Years ago, Austen Ivereigh, executive editor of The Tablet made a 30-day Spiritual Exercises retreat when he was a Jesuit novice. He spent most of the time in a state of desolation. “I grasped the paradox at the core of this desolation: you can only know God through simplicity of heart, yet I could not, by my own means, attain such simplicity.”
But this very difficult retreat had a good end:
I was deeply grateful for an essential lesson that could not have been learned any other way: that my energies, for so long directed at self-preservation and achievement, could not win me God, or, which is the same, love. I had learned that, indeed, all is God’s gift, and over time even my heart would begin to grasp that too. It’s true: I was no longer the same.