The contemplative journey can be appreciated through many different images and ways of understanding. Here we present it as a process of growth through five phases as one journeys in the land of unfamiliarity. The descriptions of the five phases were adapted from one of the many articles by Marie Beha OSC from the Review For Religious.  Most of this content was assembled by Sr. Helen Banyai SJC on my suggestion. The last third of this content ( most of phase 5) was assembled by Vicky Chen, M.D.**.  Several people including Ruth McLean **  helped me bring this to you. 

           Since all calls to deeper relationship with God embrace a common core of values and attitudes, we offer this meditative material as a possible support. Individuals can use this meditation resource to understand, accept and respond to the struggles going on in their own prayer experience.

-- John Veltri 

Lord, Jesus,
Be with me as I  journey 
into a land that is unknown to me.
I know not where I am going,
where I may wander,
or what I may experience.

I am afraid, Lord,
but I will trust in you
to stay close to my heart.
I feel the stirrings of your call within me,
and I know I am asked to go forward
in faith.

Love me, Lord.
I will try to love you
and follow you 
in my weakness ...

The Five Phases

Phase One
The  Light That One Had Before 
Appears As Darkness

Phase Two
The Call To Leave Behind The Past
And Experience God In A New Way

Phase Three

  Response To The Call

                 Phase Four
   Life Review

                 Phase Five
  Deepening Of Intimacy


Phase One
The Light That One Had Before 
Appears As Darkness

          For a long time I experience nothing but distaste, dislike, aridity in my prayer, yet such a great desire to meet you, Lord. The very presence of you that once flooded my being in deep affective prayer and in contact with the world, now seems to be utterly absent. It is as if I had lost you. Dryness is now the outcome of fixing my senses upon subjects which formerly provided satisfaction. The light I had before appears as darkness itself.

          God divests the faculties, affections and senses, both spiritual and sensory, interior and exterior. He leaves the intellect in darkness, the will in aridity, the memory in emptiness and the affections in supreme afflictions, bitterness and anguish, by depriving the soul of the feeling and satisfaction it previously obtained from spiritual blessings.(2)

          The night seems very dense and dark. I feel that I will never find you again. Yet, I do not experience true panic or disquietude. I experience only a deep abiding trust that you will come, that in a way you are present in your absence.

Sg 3:1-3 Upon my bed by night I seek you whom my heart loves but find you not
Ps 88  I suffer your terrors; I am helpless, in complete darkness and loneliness
Ps 13 How long will you hide your face from me?
Ps 119:73-88 I hope in you. When will you comfort me? How long must your servant endure
Jb 7:1-6 I am allotted months of emptiness and nights of misery are apportioned me
Ps 77:1-10 It is my grief that your right hand has changed
Ps 102:3-11 You have taken me up and thrown me away
Jb 10:1-15  I feel like Job. Obviously, I have offended you in some way. Let me know, Lord, why you contend against me

Where Once ...

       Where once you breathed your loving breath
         upon my cheek, my neck, my ear ...
           now, you are gone.

        Where once you stroked my waiting palm
                   laid open to your flaming touch ...
           now, you are gone.

                  an empty womb
                  the stillness hangs   upon
                  your absence aches
                  its shadow sears      my mind
                                    my heart
                                   my soul.

         Where once you filled my vacant stares,
                  my empty rooms ...
           now darkness pounds.

         Where once you tamed my rampant storms,
                  unleashed with fury in the night ...
           now darkness pounds.

                  i am the babe
                  abandoned to      the emptiness
                                 the thick, dark black
                                the hollow arms.
                  i am the babe
                  set free amidst    the tunnels of aridity
                                 the spirals of unending
                                the waves of incongruity.

         Where once you danced before my eyes
                  in raptured strains of liturgy ...
           now, sorrow reigns.

         Where once you dressed my soul in love
                  in orbs of fragile reverence ...
           now, sorrow reigns.

                  Lost keys   Lost doors   Lost light
                   Lost me      Lost You

                      Standing on the trail at sunset
                          i await your next caress.(3)


Phase Two
The Call To Leave Behind The Past
And Experience God In A New Way

          It seems to me that God calls me to leave behind the past the ways I hold dear in relating to him, and meet him, experience him in new ways. It is like being called to a foreign country where I must learn all over again.

          The privation of the senses is one of the conditions required, that the spiritual form, which is the union of love, may be introduced in the spirit and united with it. The Holy One works all of this in the soul by means of a pure and dark contemplation.(4)

Gn 12:1-9 to go from what I know and love to the land that God will show me
Is 42:5-16 I am declaring new things; I want to guide you in paths you have not known
Is 43:14-21 I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth
Ex 3:7-12 to go to a land flowing with milk and honey
Ho 2:14-17 I will lead you into the wilderness and speak to your heart


            i awoke, one morning,
                    from shades of sleep,
                    to find my world had changed ...

            the ground on which i had always placed my feet,
                    had subtly shifted with the darkness.

