Saturday, October 15, 2016

May the Eyes of Your Hearts Be Enlightened

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.  Ephesians 1:18-21

“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” Luke 12:10-12

Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough. (St. Teresa of Avila)

Just two weeks ago, we remembered the “other” Therese -- Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.  There was a long time when I confused these two saints because of the similarities in their names. However, getting to know these two Carmelites better, Teresa of Avila had a longer impact on the Church in her lifetime living well into her sixties.  Her life began less than twenty years after Columbus sailed west to find India opening the eyes of the world to new paths and new peoples.  Although looking back, we may have many criticisms of Columbus, he opened a period of exploration and opportunity. With Teresa of Avila, the influential leadership of the Spanish culture of the day comes to the fore with her as well as Columbus.   

“The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.”[i]

Teresa was a woman “for others.” Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.  Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.

Interesting readings today include a very contemplative sounding prayer that Teresa probably loved in Ephesians as St. Paul prayers for the eyes of our heart to open. However, the challenge in the Gospel is that we learn of the one sin from which there is no forgiveness. 

Like Teresa’s time, ours is a time of turmoil, a time of reform, and a time of liberation. Modern men and women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.

A recent issue of the Just Faith ( newsletter postulated the same: 

For some time now, it has been clear to people of faith across the world that we are living through an extraordinary time of crisis. The effects of this crisis are already being keenly felt by the poorest among us. Rooted in the social, economic, and spiritual patterns of our lives, this is a challenge we will surely be facing for the rest of our days, a crisis which carries serious implications for our children and their children to come. Joining with the indigenous and rural people who are close the land, the pope reminds us all of our call to be guardians of Creation: “tillers” and “keepers” of the Earth. He also invites us to explore what it might mean to undergo an “ecological conversion”, and makes an urgent appeal for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” (Laudato Si’, 14).

Where do we go from here?  Perhaps the only way to know is through prayer and conversations with a friend.  Teresa wrote: "For mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything."

Teresa’s prayer was the diving board from which she jumped into her reformist ways.  She did not come to this position quickly or easily.  Sources explain that she had been a nun for over twenty years and went through spiritual and physical deserts.  She survived a severe bout of malaria (but not before her convent has already dug her grave).  In addition, Teresa had long dry periods in her prayer life when she did not pray at all before she learned to experience her relationship with God through such mental/contemplative prayer. It was not until she was 43 years old that Teresa became determined to reform the Carmelite order and start a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer.

St. Teresa would have made a good Cursillista.  Teresa believed that the most powerful and acceptable prayer was that prayer that leads to action. Good effects were better than pious sensations that only make the person praying feel good.[ii] 

How are teh "eyes of your heart" opening?  What action is your prayer leading you to undertake?

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