to God, meditate on the thoughts that have been read; speaking to Him or silently savoring the sentiments inspired by what was read.

“Like birds, who, when they drink, bend their heads toward the water, take a few drops, and raising their beaks toward the sky, swallow gradually, and then begin again, let us also bend our heads toward the devout book to gather a few drops of devotion, and then let us raise them to God, so that our minds may be fully impregnated with these thoughts. In this way, it will not be difficult to finish the prayer which we have begun by reading in an intimate colloquy with God.” (Divine Intimacy, #149 by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.)

Praise to the Trinity

There is One God, a Trinity of Persons and Unity of Nature. Each is equal and each is owed glory as to the one and same God.

Psalms and hymns used in the prayers of the Church conclude with a doxology to the Blessed Trinity. A doxology is a formula of praise to God used in liturgical worship. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are also invoked in blessings, various sacred rites, and sacraments.

There is also this short, but beautiful prayer to the Three Divine Persons that is so familiar to Catholics:

Glory be to the Father,

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit:

As it was in the beginning,

is now,

and ever shall be,

world without end.


The Eucharistic Prayer ends with “through Him, with Him, and in Him” and this was foreshadowed by the Apostle in the following words:

“For of Him, and by Him, and in Him, are all things: to Him be glory for ever” (Rom. 11: 36)

These words “signifying both the Trinity of Persons and the Unity of Nature: for as this is one and the same in each of the Persons, so to each is equally owing supreme glory, as to one and the same God. St. Augustine commenting upon this testimony writes: “The words of the Apostle, of Him, and by Him, and in Him are not to be taken indiscriminately; of Him refers to the Father, by Him to the Son, in Him to the Holy Ghost”. (Divinum Illud Munus)

“Today’s feast draws us to praise and glorify the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, not only because of the great mercy They have shown to men, but also and especially in Themselves and for Themselves; first by reason of Their supreme essence which had no beginning and will never have an end; next, because of Their infinite perfections, Their majesty, essential beauty and goodness. Equally worthy of our adoration is the sublime fruitfulness of life by which the Father continually generates the Word, while from the Father and the Word proceeds the Holy Spirit. The Father is not prior to, or superior to the Word; nor are the Father and the Word prior to or greater than the Holy Spirit. The three divine Persons are all co-eternal and equal among Themselves: the divinity and all the divine perfections and attributes are one and the same in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. What can man say in the presence of such a sublime mystery? What can he understand of it? Nothing!”

(Divine Intimacy, #196 by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.)



Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

O Lord Jesus Christ Who,

Before ascending into heaven

Promised to send the Holy Spirit

To finish Your work

In the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples.

Grant that same Holy Spirit to me,

That He may perfect in my soul

The work of Your grace and Your love

Grant me:

The Spirit of Wisdom

That I may despise

The perishable things of this world

And aspire only after

The things that are eternal.

The Spirit of Understanding

To enlighten my mind

With the light of Your divine truth,

The Spirit of Counsel

That I may ever choose

The surest way of pleasing God

And gaining heaven,

The Spirit of Fortitude

That I may bear my cross with You

And that I may overcome with courage

All the obstacles

That oppose my salvation,

The Spirit of Knowledge

That I may know God

And know myself and

Grow perfect in the science of the Saints,

The Spirit of Piety

That I may find

The service of God sweet and amiable,

The Spirit of Fear

That I may be filled

With a loving reverence towards God

And may dread in any way to displease Him.

Mark me, dear Lord,

With the sign of Your true disciples and

Animate me in all things with Your Spirit.


The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and St. John of the Cross

To overcome obstacles to our salvation, the Gift of Fortitude gives courage and strengthens the heart to bear all things, especially to bear the Cross. This gift gives the soul strength and support in performing all its duties moving it to undertake even difficult things without hesitation. This gift is the gift of martyrdom which allows the endurance of tribulations without complaining, even if these last a lifetime. Trouble and adversity never overcome the soul who possess this Gift of the Holy Spirit.
#95~ The Sayings of Light and Love

“Bear fortitude in your heart against all things that move you to that which is not God, and be a friend of the Passion of Christ.”
St. John of the Cross eloquently touches on this point again in The Spiritual Canticle:

            You considered 
            that one hair fluttering at my neck;

“The neck, where the hair of love was fluttering, signifies fortitude. This hair of love weaves the virtues together, that is to say, loves with fortitude. In order to preserve the virtues it is not enough that love be alone; it must also be strong so that no contrary vice on any side of the garland of virtue may be able to break it.” (Stanza 31,4)

