Monasteries are not drought-proof. When skies close up and rains no longer soak the ground, monastery fields and gardens are no less subject to dryness than are any other plots of land.
The monastery of the heart is not drought-proof, either. Sometimes we feel as if our souls are barren, lifeless, parched. There are days when our prayers seem to go nowhere, times when we feel that God Himself has left the universe to dry up and wither to dust.
If we’ve ever felt this way, we are not alone. “I could neither pray nor read,” wrote St. Teresa of Avila about one such experience, “but there I remained, for hours and hours together, uneasy in mind and afflicted in spirit on account of the weight of my trouble, and of the fear that perhaps after all I was being tricked by the devil, and wondering what in the world I could do for my relief. Not a gleam of hope seemed to shine upon me from either earth or heaven; except just this: that in the midst of all my fears and dangers I never forgot how Our Lord must be seeing the weight of all I endured….”
So: we’re not alone in having such experiences. But what do we do about them?
I have found that the saints help me, in this kind of challenge, to find "the view through the grille."
“If you do nothing else the whole time of prayer than bring your heart back and put it beside Our Lord, although each time you do so it turns away from Him, your hour will be very well employed.” (St. Francis de Sales)
“One single act done with aridity of spirit is worth more than many done with feelings of devotion.” (St. Francis de Sales)
“Let your prayer be very simple. For the tax collector and the prodigal son just one word was enough to reconcile them with God.” (St. John Climacus)
“His will is, that entering into prayer, we should be prepared to suffer the pain of continual distractions, dryness and disgust, which may come upon us, and that we should remain as constant as if we had enjoyed much peace and consolation. It is quite certain that our prayer will be none the less pleasing to God nor less useful to ourselves, for having been made with difficulty.” (St. Francis de Sales)