            the firm beliefs and solid suppositions
                    that ordered my daily decisions
            had evaporated before my eyes ...
            the images of God
                    which sketched my thoughts
                    and traced my days
            now seemed anachronistic to my mind ...

            comfortable pillows
                    that held my head
                      and spoke of warm security
                 in familiar ways
            were slipping silently from my bed ...

            the props i  used
                    to keep me strong
                 now seemed obsolete
            and strangely out of synchronization.

                      submerged in pools of doubt
                     lay the buoys i'd worn
                 to hold me up in times of trial.

                 caught and helpless,
                     uprooted and airborne,
                         i existed ...

                 dangling in space
                     between the old
                         and the new ...

            one eye was fixed with longing to the past,
               the other,
               with an urgent expectancy,
                   to what might lay ahead ...

            one hand was clutching
                    at what had been so easy and certain,
                    the other
                        grasped at what might fill
                        the freshly-opened void.

                      i had a new space within myself
                          which i had not discerned before ...
                 it begged designs to form its cast.

            a voice emerged      deep in my heart
                    which called me to an alien land.
           it tugged and pulled
                    and bade me come
                    to risk and grow
                       in tune with it.

            i felt the promise
                    of a more profound love
                    and communion with      divinity ...
            if i could only
                    shirk my fear
                    and put my trust
                       in what beckoned me ...(5)


Phase Three
Response To The  Call

Fear And Resistance
          New beginning involves a wrench, a break, perhaps a repudiation. The total, final break with all I hold dear is not achieved without tears. Your call, my God, is both fascinating and terrifying. I relate to it with mixed feelings. I sense fear and resistance.

          The attempt to flee from reality, to deny your call, puts me in a kind of vacuum. It is like being nowhere, having no place to stand. Your call, my God, to pure and dark contemplation has already made a difference, and that difference is irreversible. I realize that the return to former ways is no longer a possibility, much less an option. Yet, I am afraid. I must choose to break through the fear and come to new life or try to escape from your disturbing call. To escape would be a way of self-defeat. I acknowledge that I am afraid and fear begins to retreat. I am freer now to go into surrender.

Is 6:1-5 Like Isaiah I am terrified by the experience of your holiness and my sinfulness
Dt 30:15-20 Life and death are set before me, today. I am to choose life
Lk 22:39-46 Death is the road to new life. In my agony I ask you to remove this cup from me
Ps 139 There is nowhere that I can flee or hide from you. You know my heart and my thoughts
Ps 143:1-10 I am confused, my spirit fails. Teach me the way I am to walk
Lk 9:57-62 I am not ready yet. Delay your call, Lord
Ga 4:8-11 The return to my former ways is no longer a comfortable option
Is 43:1-7 You tell me not to fear, Lord, for you will be with me
Ex 19:1-6 You bore me on eagles' wings and brought me to yourself and now you are promising something even greater
Ps 29 You, Lord, are powerful, full of majesty. You shake the wilderness, strip the forest bare. I am afraid to fall into the hand of the living God
Ex 16:1-8 If I could go back to my former ways!
Jn 12:23-28 If I try to escape it will be a way of self-defeat
Is 44:1-8 I am afraid but your promises strengthen me

i plod the land

                               i plod the land of ancient time
                                where faceless days and voiceless nights
                                   rest anaesthetized
                                beneath the hand
                                   of willed and bland oblivion.

                               descending burrowed abysses
                                where memory plays its instant frames,
                               i step into the tangled mesh
                                of mortal patterns etched in ice;
                               i crouch surrounded
                                   by   my   self
                                and feel the web encircle me.

                               peering into mirrored pools
                                i see the past disrobe and speak
                                of crusted blood and careless tears
                               that filtered through my roaring streams;
                                i see my thoughts undress and hide
                                  along the empty paths i ran.

                               i try to wash the pain away
                                slice the ropes that keep me bound,
                               but razor edges of my sin
                                   slide deep into the fleshy part,
                                   wedge firm within my fleshy part.....
                                  i taste the cutting with my tongue
                                  and bite the harshness as they sink.

                               i throw myself against the wall
                                and dash my head with jagged stones,
                                in efforts to escape this purge
                                   of looking at my nakedness,
                                   of sewing on my barren limbs,
                                accepting them as part of me.

                               i lie awake upon the floor
                                amidst the crumbs of who i am,
                                and dig the lava from my eyes
                               that blinded me to sacred light,
                                and tear the blanket from my heart
                               that let me sleep contentedly.

                               i plod the land of present time
                                with fearless days and voiceless nights
                               and raise my arms
                               in anguished call.....
                               i stand and bellow
                                  . . . . .           to my God.(6)

          Out of my fear comes the acceptance of surrender. It will be a gradual and progressive revelation in me and it will be total. I am called to let go of what has been familiar to me, of that "very self" by which I have identified myself. I am resolved to seek nothing and do nothing but what is willed by my God. I know it is all love.

I Surrender

I pray alone
on the mountain tops of night.
It is so calm, so still.
All is dark;
yet coming closer and closer
to me is a robe
of great brilliance.

