“Our cause is never more indanger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do ourEnemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seemsto have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
– The Screwtape Letters, Letter #8, CS Lewis
This has been an exciting year for the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy. New weekend training schedules were introduced, the Catholic Community welcomed a new priest, and after 14 years, we finally beat Navy in football.
While it is located on a beautiful campus, the Military Academy (or USMA for short) is grueling- mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. The dichotomy between living with your best friends and being completely stressed out is astonishing. This pressure cooker they call an academy has a way of throwing even its most talented cadets into a state of spiritual desolation. Through the tough academic classes, strict military training, and demanding lifestyle, many cadets fall prey to the devil’s temptations and turn to comfort mechanisms out of line with Christ’s plan for our lives.
The 2016-2017 Academic year was the second year of FOCUS on the United States Military Academy’s campus. Even though the missionaries haven’t been on campus for a significant amount of time, they have become essential in keeping our heads above water; they are physical reminders that God cares about us. Through their love and support, they encourage the Catholic cadets to trust in God’s mercy, obey His commandments, and face the future without fear.
My relationship with my discipler has brought me closer to Christ during my dark nights of the soul. Since my conversion to the Church on April 4th, 2015, I’ve gone through multiple periods of desolation. I’m in the midst of a dark night now, and I struggle to see the beauty of God around me. I don’t feel His presence, even in the Eucharist. The Mass feels cold and distant. Confession holds no joy.
In these times, I clearly hear Christ’s voice through my discipler. Through her, Jesus speaks delicate words of comfort to my aching soul: trust, obey, and do not fear. Christ is allowing me to undergo sufferings so that I may become His heir, His beloved daughter (see Romans 8:17).
I’ve seen many of my friends go through the same experiences. I’m convinced that the devil does some of his most dangerous work in college. We are the most vulnerable while we are separated from our families, our lifelong friends, and the priests that we grew up with. He tempts us and tries to take advantage of our dark nights.
However, by allowing us to go through times of spiritual desolation, Christ is giving us a brilliant opportunity to obey Him, to choose Him, to love Him.
It is during this time of temptation and loneliness that our souls can reach for holiness.
FOCUS provides a ladder to help us reach for Heaven. FOCUS gives us the courage and perseverance to endure the dark nights of the soul through personal friendships, discipleship relationships, and especially the SEEK conferences. Because of FOCUS, I’ve learned to rejoice in the times of spiritual darkness and view them as opportunities to grow in holiness. FOCUS teaches me that I am not alone in my sufferings.
If you see yourself falling into that spiritual despair, reach out. FOCUS missionaries are prepared to give you a leg-up, a spiritual lift, a moment of peace. Always remember that our goal in life is to become a saint; FOCUS clearly helps us attain that goal.
Trust, obey, and do not fear. “The LORD is with me until the end.” – Psalm 138:8