reflection from mark salinas

Dark Night of the Ordinary Soul: A Lenten Witness
// Luke Krumwiede

Mark recently moved to Sumner, WA in 2018. Originally from Rocky Hill, Connecticut, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and has lived in Columbus, Georgia and Watertown, New York before reporting to JBLM, where he serves as an Infantry officer. He is a cradle Catholic and has participated in various Bible studies, Catholic and ecumenical, as well as taught 2 years of Confirmation. He attends St. Joseph's parish in Tacoma and can be often be found hiking, canoeing or supporting Frassati activities in Seattle. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense or any subordinate component thereof.

The night is darkest before the dawn.

In the third edition of The Offertory, Luke Krumwiede tells us the story of a revival gone wrong, that resulted in a crisis of faith, from which he emerged with a more mature and fulfilling relationship with Christ. We all can be tempted to lean too hard on the notion of a light yoke and easy burden with regular emotional fulfillment, but true faith is much bigger than just feeling happy about God.

What is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

As a young man, Luke attended an inter-church fellowship and went to a revival with a very charismatic preacher. The revival was centered around an altar call, where, in the midst of spirited singing and a party atmosphere, individual would walk up to the altar and experience the Spirit. Luke noticed many outsize reactions, to include a woman who fainted, and he went along with them, but felt nothing. Afterwards, he felt compelled to relate that he “was feeling it”, even though he had not experienced that emotional high. Dealing with the incongruity of it all left him feeling betrayed, abandoned and tortured by the situation. In his pain, he was struck by a poem “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross. He realized that he was feeling a lesser version of what Jesus experienced in the Passion. At the end of the event he was approached by a friend who sat with him and offered some support. He then experienced a second wind and realized that he was putting upon Christ rather than assuming any responsibility for the relationship himself. He came to the conclusion that we cannot understand what light is unless we understand darkness.

Luke’s experience, distressingly, is not unusual. Many Catholics are taken aback when they are first exposed to revivals or other charismatic events. It is easy to see the powerful emotions and wonder “why haven’t I felt that?”. Given the staid nature of the Mass, it can be quite a shock to see such a different expression of faith. It is easy to feel like something is missing. There are a couple answers to this dilemma (more on that at a later date) but Luke found a particularly potent one: Christ did not come solely to revel at out best feelings aligned with the best of our nature, but rather to rescue us from the depths of despair rooted in the worst of our nature. This is not to pick on Luke for lying about how he felt, (we’ve all failed to live up to the Church’s standards) but to point out that he was suffering and it was there that God came to him and fortified his faith.

The lesson that I take from this is that we need to meet God on His terms, and that God is good, and His goodness will address our hurts. It is the best answer out there. We have whatever wounds do, maybe they manifest in a dramatic crisis of faith, maybe they are an ongoing struggle or whatever variation. God, when we develop a personal relationship with Him and attempt to unite our will with His own, will address all of that. We just have to be willing to take it on faith, as opposed to putting upon God so that He can prove himself to us. Luke offers a powerful witness to the power of humility and a willingness to approach God as we are and to do so in union with the Church and as He wants us to.