Teresa of Avila is one of my favorite saints. She was a strong woman, a formidable woman in a male dominated world. She was a reformer of her religious congregation and a voice for reform in the Church. Because of those efforts she is one of the few women declared a “Doctor of the Church.” Teresa was a contemporary of St. Ignatius with whom she corresponded. (I shall never forget viewing, in the Jesuit community in Malaga, Spain, a framed letter from her to St. Ignatius.) She lived in a time of upheaval—political, religious and social. Her faith—strong and focused—guided her in word and deed. She believed that once you possess God you lack nothing; nothing can disturb nor dismay you. That is a quality of faith in high demand these days.
While a woman of deep faith, Teresa also had a whimsical side. As she said, grabbing her castanets and starting to dance during the hour of recreation in her unheated convent, “One must do something to make life bearable.”
Events of these past weeks, conditioned by natural disasters which decamped entire cities, dispossessed the rich and poor alike, and challenged our national resolve, seem, for some, unbearable and have tested our faith. The quest for peace, at home and abroad, tests our faith. Confused and strained public policy tests our faith. Why and how are all of these things/events/catastrophes befalling us?
These are the best and the worst of times. Where does one turn for answers? I do not know. I do not know why or how these events have been compounded. I do not pretend to know the mind of God or man. But what I do know is that it is easier to reflect upon these events if you are a person of faith; to not dwell on them alone or in isolation.
Today’s scripture says as much. It was from faith, not from the law, that Abraham and his descendents prospered. “Abraham believed, hoping against hope, that he would become the father of many nations…” Just so, Jesus says, “everyone who believes in me, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.” For those who believe in Jesus, the Spirit will guide through the trials of life. That must be our disposition, also, because that assurance is given to each of us.
Questions abound without answers, fragile household economies are stretched without accountability, weather patterns change in destructive ways, and public discourse disrupts rather than unites. Such is the temper and tenor of the times--at least in the USA.
These words of St. Teresa of Avila serve as balm in these troubled times:
To this we say: Amen!
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