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and St. John of the Cross

This gift, Counsel, is given so that the Christian soul may choose what is most pleasing to God and arrive in heaven. The Gift of Counsel enables the soul to make right judgments and has to do with supernatural prudence. This gift guides us in all our ways inclining the heart to the good and turning it away from evil, all this leading our souls to that final goal – eternal life.
In St. John of the Cross’  Sayings of Light and Love # 44, he counsels souls to:
“Be attentive to your reason in order to do what it tells you concerning the way to God. It will be more valuable before your God than all the works you perform without this attentiveness and all the spiritual delights you seek.”
and in #45:
“Blessed are they who, setting aside their own pleasure and inclination, consider things according to reason and justice before doing them.”
There are few things that this saint says the will can rejoice in, but one is “moral goods…for they bring along with them peace, tranquility, a right and ordered use of reason, and actions resulting from mature deliberation. Humanly speaking, a person cannot have any nobler possession in this life.” (Ascent of Mount Carmel Book 3: 27, 2)
Rejoice indeed, since these will lead to the attainment of the final goal of life. Eternity. 

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and St. John of the Cross


The Gift of Understanding enlightens the mind with the light of God’s truth. This gift from the Holy Spirit enables the soul to grasp the meaning of truths, particularly truths of religion. Faith helps us to know these truths, but it is the Gift of Understanding that helps us to learn and appreciate them. Through a deeper understanding of the mysteries of salvation we are better able to merit our eternal reward. This gift inspires the testimony of a lively faith where we begin to walk worthily with God in all things and are more pleasing to Him. 
However, we must journey to God through mortification of the appetites. Our sight is not always fixed on God and is often attached to things, ideas, and concepts of an earthly nature that take us on a path far from God. St. John teaches that without this mortification there is no transformation in God and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit will not bear fruit. Jesus also instructed us, his disciples, this way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possession cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). St. John of the  Cross affirms this statement: “for the doctrine the Son of Man came to teach is contempt for all things so we may receive the gift of God’s Spirit. As long as people fail to rid themselves of these possessions, they are incapable of receiving God’s Spirit in pure transformation.” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Bk 1: 5, 2)
“If you purify your soul of attachments and desires, you will understand things spiritually. If you deny your appetite for them, you will enjoy their truth, understanding what is certain in them.” (Sayings of Light and Love # 49, St. John of the Cross)

The Gift of Understanding gives us clear vision.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and St. John of the Cross

The Gift of Wisdom enlightens the mind to the discernment and appreciation of divine things. As earthly joys lose their hold on the soul, the Cross begins to offer a sweetness that before was unrealized. The soul endowed with this gift now takes up its cross having found Christ’s words to hold true for it. –
“…for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11:30)
The Gift of Wisdom enables the soul to desire and long for eternal things and to see that the things of this world are passing; therefore, this gift aides the soul in its journey here on earth to despise the goods of earth and to set its heart on God and heaven. 
It is a most perfect gift, this Gift of Wisdom. It strengthens faith and hope, and perfects charity. Those endowed with this gift are motivated to the practice of virtue to a high degree.
Relating this gift to the gift of prayer, we must take into consideration that prayer doesn’t lead to wisdom, it leads to love. One of the Sayings of Light and Love written by St. John of the Cross touches on Wisdom…

“Wisdom enters through love, silence and mortification. It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.” (Sayings of Light and Love #109, St. John of the Cross)
This saying of St. John of the Cross is good advice, since wisdom enters through love and that is why we pray, because we love. Additionally, he advises that if silence doesn’t prevail then wisdom cannot enter in. The silence so necessary for prayer is that silence of the faculties: of the exterior senses and the interior ones. This silence is created in us by stopping, to the best of our ability, reasoning which processes all that comes through the senses or that is stored in our memory. It is through this process of reasoning that our prayer becomes occupied with all kinds of conclusions or judgments. Thus, occupying our time of prayer with the things of earth rather than of love, of God and heavenly things.

It has no definite color.

The fourth trait of this solitary bird is that it has no definite color. It desires to do nothing definite other that the will of God. The Holy Spirit gives the soul what is lacking in it by strengthening it to love as he loves. The soul’s will is not destroyed it is united firmly with God’s will and with his love “so that there is only one will and love, which is God’s “(Spiritual Canticle 38:3). The Blessed Virgin Mary was raised from the beginning to this high state of contemplation. “She never had the form of any creature impressed in her soul, nor was she moved by any, for she was always moved by the Holy Spirit.” (Ascent 3:2,10)