I had forgotten—shame on me!—that Karol Wojtyla, as a doctoral student under the French Dominican and theologian Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, had written a dissertation (in Latin) on St. John of the Cross: Doctrina de fide apud S. ioannem a Cruce (The Doctrine of Faith According to St. John of the Cross; George Weigel discusses it on pages 85-86 of Witness to Hope). Today a reader sent me a link to a 1990 Apostolic Letter, "Master of Faith," written by John Paul II to "The Very Reverend Father Felipe Sainz De Baranda Superior General Of The Order Of The Discalced Brothers Of The Blessed Virgin Mary Of Mount Carmel On The Occasion Of The IV Centenary Of The Death Of Saint John Of The Cross, Doctor Of The Church." The reader mentioned it, of course, because of the recent "revelations" about Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul. Here is some of what the late, great John Paul II had to say on the topic of spiritual darkness:
The dark night of faith and the silence of God
14. The Mystical Doctor appeals today to many believers and non-believers because he describes the dark night as an experience which is typically human and Christian. Our age has known times of anguish which have made us understand this expression better and which have furthermore given it a kind of collective character. Our age speaks of the silence or absence of God. It has known so many calamities, so much suffering inflicted by wars and by the destruction of so many innocent beings. The term dark night is now used of all of life and not just of a phase of the spiritual journey. The Saint's doctrine is now invoked in response to this unfathomable mystery of human suffering.
I refer to this specific world of suffering about which I spoke in the Apostolic Exhortation Salvifici Doloris. Physical, moral and spiritual suffering, like sickness—like the plagues of hunger, like war, injustice, solitude, the lack of meaning in life, the very fragility of human existence, the sorrowful knowledge of sin, the seeming absence of God—are for the believer all purifying experiences which might be called night of faith.
To this experience St. John of the Cross has given the symbolic and evocative name dark night, and he makes it refer explicitly to the light and obscurity of the mystery of faith. He does not try to give to the appaling problem of suffering an answer in the speculative order; but in the light of the Scripture and of experience he discovers and sifts out something of the marvelous transformation which God effects in the darkness, since "He knows how to draw good from evil so wisely and beautifully" (20). In the final analysis, we are faced with living the mystery of death and resurrection in Christ in all truth.
15. The feeling that God is silent or absent, whether voiced as an accusation or as a complaint, is an almost spontaneous reaction to the experience of pain and injustice. The very people who do not credit God with their joy hold Him responsible in detail for human suffering. The Christian, however, feels the torment of the loss of God or of alienation from Him in a different, and often deeper way, to the point of feeling flung down into the darkness of the abyss.
The Doctor of the dark night finds in this experience the loving hand of the Divine Teacher. He is silent and hides Himself sometimes because He has already spoken and manifested Himself with sufficient clarity. Even the experience of His absence can communicate faith, love, and hope to one who humbly and meekly opens himself to God. The Saint writes: "The soul wore this white tunic of faith when it departed on the dark night and walked ... in the midst of interior darkness and straits ... and suffered with constancy and perseverance, passing through these trials without growing discouraged or failing the Beloved. The Beloved so proves the faith of His bride in tribulations that she can afterwards truthfully declare what David says: Because of the words of your lips I have kept hard ways (Ps 16:4)" (21).
This schooling at God's hand is an expression of love and mercy which gives back to man a sense of gratitude so that he is free to accept God's gift of Himself. At other times it makes him feel the full effect of sin, which is both an offense against God and death and the void for man. The dark night educates man so that he is able to discern regarding God's presence or absence. Thus schooled, he no longer depends on pleasant or unpleasant feelings to guide him, for he is led by faith and by love. God remains his loving Father, in the hour of pleasure and in the hour of pain.
Someone really needs to get that quote to some MSM folks. But don't tell Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris about it, or we'll hear how John Paul II was an atheist, a doubter, and a man trapped by the mindless dogmas of a superstitious Church, etc., etc. After all, those men have such an excellent grasp of Catholic theology and spirituality...ha!