I close my eyes in fear.
As the full-sun,
He stops before me,
dazzling, dancing.

His presence pierces
through my whole being
yet consuming me not.

I kiss the earth before Brilliance.
I let go and fly to ecstasy.
Oh, God, before such beauty
I surrender!(7)

Lk 23:44-46  Father, I surrender myself to you. Into your hands I commit my spirit
Ac 9:3-19  I surrender before your power. You cause me to be filled with your spirit and to recover my sight
Mt 1:18-25  I will do as you direct me, Lord. I will listen to and obey your voice
Lk 1:26-38 With Mary I say, "I am the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me as you say."
Lk 22:39-46  Let your will be done, Lord, not mine
Ph 3:7-14  All I want is to know Christ. I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead
Gn 22:9-14 I trust you, Lord, that you will provide for all my needs
Ps 40:1-8  I delight to do your will, O my God


Phase Four
Life Review

          I am drawn into a phase of looking back on my life. I allow myself to experience and be aware of my weakness and my giftedness. My God, you call me to acceptance and appreciation of my unique self. You call me to a greater freedom in being with you.

Re-experience Of One's Sinfulness
          You draw me into the desert where I am brought face to face with myself in all my nakedness. A re-experince of my past here tells me who I am at present. I re-live my many sins. I feel them as they cut into my bones.

Mt 23:1-28 I may outwardly appear righteous to men, but within I am full of hypocrisy
Rv 3:15-16 You know all about me. You know how I am lukewarm
Mk 7:14-23 What emerges from within me is what makes me impure. Wickedness pervades the deep recesses of my heart
Rm 7:14-24 Sin resides inside of me. I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Nothing good dwells within me
Gn 3:1-7  How often I have refused to accept you as my God and myself as your creature
Rm 1:18-23 I see the futility, darkness, foolishness, idolatry of my life. I know that there is no excuse for me
Ezk 16:1-43 By my many and serious infidelities toward you, my passionate lover, I have deeply hurt you

A Sense Of Quiet And Peace In Between
          Through the pain, despite the turbulence, I become less anxious, more at one with myself, more at peace. I have been loved into accepting your forgiveness.

Is 30:15  I accept that my salvation is in conversion and tranquilty. In quietness and trust lies my strength
Ps 131  My eyes are not raised too high. I have calmed and quieted my soul
Ph 4:4-7  Your peace will keep my heart and mind from fear
2Co 12:7-10  I am content with weaknesses, for when I am weak, then I am strong
Mt 9:9-13  You came to call not the virtuous but sinners. It is good to belong to those who are called
Lk 1:46-55  I rejoice, for you have regarded my low estate
Ps 4 In peace I lie down and rest secure
Jn 16:33 In you, Lord, I may have peace

My Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
      Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.(8)

A Fresh Insight Into God's Mercy And Goodness
          In this desert, I am brought face to face with God. While an overwhelming perception of my past sins brings me almost to despair, he is leading me to a fresh insight into his mercy and goodness.

Lk 7:36-50  Your forgiveness restores my peace
Is 1:18 You forgive me in a way that no one else could
Is 44:21-23  You call me back for you have redeemed me
Ho 14:1-7 You heal my faithlessness, you love me and revive me
Ho 11:1-9 You will not let the flames consume me. You are a compassionate God
Is 57:14-19 You, Lord, heal and lead me, comfort me
Rv 3:15-22 Knock on my door and share with me all you have
Ps 103  You are a tender and compassionate God. You understand me, for you know my frame
1Tm 1:15-17 I receive mercy, that in me as the foremost of sinners, Jesus Christ may display his perfect patience

A New  Awareness Of God's Giftedness
          I am being led to a new awareness of my giftedness. I re-experience in my heart my whole life as a gift. The recognition of your very least gift within me, Lord, is an experience so new and so intense that it overwhelms me and directs me to you.

          The awareness of the mystery in all your gifts is an inkling of the mystery of you. It is an inkling of the love of your divine heart longing to be accepted so that you can bestow on me your life and your joy. I rejoice over the experience of my nothingness that enables me to await all from God as little children await all from their parent. How can I repay all that you have given me?

Ep 1:3-14 You have blessed me in your Son with every spiritual blessing
Rm 6:23 You give the free gift of eternal life to me
1Co 7:7  I have my own special gift that you have given me
Jm 1:16-18 Every good gift comes from above
Jn 1:1-18 I have received from your fullness, grace upon grace
 Is 55:1-5  All is your free gift
 Is 45:1-8 I cry out with my whole being, "Shower, O heavens, from above!"

Acceptance Of Oneself As Sinner And As One Being Forgiven
          This period of life review is one of turbulence. One day I am plunged almost into despair; another day I am lifted up by a deeper realization of God's love to me. In between, I experience quiet and peace. Through the purification of my life review, I am brought to a deep acceptance of myself as sinner and as one loved into accepting forgiveness.
          I find myself growing into greater freedom and humanism. I am feeling more comfortable with my own uniqueness and in becoming most truly myself. 
The transformation of my weakness into self-acceptance is emerging. I understand that this very openness to receive redemption is true humility. I am learning to allow the power of your grace to transform me.

