This St. Teresa Benedicta moment is critical in my understanding of the Journey on the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed with St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This trail is a very Carmelite path. It is a journey through a land so beyond human nature that it is darkness to the intellect. The light on this trail is so bright that we are unable to see. Yet, we do possess it; we do see, just not in a way sourced through our own efforts and exalted through our natural abilities. St. Teresa Benedicta’s “This is truth” moment while reading St. Teresa of Avila was similar to my own with regard to reading St. Thérèse, “I do not understand what she is saying, but I know that what she is saying is true.”
“I do not understand what she is saying, but I know that what she is saying is true” was my point of departure led by St. Thérèse. From that moment forward, I desired to know and live fully in that truth; though, the fullness of that goal cannot be known in this life. Over the years I certainly would go through many very dark valleys, feeling horrifyingly lost at times, before obtaining any natural sense of where I might be. Yet, St. Thérèse, with the Immaculate Virgin Mary and St. Joan of Arc, were always guiding me through the grace of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the manner He desired that I might receive His blessings through my celestial family.
St. John of the Cross, through St. Teresa Benedicta’s explanation, tells us,
“Detachment is designated as a night through which the soul must pass. It is this in a threefold sense: in regard to the point of departure, the path, and the goal. The point of departure is the desire for the things of this world, which the soul must renounce.” (The Science of the Cross by Edith Stein – St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)
My point of departure with “I do not understand what she is saying, but I know that what she is saying is true” was a darkness, an unknowing of something that is, in fact, known. St. John of the Cross calls it “dark knowledge,”
“In fact, we are set upon a sure way, albeit a dark way, one engulfed by night, the way of faith. It is a way, for it leads to the goal of union. But it is a nocturnal way, since in comparison to the clear insight of the natural understanding, faith is a dark knowledge: it acquaints us with something but we do not get to see it.” (The Science of the Cross by Edith Stein – St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)
I could see truth through the writings of St. Thérèse; yet, I could not see it. This truth was a real substance; yet, I could not imagine it, for I had no natural, sensible ability to see it as it was in its fullness. It was too bright, too supernatural; thus, it was and remains “darkness” to my intellect.
This was ever so slightly different from the moment I received the great gift of faith in the Eucharist and the Church on the Feast Day of St. Thérèse in the fall of 1984. On that evening, while attending a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) class in preparation for marrying my beautiful wife, I was struck immediately by the authority of the Catholic Church. In a split second more, I realized that if she, the Church, were truly the apostolic Church, then what she says about the Eucharist must be true. It all happened in a couple of seconds. Our Lady, the Virgin Mary had been prepping me before that night. A week or so before, I was completely swept off my feet by the prayer of the Hail Mary, a prayer I honestly had no recollection of hearing prior to that night. I was mesmerized by the possibility that one could pray to the Mother of God. I found the idea so attractive that I began to pray to her for help and assistance. A week or two later, on the Feast Day of St. Thérèse, my heart and mind opened to Our Lord’s grace.
Still, this was understandable intellectual light; though, it touched my soul supernaturally and breathed new life into it. In that moment of grace, I understood what I came to understand, that the Church was the true Church and the Eucharist was the true and substantial Body and Blood of Christ (though, how this is, of course, is a mystery beyond comprehension). Conversely, reading St. Thérèse, I did not understand what I came to understand. In that nuanced sense I say that my “I do not understand what she is saying, but I know that what she is saying is true” moment was my point of departure in the “darkness of faith” on the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed with St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The path was the night of faith, of unknowing what is known, as received from Jesus Christ, through His Church on earth, and through St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, all in perfect hierarchical and aristocratic form as revealed to me on that grace-filled night on St. Thérèse’s Day. The goal, of course, that Kingdom I was told by the Blessed Virgin to “seek first,” is the Divine Union of Love and is an end I cannot possess in its fullness on earth but only can move toward it in this life through Hope to obtain it in Heaven.