Retreat with St. Paul of the Cross- Day 21, 12/13/1720

     Paolo Daneo finishes his long entry for December 10-13, 1720: “I know— this I also understood but in a hidden way when I was enduring a particular suffering— that to him that overcomes will be given the hidden manna, which is what holy Scripture says. ‘The hidden manna’ I understand to be the sweet food of holy Love: that is, the soul rests in deepest repose with its beloved Spouse in prayer. Thanks be to God.”

     Orlando’s entry: Paolo seems to finish those difficult four days in a state of sweet “repose” within the blessed light of the Love of his Spouse, Jesus. I am reminded of the Buddhist practice of constant meditation on a “Koan”, a seemingly contradictory sentence or paragraph, until the mind finally surrenders to its inability to make any sense of it so that thinking gets out of the way and spiritual Truth invades the soul. In a way, Paolo’s immersion into the mystery of suffering strips away his sense of self, and leads him to that blissful state of intimate closeness with God.  

   I had been trying (maybe that’s the problem) to go into this deep dark well in order to find the Light of God’s presence in prayer with little success. Suddenly, I remembered that I had spent months reading the excellent book “God and the Mystery of Suffering”, by Fr. Robin Ryan,CP. In this book he presents the efforts of a number of great writers, like St. Thomas Aquinas, Elie Wiesel, and Julian of Norwich, to make sense out of why a loving God allows human suffering. What came to haunt me in prayer was this admission  by Fr. Ryan: In spite of all the theological apologetics, theodicies, all the arguments, the inspirations, the revelations of these good people, he  feels really helpless when someone in real life comes to him in tears, beyond consolation, because they lost a spouse to COVID-19, or lost a child in a senseless accident. What do you say to them? What can you possibly say to them?….. Pondering upon this, suddenly, the “style” of the Spirit stabs my heart and I begin to cry. The deeply scarred, Resurrected Beloved, just holds me quietly.

     Berta’s entry: Dear Jesus, life brings surprises every day. Some are good, and some are bad and disturbing. Like St. Paul of the Cross wrote in his diary today, the suffering may come but if you persist in prayer and not give up, “the hidden manna” will come. St. Paul understood it to be “the sweet food of holy Love”. My soul craves that sweet manna. I crave it, and I know You, my Lord Jesus, feed me with it every moment of my day. You offer Your Love to me and I am free to accept it or ignore it. You feed my soul with Your Love, and many a time my brain doesn’t register it. Oh, my Jesus, why do I let life get in the way? Help me to let go and let You enter fully into me, without outside distractions. Thank You for the “hidden manna”. Thank You for always being there! Thank You for all! 

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