Reading Teresa of Avila (Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1979) was like eating that exploding candy popular some years ago. Couldn’t get enough, couldn’t stop the ricocheting, couldn’t describe the experience.
Then I reread the book off and on: In the usual sequence, back to front, front to middle, middle to either end, skipping around, revisiting parts with relish, reviewing my notes in the margins, comparing and contrasting with what I know, figuratively adding the book to my friends list.
With all the mental pingbacks I’ve received since reading the book, the ol’ pea brain’s been so full that sharing has been delayed for lack of knowing where to start. Still, words and phrases from the book persist. And the message is clear.
Through prayer, humility, and perseverance one can embrace the cross, surrender to God’s will, and receive God’s favors.
Teresa of Avila reminds me of St. Dominic, whose prayerful ways centered on God— mind, body, heart, and soul— and St. Anthony, whose chaplet is based on the Miraculous Responsory. On a more personal level, too, the book provides illumination for my evolving spirituality.
Days prior to finding Teresa of Avila on the hallway shelf, I’d been praying St. Anthony’s chaplet when, quite unexpectedly, I was filled with great awe and understanding.
Oh, my gosh! I get it! I finally get it! I know what prayer is!
I love my Franciscan Crown and the Child Jesus chaplet that Sister sent me from Australia, but St. Anthony’s chaplet is so powerful that I can’t get through the prayers without tearful emotion.
St. Anthony’s chaplet is different, though. Based on the thirteen favors of the Miraculous Responsory, the chaplet builds commitment to God with
St. Anthony’s help and requires not my passive recollection, but my proactive engagement. Its purpose is to help me become a better person, centered on God as the ultimate prize, as St. Dominic would say.
What a revelation to be enlightened by the power of prayer!
Sooo… Was this God’s perfect timing yet again? Did he in his infinite wisdom as teacher extraordinaire prepare me for Teresa of Avila?
Based on prior knowledge and experience, God’s sense of humor is too weird and too timely for me to think otherwise.
What is prayer then?
St. Dominic planted the seed. St. Anthony nurtured it. And St. Teresa harvested the crop.
Prayer isn’t asking God for something. Prayer is embracing the cross. Prayer is loving God and doing for God without giving thought to what he can do for us in return.
God grants graces to ease the pain, manage the suffering, address the injustices. He also grants favors to whomever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. But not because we ask.
This is why St. Dominic believed that we should center on God alone, not on petitioning for ourselves and others.
God knows what we need, and he provides accordingly. In his own time.
Think about it. How many times have we asked for something and never received it? Or we received it but not right away? Or we received something totally different? Or we received everything beyond our wildest imaginings along with heavily weighted crosses to bear?
I can think of one prayer I carried in my heart for more than two years. And, oh, the agony I endured until I finally gave it up. Completely.
You know what’s in my heart. You know the pain I feel. But I love you more. You know best. I give it up to you. You know what to do.
It took a lot to let go but, little by little, I was okay again. Then, within less than a year, I received God’s wonderful surprise. I was so happy that I couldn’t even remember the misery I’d inflicted on myself for worrying all that time before.
Sadly, I know that I can easily revert to wanting my way again. Only now I understand better than I did before: Prayer is loving God unconditionally, entrusting our all to his care no matter what.
I beseech you, O Lord, give me the fidelity I need to persevere with humility and constancy in this path of continual adherence to you will. With your help I will make this practice the center of my interior life.
O my God, shall I ever fall again? Yes, for I am frailty itself; but I know that you will be even more eager to help me rise again than I shall be prone to fall. My firm resolution and my perseverance will be to “begin again” every day, every instant, humbling myself profoundly for my weakness, but having utter confidence in your will to sanctify my soul (Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, 2013, p. 19).
St. Dominic’s blessing… May God the Father who made us bless us. May God the Son send his healing among us. May God the Holy Spirit move within us and give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with, and hands that your work might be done. May we walk and preach the word of God to all. May the angel of peace watch over us and lead us at last by God’s grace to the kingdom. Amen.
April 30, 2011
Father Robert, OP at the Dominican Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus in Chicago shares his Daily Inspiration.
“My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8).
Jesus said over and over again: “Be not afraid.” Ambivalence can make life difficult. [Being] irresolute, uncertain, indecisive… can create… anxiety. Knowing what to do, how to judge, when to decide are all questions that can be the source of much concern and doubt. Fears can be immobilizing to needed action. Often our hearts are ambivalent. In examining and evaluating one’s lifestyle, we can easily perceive that changes are in order. This certainly is true in our relationship with God. Spiritual writers tell us that to grow in the spirit we must let go, abandon things with which we feel most in control. We need to break free and simplify our lives. We are advised not to cling to things and patterns of behavior but to “let go” and cling to God. As we move freely forward in life, trust helps us venture out, holding on tightly to God’s hand. Trust and confidence in God’s loving care and protection are the assurance we need to move ahead in the new and exciting adventure of loving him more.
June 25, 2011
Jesus, I surrender. I give you all of my sickness, all of my wounds, all of my grief. You are my only hope, Lord. Stretch out your hand and touch me with your love (the Word among us, June 2011, p. 44).
July 5, 2011
Father Robert, OP adds this Daily Inspiration.
