Q: I've been a Centering Prayer practitioner for several years and I've just finished reading The Better Part - Stages of Contemplative Living by Fr. Keating. I think that I've been going through the Night of Sense for the past few months. My question is whether the suffering (if that's the correct word) that I've felt by not having the desires of my false self met, can be considered "suffering", and considered as "redemptive suffering"?
A: Well put. You are right; within the right context, suffering is not an end in itself and does lead to redemptive suffering. When you enter into Centering Prayer, you are consenting not only to God's Presence - but also to God's action in your life. In the process of consenting, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to do whatever needs to be done in your life. By your intention, you are joining Christ in his work. In joining Christ in his work you are dying to your false self and allowing your true self to blossom. What does this mean? It means you are letting go of those aspects of your life that have blocked the flow of God's grace within you. This usually does not feel very good; it is uncomfortable, for sure. In this dying, you are participating in the power of the cross ... leading to resurrection. This is not just self-improvement, but an entering into the transforming process. Therefore the pain that you experience, the struggle that appears, the grieving that is taking place is a birthing of a new life. Why? Because of your intention to consent. Simple consent, but huge implications - and huge payoffs! - Fr. Carl.