Q: I wonder, can one experience the dark nights, if one is not practicing centering or contemplative prayer, but is just a devoted Christian? I somehow get the impression that the dark nights are necessary consequences of contemplative prayer only. Personally I feel I have changed a lot – and not for the better. Sometimes I am not very faithful to Centering Prayer. Maybe that is the problem. I really don¬¥t know, but very easily circumstances in life draw me away from the practice.
A: The dark night of sense and spirit works in the lives of everyone ‚Äì but most especially those consenting to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. When you are praying Centering Prayer, however, you are more aware of what is going on in all the levels of our being ‚Äì it keeps us awake and aware. So my answer is ‚Äì some people are aware and some people are asleep. It is all about our consent to the grace of God. The nights are part of the purification process.
About you and your practice ‚Ä¶ Fr. Thomas Keating used to say ‚Äúwe do not realize how sick we really are.‚Äù It is not surprising to notice the sickness ‚Äì those parts of our lives that need forgiveness and healing. So rather than take the medicine we would do everything else but what will really help us. Recently I had to take an antibiotic and I was told by the doctor to take it 4 times a day for 7 days even if I was feeling better ‚Äì take it all until finished. The only time we are finished it when we die. How else are we going to be a healthy cell in the Body of Christ and make a difference in this world?
In prayer, Fr. Carl