Jn 13:1-20 You love me so much that you desire to wash my feet
Lk 23:39-43 I know I am a sinner, yet you continue to save me
Jn 8:3-11 You protect me and love me despite my wrong doing
Lk 7:36-50 I am able to accept myself because of your great love. I am able to accept forgiveness, too
1Jn 1:8-2:2  If we acknowledge our sins, God who is just can be trusted to forgive us
Ps 130 I trust you, Lord, for you have forgiven me
Jn 20:24-29 Like Thomas, I sometimes doubt you, Lord; yet you continue to love me and be present to me

Being Drawn Into A Union Of Love
          I accept your call, Lord, to stay in the desert where I may further realize my own nothingness and utter weakness. I may learn to let go of the last hold I have on my own controlled knowledge of you, of myself and of the world.

          It seems to me that through the dread of the purification of the senses, faculties and affections, you have taken me to a new threshold of union with you. I sense the being drawn into a union of love, that is so much beyond me, that it can only be received as an unearned gift. You come and go, yet always remain.

Yes, it is truly the Beloved who visits thee. But He comes invisible, hidden, incomprehensible. He comes to touch thee, not to be seen; to intimate His presence to thee, not to be understood; to make thee taste of Him, not to pour Himself out in His entirety; to draw thy affection, not to satisfy thy desire; to bestow the first fruits of His love, not to communicate it in its' fullness.(9)
Rm 8:26 The spirit prays within me with sighs too deep to understand
1Co 13:8-13 Love never fails but endures forever. I am called to put away the ways of a child
Ps 139:1-18 Lord, you have probed me and you know me through and through
Mk 5:25-34 I am drawn to you, Lord. I touch you and I am healed
Jn 4:7-26 True worshippers worship God in spirit and truth
Ps 23  You are my shepherd; I lack nothing
Lk 11:29-30  You call me to you out of love so that you may give me rest
Mt 9:9 I am called to you and I desire to go. I want to be with you in love

O touch that thrills

o touch that thrills
and blazes beauty
with its flame ...
i cannot breathe.
i am beset
and occupied,
enraptured by a silent force
far greater, grander
than my own;
enraptured by a silent force
that causes me to
draw and hold
its burning face
against my own.

o touch that thrills
and causes me
to die ...
and in the dying
call for more.

and in the dying
call for consummation
of that power
that bids me faint
before its feet
     in crumpled pools of ecstasy ...

that drenches me
in sweet perfume
and wraps itself
inside my soul.

o touch that thrills
and blazes beauty
with its flame ...
                i cannot breathe.(10)

Solitude, Silence: Inner Necessities
          Solitude and silence are inner necessities for me. I am invited to come to a lonely place all by myself and rest awhile.I am to surrender myself in silencing my own powers to become utterly receptive to God's mysterious gift of love.

          In the silence it will not be long before you are visited by God. He came to Elisha on Horeb at a moment of such silence that the murmuring of the slightest breeze could be heard (1K 19:12). When the Lord wants to raise a soul to contemplation, he obliges all its faculties to be silent, so as to commit itself to him alone. Stop bothering about yourself ... when, in a word, you have habitually lost sight of self, you will have penetrated the silent Holy of Holies, the inviolable sanctuary of your soul where God resides and whither he invites you. Of you as of Moses he will say:

"He is in charge of my whole household.
I speak to him face to face,
plainly and not in riddles,
and he sees Yahweh's glory"
(Nb 12:7-8).(11)

          On the steppe there is only one sound: the moaning of the wind. "This is," runs an Arabic proverb, "the desert weeping because it would like to be a meadow" ... Only the breathing of the Spirit should be heard.(12)I perceive penance also as an inner necessity for the union of love to which I am being called. By renouncing creatures I acknowledge their nothingness before God's greatness. By renouncing the joys which they offer I acknowledge the sufficiency of God who is my Supreme Joy.

Mk 1:35  I need to go where it is quiet so that I can pray
Lk 5:15-16 I need to be alone and pray
Lk 4:1-13 You sometimes call me into the desert where I must rely on your spirit
Jn 14:27 You give me your gift of peace
Lk 6:12 It is necessary to spend time alone with you, Lord


Phase Five
Deepening Of Intimacy

          What occurs at this phase is so beyond me, that it can only be received as unearned gift. God's revelation of self in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit, changes my fear into loving attraction and my self-acceptance into self-forgetfulness. I am empowered with the capacity for communion.

Awareness Of One's Own Ignorance Of God
          You are transforming my whole life, Lord. As part of this contemplative transformation, you destroy the idols and images I have had of you, so that I may receive your fresh revelation.

          Only God Himself can let the bucket down into the depths in us. And on the other side, He must constantly work as the iconoclast. Every idea of Him we form, He must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking, "but I never knew before. I never dreamed ..." I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas of Aquinas said of all of his theology: "It reminds me of straw".(13) To truly know God, in all God's awesomeness, we must meet on God's terms. This asks of me a kenosis, an emptying.

