Today, of course, is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila. She's my confirmation saint! I chose her largely because of the accounts I had read of her ecstatic experiences; coming from a "holy roller" background, I desired to have such experiences myself. I'm a little embarrassed to say that now. I know now that it is not right to desire those experiences, but that it is important to accept them with humility if they occur. For whatever reason, though, I think God put me with St. Teresa, and I look to her for guidance and protection.
So...today is a "big deal" at my little Hermitage for the Bewildered. We are celebrating St. Teresa in style! Here are some timely thoughts from my saint:
From the writings of St. Teresa of Jesus (The Way of Perfection 2, 136-138), as presented in A Word in Season: Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours, vol. II, Augustinian Press, 2001.
We can promise easily enough to give up our will to someone else, but when it comes to the test we find it the most difficult thing in the world to do perfectly. But God knows what each of us is able to bear, and when he finds a valiant soul, he does not hesitate to accomplish his will in that person.
So I want to warn you and make you understand what God’s will is, so that you may realize with whom you are dealing (as the saying goes) and what the good Jesus is offering on your behalf to the Father. I want to make sure you know what you are giving him when you say, “Your will be done.” You are asking that God’s will may be done in you; it is this and nothing else you are praying for. You need not be afraid he will give you wealth or pleasures or great honors or any earthly good thing; his love for you is not so weak as that. He sets a far greater value on your gift and desires to reward you generously, giving you his kingdom even in this life. Would you like to see how he treats people who make this petition without reserve? Ask his glorious Son, who made it genuinely and resolutely in the garden. Was not God’s will accomplished in him through the trials, the sufferings, the insults, and the persecutions he sent him until at last his life was ended on the cross?
You see then what God gave to the one he loved best of all, and that shows you what his will is. These things are his gifts in this world, and he gives them in proportion to his love for us. To those he loves most he gives more, to those less dear he gives less; his gifts are measured by the courage he sees we have and the love we bear his majesty. Fervent love can suffer a great deal for his sake, while lukewarmness will endure very little. I myself believe that love is the gauge of the crosses, great or small, that we are able to bear.
So if you have his love, think what you are doing. Do not let the promises you make to so great a Lord be no more than empty compliments, but brace yourselves to suffer whatever God wishes. Any other way of surrendering our will to him is like offering someone a precious stone, entreating him to accept it, and then holding onto it when he puts out his hand to take it. Such mockery is not for him who endured so much mockery for us. If for no other reason, it would be wrong to mock him in this way every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. Let us give him once and for all the precious stone we have offered him so many times – for he in fact first gave us the thing we now give back to the Father.
My whole aim in writing this is to encourage us to yield ourselves entirely to our creator, to submit our will to his, and to detach ourselves from created things. Since you understand how important this is, I will say no more on the subject, but will explain to you why our good Master wishes us to make this petition. He knows very well how we shall benefit by fulfilling the promise we have made to his eternal Father, for in a very short time we shall find ourselves at our journey’s end, drinking at the fountain of living water.
Every now and then I “get” what it means to be abandoned to Divine Providence, and why it is important to do that NOW, and not always be yearning for some “future life” as a hermitess, with a particular physical setting and circumstance in mind.
And every now and then I “get” the fact that this life is but a moment, and our true home is in Heaven, which is for all eternity. Getting to Heaven is the important thing – not getting to a hermitage tucked away in the wilderness. Heck, I’ll be dead before I know it.
Usually, I forget all this as quickly as I “get” it, though. Sigh.