The latest issue of the Sisters of Life newsletter has an article about Cardinal John O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, talking to the sisters about a crisis of faith he had experienced many years ago. Excerpts of this hopeful message is very apropos for Good Friday.
Many years ago,as a priest, I felt I had lost my faith. I was in Okinawa, many thousands of miles from home….I was the only priest, for thousands of men without families, without the ones they loved, torn by a thousand temptations….I would offer my Mass each day. I would hear confessions, I would preach. I would work, if anything, harder than usual.
Then the long night would come. I felt total emptiness, of Christ on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I would go to my little tin hut chapel and there I would kneel in the darkness before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, in the glow of the little red tabernacle lamp. There, I would pray to what it was very difficult for me not to believe was but an empty tabernacle….It was an experience of extended, indescribable, terrifying desolation, of emptiness, of meaninglessness….While I had no sense of faith, and surely no sense of hope, I never completely lost the love of the Eucharist.
And the one day, as quickly as it came, the darkness and the desolation left and the glory of the Resurrection filled the totality of my being….I knew that I would never waver in faith or hope again.
There may be some who find it difficult to believe in the Eucharistic presence of Christ. Don’t try to believe. Just let yourself love and be loved by the Eucharistic Christ. When you receive Him in Holy Communion don’t ponder theological questions. Say, “This is my love. I have receive my love; my love has received me.”
Without love, there can be no joy. One could truly define the absence of joy as an absence of love, a failure to love. I felt no joy in Okinawa, and I felt no faith and felt no hope because I had suppressed love. The Love remained, the Love saved, the Love purified, but I had to let it become active again within me….I had to remember that the Eucharistic Christ is not simply the presence of Christ, but the presence of Christ who is love. And oh how I prayed through Mary, Mary, the womb of the Eucharistic Christ; Mary the womb of love!