One of his disciples said; “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1-4).
Sometime when you want to find new meaning in saying the Lord’s Prayer consider the advice of St. Teresa of Avila by saying “The Our Father” backwards. Start from the end verse. Mediate on each line and thought as you move toward the beginning. It starts simply by asking God to help us fight against evil, then proceeds to asking for the needs we have to sustain our lives each day— our daily bread— this is “all that keeps us going,” physically and spiritually and then ends with the grand praise of praise, seeking God’s kingdom on earth in our hearts and in all we do. It closes with the loving title addressed to God the Father, Abba, calling God our loving, “darling” father.
July 10, 2011
Welcome, Master of the harvest! Sow your word in every part of me. Grow whatever crop you desire. I want to know you and love you more each day (the Word among us, July/August 2011, p. 31).
August 3, 2012
“The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us, but that we will finally hear God” (William McGill).
August 17, 2012
Ignatian spirituality taps into our deepest desires. In them we can discern God’s noble desires for us.
Thus, at the beginning of each prayer period, Ignatius advises that we pray for a certain grace, or gift from God: “Ask God our Lord for what I want and desire” (SE 48). Simply naming what we deeply desire opens us to receive the gift God wants to give us. Moreover, praying for a grace helps us to notice when we actually receive that gift later on. In this way, we realize that the grace is not of our own making but is the result of God’s generosity to us. Finally, praying out of our desires grounds us in the present, keeping our prayer “real.”
August 12, 2014
“If we patiently accept through love all that God allows to happen, then we will begin to taste even here on earth something of the delights the saints experience in heaven”
(St. Jane Frances de Chantal).
October 16, 2014
Prayer is “a conscious turning to the invisible friend who is always near” (St. Teresa of Avila).
March 20, 2015
“It is essential to begin the practice of prayer with a firm resolution of persevering in it” (St. Teresa of Avila).
April 22, 2015
Faith believes, hope prays, and charity begs in order to give to others. Humility of heart forms the prayer, confidence speaks it, and perseverance triumphs over God himself (St. Peter Julian Eymard).
May 19, 2015
“To speak heart to heart with God, you must love to be with him alone” (St. Peter Celestine).
May 22, 2015
Just as God, by the ministry of nature, gives to each animal instincts needed for its preservation and the exercise of its natural properties, so too, if we do not resist God’s grace, he gives to each of us the inspirations needed to live, work, and preserve ourselves in the spiritual life (St. Francis de Sales, Finding God’s will for you).
June 5, 2015
When praying to God, we can only ask for God since he is everything and, in giving himself, he gives us all. In asking for him, we ask for all. When we possess him, we can wish and ask for nothing more (Dom Augustin Guillerand, The Prayer of the Presence of God).
August 8, 2015
“We must sow the seed, not hoard it” (St. Dominic).
August 29, 2015
“No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27).
August 30, 2015
Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel. Go and find him when your strength and patience are giving out, when you feel lonely and helpless. Say to him: “You know well what is happening, my dear Jesus. I have only you. Come to my aid….” And then go your way. And don’t worry about knowing how you are going to manage. It is enough to have told our good Lord. He has an excellent memory (St. Jeanne Jugan).
November 13, 2015
If God seems slow in responding, it is because he is preparing a better gift. He will not deny us. God withholds what you are not yet ready for. He wants you to have a lively desire for his greatest gifts. All of which is to say, pray always and do not lose heart (St. Augustine).
November 18, 2015
We cultivate a very small field for Christ; but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne).
June 16, 2016
“To love God is something greater than to know him” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
August 20, 2016
There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is love (St. Bernard).
September 19, 2016
God answers every prayer, but sometimes the answer is no. And, if it is no, we’re better off— if we love God. That’s why Jesus wants us to say “thy will be done” in the Our Father. That is the sure way to happiness— the will of God (Fr. T. G. Morrow, Overcoming Sinful Anger).
January 22, 2017
God is my longing. In whatever way God comes. In every form, through every experience and circumstance, painful or otherwise. God. Only God (Paula D’Arcy in The Divine Spark).
Links of interest… Carmelites… Dominican heart from the beginning… Jesus asks a question… Letting go… Love is a call to action (homily)… Meditations (book review)… Prayer: & petition / six things necessary… St. Dominic: about (more) / & the living word (seed) / contemplation / prayer: biographical documents – blessing (song) – feast day – for various virtues – for vocation – litany – nine ways (more) – novena… St. Jeanne Jugan: 1792-1879 / about / beacon / blog / books / canonization (video; 2009) / contact / Little Sisters of the Poor / memorial (YouTube) / sayings… Teresa of Avila: 1515-1582 / about / author / biography / bookmark / books / bread recipe / chaplet prayers / convent (Avila) / doctor (1970) / feast (Oct 15) / history / interior castle (1921 book online) / patron / poems / prayer / profile / reformer / quotes / saint / timeline / works… Teresian Carmel… the Word among us…
WP posts… Bearing one’s crosses… Dear God… Gift of love… Growing pains… In good time… Mary’s miraculous medal… Mary’s seven joys… My Franciscan Crown… One prayer… Prayerful ways… Seven dwelling places… Si quaeris miracula… Sweet Jesus… Teresa of Avila… Venerable Margaret
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