... and then It (God's presence in darkness) breaks forth, even from the things that are beheld and from those that behold them, and plunges the true initiate into the Darkness of Unknowing, wherein he renounces all the apprehensions of his understanding and is enwrapped in that which is wholly intangible and invisible, belonging wholly to Him that is beyond all things and to none else (whether himself or another), and being through the passive stillness of all his reasoning powers united by his highest faculty to Him that is wholly Unknowable, of whom thus by a rejection of all knowledge, he possesses a knowledge that exceeds his understanding.(14)
Ex 3:13-17 My God is so great, I cannot adequately describe God
Jn 1:14-18 The one who is nearest to God makes God known
Rv 21:1-7 God is unspeakable
Ho 2:14-20 I will know you by being betrothed to you, Lord
Heb 12:29  Our God is a consuming fire
Ep 1:17-18 You enlighten the eyes of my heart
Ep 3:14-21 Being rooted and grounded in love, I may have the power to comprehend the breadth and length and height ...

True Knowledge Of God Is Complete Trust
          The soul, having entered the vast solitude of the Godhead, happily loses itself; and enlightened by the brightness of most lucid darkness, becomes through knowledge as if without knowledge, and dwells in a sort of wise ignorance. And although it knows not what God is, to whom it is united by pure charity, although it sees not God as He is in His glory, it yet learns by experience that He infinitely transcends all sensible things, and all that can be apprehended by the human intellect concerning Him. It knows God by this intimate embrace and contact better than the eyes of the body know the visible sun. This soul well knows what true contemplation is.(15)

          In this embrace you make me understand Lord, that to know you is to trust you, to abandon myself to you; to want nothing but you. To have found God, to have experienced Him in the intimacy of our being, to have lived even for one hour in the fire of His Trinity and the bliss of His Unity clearly makes us say: "Now I understand. You alone are enough for me".(16)

          Now I know that you love me Lord, and you can be trusted in all circumstances of life. I am being led to a joyous assent. A growing experience of your tenderness, care and concern beyond anything I could ask or imagine, draws and motivates me.

Rm 8:28-39 Now I know that nothing can separate me from God
2Co 1:3-7 You are the God of all comfort
Ps 37:3-7 I will trust in you and live in peace
Sg 1:2-4  Your love is better thatn wine. Draw me!
Ps 139  You know all about me, Lord
Col 3:12-17 As my response, I want to put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony

One's Concern: 

Let Jesus Live His Life In Oneself; 
Oneness And Intimacy With God

         The more I lose myself in you, Lord, the more I am able to dance to the rhythm of your redeeming grace. Like the snake that swims in darkness between the crevices of rocks in order to shed its skin, I too, slowly strip off my old self to allow the Christ in me come through as I grow. My sole concern in this life is to be more and more at one with you.

It is the whole of my being, Lord Jesus, that you would have me give you, tree and fruit alike, the finished work as well as the harnessed power, the opus together with the operatio. To allay your hunger and slake your thirst, to nourish your body and bring it to its full stature, you need to find in us a substance which will truly be food for you. And this food ready to be transformed into you, this nourishment for your flesh, I will prepare for you by liberating the spirit in myself and in everything: through an effort to learn the truth, to live the good, to create the beautiful; through cutting away all inferior and evil energies; through practicing that charity towards all men which alone can gather up the multitude into a single soul....
To promote, in however small a degree, the awakening of spirit in the world is to offer to the incarnate Word an increase of reality and stability; it is to allow his influence to grow in intensity around us.17
Rm 8:38-39 Nothing, neither death nor life, nor any power, will come between your love and me.
Jn 15: 9-17 You have chosen to call me your friend, and love me enough to lay down your life for me
Jer 1:5  I was consecrated to you before I was born.
Ps 42  I long for you as a deer yearns for running streams.
Ps 63  I pine for you, my heart thirsts for you, my body longs for you.
Sg 8: 6-7  You are set as a seal on my heart, your love is stronger than death, a flash of fire no flood can quench, no torrents drown.

Living On Love

 Living on Love is not setting up one’s tent
 At the top of Tabor.
 It’s climbing Calvary with Jesus,
 It’s looking at the Cross as a treasure!....
 In heaven I’m to live on joy.
 Then trials will have fled forever,
 But in exile, in suffering I want
 To live on Love.

 Living on Love is banishing every fear,
 Every memory of past faults.
 I see no imprint of my sins.
 In a moment love has burned everything.....
 Divine Flame, O very sweet Blaze!
 I make my home in your hearth.
 In your fire I gladly sing:
 “I live on Love!...”

 “Living on Love, what strange folly!”
 The world says to me, “Ah! stop your singing,
 Don’t waste your perfumes, your life.
 Learn to use them well...”
 Loving you, Jesus, is such a fruitful loss!...
 All my perfumes are yours forever.
 I want to sing on leaving this world:
 “I’m dying of Love!”

