Carlo Carretto was a leader in Italian "Catholic Action" and served as
National President of Catholic Youth from 1946 to 1952. At the age of
forty-four he heard the call of God to go into the desert. There he joined
the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld.
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joy of the Saharan novitiate is the solitude, and the joy of solitude -
silence, true silence, which penetrates everywhere and invades one's whole
being, speaking to the soul with wonderful new strength unknown to men to
whom this silence means thing.
Here, living in perpetual silence, one learns to distinguish its different
shades: silence of the church, silence in one's cell, silence of work,
interior silence, silence of the soul, God's silence.
To learn to live these silences, the novice-master lets us go away for a
few days' "desert."
A hamper of bread, a few dates, some water, the Bible. A day's march: a
A priest celebrates Mass: then goes away, leaving in the cave on an altar
of stones, the Eucharist. Thus, for a week one remains alone with the
Eucharist exposed day and night. Silence in the desert, silence in the
cave, silence in the Eucharist. No prayer is so difficult as the adoration
of the Eucharist. One's whole natural strength rebels against it.
One would prefer to carry stones in the sun. The senses, memory,
imagination, all are repressed. Faith alone triumphs, and faith is hard,
To place oneself before what seems to be bread and to say, "Christ is
there living and true," is pure faith.
But nothing is more nourishing than pure faith, and prayer in faith is
"There's no pleasure in adoring the Eucharist," one novice used to say to
me. But it is precisely this renunciation of all desire to satisfy the
senses that makes prayer strong and real. One meets God beyond the senses,
beyond the imagination, beyond nature.
This is crucial: as long as we pray only when and how we want to, our life
of prayer is bound to be unreal. It will run in fits and starts. The
slightest upset - even a toothache - will be enough to destroy the whole
edifice of our prayer life.
... as long as we pray
only when and how we want to, our life of prayer is bound to be unreal ...
"You must strip your prayers," the novice
master told me. You must simplify, de-intellectualize. Put yourself in
front of Jesus as a poor man: not with any big ideas, but with living
faith. Remain motionless in an act of love before the Father. Don't try to
reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach him in love;
that is possible.
The struggle is not easy, because nature will try to get back her own, get
her dose of enjoyment; but union with Christ Crucified is something quite
After some hours - or some days - of this exercise, the body relaxes. ..
the will refuses to let it have its own way it gives up the struggle. It
becomes passive. The senses go to sleep. Or rather, as St. John of the
Cross says, the night of senses is beginning. Then prayer becomes
something serious, even if it is painful and dry. So serious that one can
no longer do without it. The soul begins to share the redemptive work of
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