Monday, March 26, 2018

A Powerful Image

Saint Teresa of Avila is an attractive model of spirituality because of her down to earth and charismatic personality. Many people love her because her life story reflects the spiritual struggles of so many. She is also a straight shooting spiritual advisor as we see when we read her spiritual writings. What makes St. Teresa attractive to me was her bold determination and her keen sense of spiritual ills which afflict anyone who takes the spiritual journey seriously. She is not a Doctor of the Church for nothing! One of St. Teresa's favorite Saints was St. Augustine. She found consolation in reading his story of conversion in his book "Confessions." She identified with his life of sinfulness and misery. St. Teresa's life was not comparable to St. Augustine . St. Augustine struggled very much with the sin of the flesh and did not know God. St. Teresa's life was immersed in religion having been born and lived in the culture of 16th century Spain. But St. Teresa, before her great conversion, was what we would call "worldly." She always had a great desire for God that even in her early days of youth, she sought martyrdom with her brother by running off to the land of the Moors to have their heads cut-off! This grand plan was arrested when their uncle found them by the roadside. When St. Teresa entered religious life, she entered it only to have instant access to heaven! She herself in her autobiography tells us that it was for fear of going to hell which she thought she deserved because of her worldliness, that she became a nun to save her soul. Her religious life was full of ups and downs. For 18 years, she struggled with trying to reconcile love of God and love of the world. She described herself as being mediocre, neither hot nor cold, in her love of God. For years she abandoned the practice of prayer and was taken up by the distractions of entertaining benefactors, friends and nobles, who frequented the parlor of the Incarnation convent where she was a member. It was the custom of the convent at the time and she was swept in it. Her mind was occupied with many concerns, her spirit was dissipated, but her hunger was deep. She was panting with thirst, but no one was able to show her the spring of living water. That was about to change.

"My soul was now grown weary; and the miserable habits it had contracted would not suffer it to rest, though it was desirous of doing so. It came to pass one day, when I went to the oratory, that I saw a picture which they had put there, and which had been procured for a certain feast observed in the house. It was a representation of Christ most grievously wounded; and so devotional, that the very sight of it, when I saw it, moved me, so well did it show forth that which he suffered for us. So keenly did I feel the evil return I had made for those wounds that I thought my heart was breaking. I threw myself on the ground beside it, my tears flowing plenteously, and implored Him to strengthen me once for all, so that I might never offend Him any more... But this last time, before that picture of which I am speaking, I seem to have made greater progress; for I was now very distrustful of myself, placing all my confidence in God. It seems to me that I said to Him then that I would not rise up till He granted my petition. I do certainly believe that this was of great service to me, because I have grown better ever since. (Autobiography Chapter IX)

Ecce Homo (Google Photo)
"Behold the Man"

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