 Dying of Love is a truly sweet martyrdom,
 And that is the one I wish to suffer.
 O Cherubim! Tune your lyre,
 For I sense my exile is about to end!...
 Flame of Love, consume me unceasingly.
 Life of an instant, your burden is so heavy to me!
 Divine Jesus, make my dream come true:
 To die of Love!....

 Dying of Love is what I hope for.
 When I shall see my bonds broken.
 My God will be my great reward.
 I don’t desire to possess other goods.
 I want to be set on fire with his Love.
 I want to see Him, to unite myself to Him forever.
 That is my heaven... that is my destiny:
 Living on Love!!!...... 19

Experiencing Divine Adoption As Being Realized In Oneself

           Imagine myself as a newborn lamb, my mother has died in giving birth to me. Soon I too will die without fresh milk. The shepherd matches me with a ewe that has just lost her newborn by smearing the blood and fluid from the afterbirth of the ewe’s dead baby on me. The ewe sniffs me over and then accepts me as her own. I am nourished by her and grow up by her side. 

           Jesus, your blood has redeemed me. You have taught me to call God my father. Though we are 2000 years apart I have become part of your family, sharing the same gift of faith, hope and love. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

O eternal God, light surpassing all other light because all light comes forth from you! O fire surpassing every fire because you alone are the fire that burns without consuming! You consume whatever sin and selfishness you find in the soul. Yet your consuming does not distress the soul but fattens her with insatiable love, for though you satisfy her she is never sated but longs for you constantly. The more she possesses you the more she seeks you, and the more she seeks and desires you the more she finds and enjoys you, high eternal fire, abyss of charity! 18
Gen 22:13  You are the ram that has been offered to redeem my life.
Ex 12: 21-22  Your blood protected us from death that would have struck us. 
Ps 103: 3-5  You redeem my life from the abyss, and crown me with faithful love and tenderness.
Jn 5:1-18  I suffer from prolonged paralysis, you seek me out
and heal me. 
Lk 19: 1-10  Like Zaccheus, I am called to lead a new life.
Mt 16:13-23  You have adopted me with a new name and given me a new mission.
Mk 5: 1-20  I am freed from being possessed by my own dark spirits. You are persecuted for my sake.
Mt. 12: 49-50  You have called me your brother, your sister and your mother.

I Have Learned To Love You Late

I have learnt to love you late,
Beauty at once so ancient and so new!
I have learnt to love you late!
You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself.

I searched for you outside myself and,
Disfigured as I was, I fell upon the lovely things of your creation.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
The beautiful things of this world kept me far from you and yet,
If they had not been in you, they would have had no being at all.

You called me; you cried aloud to me;
You broke my barrier of deafness.
You shone upon me;
Your radiance enveloped me;
You put my blindness to flight.

You shed your fragrance about me;
I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet odour.
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me, and I am inflamed with love of your peace.20

Call To A Fresh Leap Of Faith

           Like the Israelites travelling in the desert, I search for the path to you. You seem to have forgotten me, yet each time I am at a low point you appear. In my weakest moment you strengthen me. How can I not walk through the parted sea, or follow the pillar of fire, or trust that the manna will be there again the next morning?

            Then again did Abraham and Sarah not question the possibility of having a child when they were both so advanced in years? Did Zechariah and Elizabeth not doubt the same way? Finally was young Mary of Nazareth not puzzled by how would it be possible for her to have a son since she had no knowledge of man? I too have many questions, when I am aware of God’s presence. Yet, how can I not take that leap into the invisible arms of God?

Can there possibly be any soul, O Lord, that reaches the stage where you grant it such graces and favours, and understands that you rejoice to be with it, and yet falls back into sin after so many favours and such great demonstrations of the love you bear it? Of this love there can be no doubt, since its effects are visible. Yes, there is indeed such a soul; I have fallen back in this way not once but many times. May it please your goodness, Lord, that I may be the only thankless one, the only one who has committed this great wrong, and behaved with such excessive ingratitude. Yet your infinite goodness has produced some good even from that; the wickeder I have been, the more the glory of your great mercies has shone out. What great reason I have to sing of them forever! 21

It is true that the presence of God in contemplation always brings peace and strength to the soul, but sometimes that peace is buried under pain and darkness and aridity. Strength is given to us, sometimes, only when we have been reduced to an extreme sense of our own helplessness and incapacity........
          Infused contemplation, then, sooner or later brings with it a terrible interior revolution. Gone is the sweetness of prayer. Meditation becomes impossible, even hateful. Liturgical functions seem to be an insupportable burden. The mind cannot think. The will seems unable to love. The interior life is filled with darkness and dryness and pain. The soul is tempted to think that all is over and that, in punishment for its infidelities, all spiritual life has come to an end.....
          Generally they remain faithful to God: they try to serve Him. But they turn away from interior things and express their service in externals. They externalize themselves in pious practices, or they immerse themselves in work in order to escape the pain and sense of defeat they have experienced in what seem, to them, to be the collapse of all contemplation. The light shineth in darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. (Jn 1:5) 22

Mt. 14:22-33  Tell me to come to you across the water, let me not doubt when the wind blows.
Ps 71  Do not reject me in my old age, my hope will never fade, I will play the harp to you, for you.
Jh 11:1-54  It seems such a long time that you have left me in darkness, yet in the end you are here to give me a new life, at the risk of losing your own.
P18: 16-19  You pull me from the watery depths and rescue me from my enemies deep within myself.

