October 15, 2018

St. Teresa of Avila


St. Teresa of Jesus draws us to the light of Christ.  She does this by moving our minds, our imaginations and our hearts into the humanity of the Lord. She baptizes our imagination with the night of the Agony in the Garden so that the King might illumine us. She explains His teachings on prayer to help us see just how far heaven is beyond what we can see. She exhorts us to be mindful of His majesty and humbled by His great love so that when we ask we might receive. She argues that our prayer lives by His Body and Blood so that no matter how sublime the experiences we might have, we will stay grounded in real life.  We need this mystical wisdom in these difficult days -- for it reminds us about who we are and of the great things to which we are called.

For more on this amazing Doctor of the Church:

https://stpaulcenter.com/unmasking-popular-spiritualities-what-teresa-of-avila-can-teach-us-today/

October 11, 2018

On Keeping the Word of the Father

How do we remain in the Word? The night before He died, Christ commanded his disciples to remain in Him - and, explained, that this means to keep His Word. (See John 15.) Obeying this command goes beyond any moralism or fulfillment of minimal obligation. Minimalism does not keep the Word - for the Word, in its sheer grandeur and inexhaustible wonder, is maximal. We need to live with a maximal response if we are to hear and keep this Word whom the Father fully speaks into our lives. Such is the great task of being Christian -- and the constant effort of contemplation in the Catholic Tradition.

Keeping His Word is painful - because to receive the Word of the Father is to accept being stripped, pruned of what is not fruitful in one's life. The Father cuts off dead branches from our lives as we keep His Word in our hearts.  If we try to keep what is not fruitful, there is no room for what is fruitful. We are dissipated, wasting energy on what has little or nothing to do with the Word. So the Father prunes away what is lifeless.

He does so in respect to our freedom -- for He will not prune what we do not allow Him to. That is why remaining in the Word requires great effort. It costs us trust and confidence in the Father and surrendered openness. It means a receptivity that welcomes what the Father desires and that readily gives permission, assents to all that He yearns to do. When we freely surrender to the Father's purifying action - room is made in our hearts for the new life that the Word makes fecund within. 

October 8, 2018

Prayer and Discouragement

Sometimes, when you offer all that you have and there is no more to give, all the good that you intended seems to crash down around you. All of your efforts seem to have been for naught. Hidden sacrifices and hidden tears seem to have paid no dividends.

Sometimes, while offering a noble sacrifice and tender act of mercy, you only accomplished your own humiliation. Not only the project that you failed to bring to completion, but your own weakness and inadequacy stares you in the face. No noble feelings are left. Only void remains.

Do not let this abyss of humiliation go to waste! Do not let the opportunity to pray in the midst of failure pass you by. For here, we are finally able to offer something of real worth in the eyes of God. Here, in the place where plans are shattered and the heart is broken, Christ Crucified awaits us in love - and the Author of our Faith waits to make our own faith perfect.

The King of Glory prefers these places of poverty and failure: consider where He was born and how He died. The Image of the Invisible God has chosen to make our humiliation His own.  When we are humiliated for His sake, He who is Mighty stands ready to exalt us.

That is why, precisely when we are engulfed in disappointment, we should not torment ourselves with what we thought ought to happen, but give thanks for what the Lord Himself will accomplish. We do not need to know how or what He will do. We only need to trust that His work will be so much more beautiful than anything that was limited by our own categories of success.

Faithfulness, not success, is the good soil of prayer. In failure and defeat the frailest act of love and trust makes the whole world vulnerable to a new work that the Creator yearns to accomplish. In such a sacred place, the smallest act of gratitude is like a mustard seed. When the heart is crushed, one instant of praise in such circumstance is like a priceless pearl in His eyes. Such an act opens fissures in this world and into these the Fount of Living Waters waits to pour the inexhaustible treasuries of His great mercy.

October 6, 2018

The Personal Presence of God

God's presence in the world is personal and intimate. He is vulnerable to every concern and attends with tender care to every request. He does not approach with programs or agendas. He approaches in true friendship - offering forgiveness, salvation, a new beginning and a bond of love. He longs that we might know peace with Him and with one another.

God's personal presence in the world unveils a great mystery of love and truth that cannot be circumscribed. In His inexhaustible Fullness, He overflows the barriers of malice and contempt and shatters prisons of confusion and deception. The shrill cry that fears love and truth is silenced before His holiness. His Truth in silent majesty is always victorious when clamor of darkness would stand in His Way. Where there is no love, the Author of our Faith fills with love until love is found -- and all our clever calculations are confounded when what seemed impossible is suddenly accomplished.

God's intimate presence in love and truth is shared with us by the grace that comes from the Cross. We pull back and fear what this might mean. Yet the the King of Righteousness suffered our hostility to the end and marched into Hell so that death could not have the last word about our humanity. The power of His presence confronts our every sin and, in the face of our ignorance, makes known His justice -- so that we might come to our senses, give up our rebellion, turn to Him and know His merciful kindness. For He awaits us with open arms.

October 1, 2018

The Hidden Way

St. Therese teaches us the hidden way. It is not the way of convention. Nor is it the way of convenience. It often goes against what seems opportune. It always opens out into what is not comfortable. It goes beyond all these things to our fatherland - a place where love is unimpeded by the narrow limits of our own cleverness and achievement. She calls this hidden journey "living by love."

We are pilgrims in this world who travel with the trust of children -- this means never forgetting the goodness of the Father even when it seems most absent. The hidden way goes past our insecurities and our need to be in control. It takes us far past personal gain and even our own health. It takes us deep into the heartache of others - for there Our Bridegroom waits for us. Not suffering in itself, but the love He sees us offer in the midst of life's challenges pierces His heart.

In this face to face, the heart cries out not only in sorrow but also joy. Such is the oblation to merciful love one makes in this hidden way. Y
et it costs dearly - for who can learn to love except at their own expense? And of what use is a love that has never been tested by suffering?

For to live by love takes us on a pathway into the deepest voids -- it is in precisely such painful places that His healing touch is most felt. Finally, where His mercy touches our
misery at last, our frail humanity finds its rest - not in what it achieves but in its very inadequacy, in its very failures to lov
e. Only here, where we spend ourselves and pour out our last effort, falling short even as we hold fast to Him, do we finally learn to be confident in the goodness of the Father.

Confidence in the love of God - that is the path and it is the destination. He draws us into this great mystery by the immensity of His love - beyond every barrier, every seeming impossibility, into a place of mystery that even those closest to us do not understand ... but somehow yearn for.