The Catholic Teacher And Dark Faith

As many of you know, I was involved in a bad accident last week and have just got home from hospital. If you’ve ever found yourself lying in a hospital bed you may remember that it’s a place where we can end up wondering where God has gone. It’s a question at least as old as the Book of Job. In today’s episode I want to share how we can apply these ideas and experiences to challenging moments in Catholic education.

Trusting Jesus When He Seems Absent

Well, hey everybody, Jonathan Doyle with you. Welcome to the The Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast. Many listeners will know that it’s been a very big week for me. I’ve just got out of hospital. I know many of you will know this. I had a really bad accident last week. I fell off an earth moving tractor on a very steep slope and managed to jump off just before I sort of got pinned by it, shattered both my wrists and got a pretty bad head knock and split my head pretty badly and a few other injuries.

So, I’ve just got out of hospital yesterday after some pretty major surgery. Massive thanks to all of you that have been so supportive of me on social media, Twitter, particularly. Beautiful messages from so many. So, I want to thank you all for your incredible love and support. People criticize social media and talk about it so, and there’s, I guess, I know there’s a lot of negatives, but I have felt so supported by many of you. So, thanks so much. It’s good to be out of hospital. I’m still on a pretty strong pain regimen of medications so if I sound a little bit weary, it’s that.

I’m going to go and rest soon, but I really wanted to just jump back on the daily podcast quickly because I learned a lot in this last week in hospital and going through all of that and I want to share some insights with you that I hope will be useful in your work in Catholic education. Listen, all I want to share in this short episode is I had an experience in there of you know, really, you know, in enormous pain.

The injuries were pretty major and if you’ve been through, as many of you have no doubt at times, times in hospital, a lot of pain and all the stuff that goes with that. You know, you’re looking for peace and you’re praying and you’re like, you know, crying out to God to take things away, make things different. And often that doesn’t happen. And I was thinking about you all because I thought in oftentimes in Catholic education you’re teaching and things can be difficult and you have these hard seasons. And we pray and we know that we’re supposed to press more deeply into Jesus but why doesn’t he change the circumstance? You know, why doesn’t he immediately, you know, for me in hospital remove the pain or, you know, change the circumstance?

Well, I think a couple of points. One is that he does, like, he often does do that, but we always remember of course that he’s God and his plans and his purposes and his timing are just fundamentally different to ours. So, there really is this great difference between how we might want to see things happen and what he’s doing. And there’s a degree of humility in that in allowing God to be God and trusting that there is a process that he has in play that we may not fully understand. So, there’s that trust element.

The second thing is something that Saint John of the Cross used to talk about, which is the concept of dark faith. If you’re familiar with contemplative prayer and particularly Carmelite contemplative prayer, there’s, you know, John of the Cross was the great Carmelite mystic who helped us understand that God really transcends our feelings pretty much the way that the, if you put a candle next to the sun in a thought experiment, that the light of the sun would just vastly overwhelm the candle. And John of the Cross used to say that our intellect, our understanding is kind of like that little candle and the sun is the reality of God. And sometimes when circumstances are happening, our reason, our intellect is like this tiny candle and God’s presence and purpose just utterly overwhelms it. So, we can’t grasp what’s happening.

So, I found myself in moments in hospital in this kind of experience of dark faith. I’m like, you know, I’m praying but nothing’s happening. But this deep sense that God was still present somehow, that there was something happening behind all my feelings, that he would never abandon me, that I wasn’t abandoned, that somehow he was still with me. It was a consolation of sorts. So, I want to say to you in Catholic teaching that when you go through these dark seasons or challenging times or difficult people, situations, students, and you’re praying and you’re crying out to God and doesn’t seem to be happening, it may be that he’s drawing you into an experience of dark fight. He’s drawing into an experience of trust and belief that a different tier beyond your feelings.

Now I don’t mean that we just accept and put up with bad circumstances indefinitely or we allow people to treat us terribly. I’m not saying that. It’s that we pray and we ask and then we trust. And that we know that no matter what is happening, he promised not to abandon us. He promised that he wouldn’t do that. He said that he would be the same yesterday, today and forever. He promised that he would be with us until the end of the age. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to the church and to each of us. So, he is faithful to his promises. So, even if our circumstances don’t always stack up with what we might like, we have to trust that he’s still present in it.

I want to wrap this up so I just want to give you a word of encouragement in Catholic education, in your daily work that even if you sometimes can’t sense him there, he is with you and you need to trust that in faith and keep moving forward. Asking for what you need, but trusting that he’s there operating.

All right friends, that is it. Please make sure you’re following me in other places. Instagram, jonathandoyle47. Twitter of course @beingcatholic1 . So, if you just do a search either for Jonathan Doyle or @beingcatholic1 , you’ll find me there. And of course check out the , which means you just go to and you’ll see a link there for Going Deeper. There’s a free trial of the online staff formation program, which I’d love you to check out. And of course the Facebook group, Passionate Catholic Teachers. Make sure you come and find us there. Passionate Catholic Teachers on Facebook. Friends, God bless you. He’s with you. He’s incredibly proud of you. The best is ahead. My name is Jonathan Doyle. This has been The Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast, and I’ll have another message for you tomorrow.

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One Catholic Teacher exists to inspire, encourage and support Catholic teachers around the world. Each day Jonathan Doyle offers a short dose of formation and encouragement via The Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast. Jonathan is also a global speaker and author on all issues related to Catholic Education.