The Beauty Of Creation Bears Witness To God

Question the beauty of the earth,
 the beauty of the sea,
 the beauty of the wide air around you,
 the beauty of the sky;
 question the order of the stars,
 the sun whose brightness lights the day,
 the moon whose splendor softens the gloom of night;
 question the living creatures that move in the waters,
 that roam upon the earth,
 that fly through the air;
 the spirit that lies hidden,
 the matter that is manifest;
 the visible things that are ruled,
 the invisible that rule them;
 question all these.
 They will answer you;
 “Behold and see, we are beautiful.”
 Their beauty is their confession of God.
 What made these beautiful changing things,
 if not one who is beautiful and changeth not?23

A Renewal of Hope

           Praying the rosaries of my life, 24 at each turn I am mindful of the many gifts you have given me, of my turning away from you repeatedly, and of how you lovingly embrace me again. I ponder, I weep and I smile. Indeed I may be lost in the dark forest now, yet I know with the next turn, I will see your ray of light, and will come to the edge of a clearing. Yes, the sun will shine through the thick morning fog and I will come to another landing.

Darkness that is really light; dryness that is living water – our natural way of seeing and experiencing fails us here. We are left only with faith and hope and love. But gradually, mysteriously and incredibly, we come to discover even in this life that this darkness is the only true light, that only the apparently dry well can really slake our thirst. 25 
2 Sam 11: 2-17,
              12: 1-13
As your chosen one from the days of my youth, I have sinned against you grievously, yet you are so fast in forgiving me.
Ps 62  Rest in God alone, my soul! He is the source of my hope.
Mk 10: 21, 27  One more thing I need to do, that is, to return your gaze of love, in poverty of mind and spirit. Impossible for me to do on my own, but with you, everything is possible.
Ps 103: 15-17  My life is as transient as the wild flowers of the field, yet your love for me is eternal.
Mt 26: 38  Lord, I have fallen asleep, unable to share your sorrow, to feel the pain you must bear with your open wounds, because of our stubbornness, our inability to reconcile with each other & with you.
Ps 92: 1-3  I am so grateful that I long to sing your song. My heart constantly yearns to make music to your name.

The Pillar of the Cloud

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom, 
   Lead thou me on!
The night is dark and I am far from home; 
   Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
   The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou 
   Should lead me on;
I love to choose and see my path; but now
   Lead thou me on!
I love the garish day, and, spite of fears
   Pride ruled my will: remember not past years!

So long thy power has blest me, sure it still
   Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent till
   The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile
   Which I have loved long since and lost awhile! 26

Love In Darkness: In Communion With God And With All Creation

           Not with blazing heat or fireworks, not with celebratory bells or trumpet blast, not with passionate embrace or ecstatic union; no, now I feel you in the soft breeze of the cool morning air, I see you in the warm glow of the setting sun and I know you in the many ordinary people I encounter from day to day. Yes, you are guiding me to love subtly & silently, like some old married couples. No longer do I accept you only in the good, but I also accept you in what seems to be bad. I am not in control of myself, of others or of circumstances. Powerlessly and patiently I wait, I sigh, I pine.....for that rare moment of your consolation. Slowly I am learning to be content with being loved by you in darkness, perhaps never see you again....except always knowing that you are there, close by.

Christian contemplation, being produced in the soul by the most sublime and delicate action of infused love, makes the soul perfect in the love of God while perfecting all the other virtues in that same contemplative love......Be content to remain in loneliness and isolation and dryness and anguish waiting upon God in darkness. Your inarticulate longing for Him in the night of suffering will be your most eloquent prayer and will be more valuable to you and to the Church and will give more glory to God than the highest natural flights of the intelligence or the imagination.......... By pouring His Wisdom into your soul He is accomplishing the greatest work of His love and forming the perfect likeness of Christ, His incarnate Word, in you and perfecting His Church through everything that you allow Him to perform by the agency of your free will transformed and elevated in Him.27
Mt 6: 26-30  Yes, I am more precious than the birds in the sky and the lilies in the valley.
Jn 20: 1-18  In one single moment, all my cumulative feelings of loss have vanished, I am lifted by you to a new level of intimacy, to a love without the need for proximity or consolation. You have called me to be you on this earth, for others.
Jh 21: 18  Beloved, to you I stretch out my hands, put your belt around me and take me wherever you wish me to go.
Is 35: 1-2  The barrenness of my desert will turn into fertile blossoms.
Jon 2: 1-11  Like Jonah I try to escape from the path you set for me. In darkness I pray to you and you deliver me to my destiny.
Jn 21: 15-17  Do I love you? Do I love you? Do I really love you? My love for you will bear fruits in others.

The  Sighs  That  Turn  Into  Song

Oh no, the stone has been moved...
Where have they taken you?
The dawn is dim, the night air still moist...
Where are you  my Love?

Running through empty streets and rocky fields
So I feel the cuts on my feet.
My heart bleeds along with yours
Ever since the news of your arrest.

My mind full of the images
Of your wounds, your struggle, your falls.
So much noise, so many people
Yet your gaze penetrates the crowd.

It seems forever, a slow agonizing end
Between two thieves they erect you.
Mid day only, but the sky has changed.
We communicate without word.

I must get help fast, must tell the others.
Peter and John have come and gone.
I don’t believe them.
You must be around !

How I long to touch you again,
Your limp and lifeless body.
In haste we have to leave you,
But where are you now?

Nights without sleep or food
I am exhausted to the point of collapse.
Yet I must try to find you
Where have those soldiers hidden you?

The sun is now high and bright,
I can hardly open my eyes.
Can’t see clearly through my own tears,
A shadow comes over me.

Ah, the gardener, he must know!!
Why shouldn’t I weep? I have lost my Love.
“Mary” my heart misses its beats!
Is that really you? Yes, “Rabbuni!”

I am so overjoyed that I can burst.
What? Your father & my father?!
We are one, your look tells me everything.
I must run again, this time to tell the good news.

I no longer want anything
except to love until I die of love.
I am free,
and I fear nothing.28

The Need to Give Thanks

Creator of the universe, my beginning and my end,
Words will never fully express my gratitude,
For my overwhelming joy in you,
Or the peace that you alone can bring.

Thank you for the fields of wild flowers,
      the running stream, 
The birds in heaven, the fire-flies,
The children across the school yard,
The aged and the dying.

In the algae on the pond, I see the teaching, 
Of detachment yet rooted in the Living Water.
In the garden with weeds & grass, I learn the lesson
Of discernment and of prayer.

Thank you for every thread you have woven
In the tapestry of my life.
Thank you for all the ups and downs,
And for the monotonous routines.

I feel the anxiety of an impending war,
The mental anguish of the restless,
The suffering of the sick & the lonely,
The pain of those who have lost
                            the loved ones in the prime of their lives.

I give thanks for all that I cannot comprehend.
I give thanks when I am in total darkness.
I only know that you love deeply and eternally.
Thank you for accepting
                 my broken and imperfect love. 



1. Ruth McLean (Guelph, Ont., 1990)

2. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Kieran Kavanagh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D., trans. (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1973) Vol. 2, p.333

3. Ruth McLean

4. St. John of the Cross, p.333

5. Ruth McLean

6. Ruth McLean

7. George A. Maloney, S.J., Invaded God (Denville, N.J.: Dimension Books, 1979) p.176

8. St. Patrick

9. Hugh of Victor in The Soul Afire, H.A. Reinhold, ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Image Books, 1973) p.290

10. Ruth McLean

11. A Monk, The Hermitage Within, Alan Neame, trans. (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1977), p.14

12. Ibid, pp.13-14

13. C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm (Harcourt, N.Y.: Brace and World, 1964), p.84

14. "Pseudo Dionysius, Mystical Theology", The Soul Afire, H.A. Reinhold, ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973) p.49

15. Louis de Blois in The Soul Afire, H.A. Reinhold, ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973) pp. 358-59

16. Carlo Caretto, The God Who Comes, R.M. Hancock, trans. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1974), p.93

17. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe, Simon Bartholomew, trans. (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York & Evanston, 1965), p.134

18. St. Catherine of Sienna, The Dialogue, Suzanne Noffke, O.P., trans. ( Paulist Press, New York & Mahwah, 1980), p. 273

19. St. Therese of Lisieux, excerpt from Living on Love, The Poetry of  St. Therese of Lisieux, Donald Kinney, O.C.ED. trans. (ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, DC, 1996) p. 89-92

20. St. Augustine, Book X, 27, Confessions, R. S. Pine-Coffin, trans. ( Penguin Books Ltd, London England, 1961) p. 231-232

21. St. Teresa of Avila, Singing the Same Song, The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself, J. M. Cohen trans. ( Penguin Books Ltd. London, England,1957) p.102

22. Thomas Merton, What is Contemplation? (Templegate Publishers, Springfield, Illinois, revised 1981) p.40, 42, 45-46

23. St. Augustine

24. John Veltri S.J., Healing of Memories for Oneself, Orientations Vol. 1: Collection of Helps for Prayer, (Loyola House, Guelph, Ontario, revised 1996) p. 41-43

25. Thomas H.Green S.J., Drinking From A Dry Well, (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame,  Indiana, 1991) p.65 

26. John Henry Newman

27. Thomas Merton, What is Contemplation? (Templegate Publishers, Springfield, Illinois, revised 1981) p. 72, 74, 77

28. Vicky Chen ( Burlington, Ontario) Last stanza from a prayer of St Therese of Lisieux.

a. Ruth Mclean's Website can be found at:

b. Vicky Chen's Website can be found at: