SAINT TERESA OF AVILA
Job, Chapter 9, Verse 33-10:1
33 Would that there were an arbiter between us, who could lay his hand upon us both 34 and withdraw his rod from me, So that his terrors did not frighten me; 35 that I might speak without being afraid of him. Since this is not the case with me, I loathe my life.
It certainly sounds as if Job is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The Pained Spirit
· Job decides he won't take this lying down.
· This is his "why me?" moment. He asks God why he specifically has become God's target.
· He's in such pain that even death would be better.
· Bildad (friend #2) tells Job to repent. Why? He thinks it could have been his kids who sinned and brought this misery upon Job.
· Then he gets all poetic, comparing Job's suffering to a garden sown with bad seeds from his past or from his offspring.
· Bildad is just trying to give the situation some sense for his buddy.
· Job wants a mediator. Can't someone just judge who's right—him or God? Because really, if God is omniscient and omnipotent, then what he did was really, really mean.
· He laments that there is no justice between mortals and immortals, and then he demands a trial with God.
Trauma and Spirituality
Here are some suggestions on reclaiming one's spirituality. It is not meant to be exhaustive nor will it feel right for every individual. It is suggested that you do this with a friend, counselor, or spiritual advisor. It may help to confront one's trauma with someone else's help. It may be a place too scary to go alone.
Step One: Validate the effects the trauma has had on your life. Trauma affects lives in so many different ways. It is important to honor how it has affected yours. It may have had an impact on your relationships, self-esteem, feelings of safety, and the list could go on ad nauseam. These are scars that only you know about and it's time to share them with others and lessen the shame associated with them.
Journal Exercise: Write a list of the effects the trauma has had on you in the following areas;
Step Two: Write a list of characteristics you want in a Higher Power or Spiritual practice. There are no boundaries here. You have the right and permission to create a Higher Power of your understanding who you always wanted and needed. One suggestion is to think of characteristics you want in a best friend or a parent.
· Write a list of characteristics of a friend or someone you know whom you admire or feel safe with.
· Write out a list of characteristics of your new Higher Power.
Step Three: Surround yourself with a loving and understanding person with whom you can share your spiritual journey. This is a delicate matter, you want to choose someone you see practicing spirituality themselves. You want someone you can be honest with about your experience and how you are feeling.
· Tell someone you trust that you need his or her help.
· Share some of your journaling exercises with this individual.
· Initiate a conversation on how they found spirituality.
Journal Exercise: Journal what it felt like to tell someone about what had happened and discuss the concept of spirituality and what you may have learned from this conversation.
Step Four: Recognize your Spirituality or Higher Power. Try and envision your Higher Power. Next, recognize where you see your Higher Power or witness Spirituality in the world. Make a list of characteristics that you see in daily life that is evidence of a spiritual presence. An example of this is seeing the concept of "peace" within the ocean or witnessing "strength" in the eyes of a child. Make your Spirituality or Higher Power something you can see in your daily life.
· Write out what your Higher Power looks like, feels like and smells like.
· Write down some things that your Higher Power would say to you.
· Recognize in the world where you see evidence of the characteristics of your Higher Power. There are an infinite number of answers to this question.
Step Five: Communicate with your Higher Power. Have a dialogue with this new Higher Power on a regular basis. Write letters if it best suits you. Remember, there is not wrong way to have a dialogue
· Write out a few things you say on a daily basis. These can be "prayers" or take the form of affirmations. Type them up and put them in places where you will see them daily. Be specific. If there is something that you are struggling with, write a prayer or affirmation about it.
· Note where you see your Higher Power work in your life. If you are able to get through something that was difficult and feel as if a Presence got you through it or may have contributed to your strength then write it down. Perhaps you felt an instance of peace where you used to have none. Put it on paper. Feel the presence in your life.
This is not an easy journey. It may take time for you to develop this relationship. As with any relationship, it takes time and effort. I have witnessed strength in survivors where they thought there were none. I have seen them capture spirituality that they thought was beyond them. It starts with a willingness to believe in Something. Remember this is a journey, not a destination.
Saint Teresa of Avila
Teresa, whose name was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. In her autobiography she mentions some details of her childhood: she was born into a large family, her “father and mother, who were devout and feared God”. She had three sisters and nine brothers. While she was still a child and not yet nine years old she had the opportunity to read the lives of several Martyrs which inspired in her such a longing for martyrdom that she briefly ran away from home in order to die a Martyr’s death and to go to Heaven (cf. Vida,[Life], 1, 4); “I want to see God”, the little girl told her parents.
A few years later Teresa was to speak of her childhood reading and to state that she had discovered in it the way of truth which she sums up in two fundamental principles.
On the one hand was the fact that (1) “all things of this world will pass away” while on the other God alone is (2) “for ever, ever, ever”, a topic that recurs in her best-known poem: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes.
· Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices”. She was about 12 years old when her mother died, and she implored the Virgin Most Holy to be her mother (cf. Vida, I, 7).
· When she was 20 she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation, also in Avila. In her religious life she took the name “Teresa of Jesus”. Three years later she fell seriously ill, so ill that she remained in a coma for four days, looking as if she were dead (cf. Vida, 5, 9).
· In the fight against her own illnesses too the Saint saw the combat against weaknesses and the resistance to God’s call: “I wished to live”, she wrote, “but I saw clearly that I was not living, but rather wrestling with the shadow of death; there was no one to give me life, and I was not able to take it. He who could have given it to me had good reasons for not coming to my aid, seeing that he had brought me back to himself so many times, and I as often had left him” (Vida, 7, 8).
· In 1543 she lost the closeness of her relatives; her father died and all her siblings, one after another, emigrated to America. In Lent 1554, when she was 39 years old, Teresa reached the climax of her struggle against her own weaknesses. The fortuitous discovery of the statue of “a Christ most grievously wounded”, left a deep mark on her life (cf. Vida, 9).
· The Saint, who in that period felt deeply in tune with the St Augustine of the Confessions, thus describes the decisive day of her mystical experience: “and... a feeling of the presence of God would come over me unexpectedly, so that I could in no wise doubt either that he was within me, or that I was wholly absorbed in him” (Vida, 10, 1).
Teresa of Jesus had no academic education but always set great store by the teachings of theologians, men of letters and spiritual teachers. As a writer, she always adhered to what she had lived personally through or had seen in the experience of others (cf. Prologue to The Way of Perfection), in other words basing herself on her own first-hand knowledge.
Among her most important works we should mention first of all her autobiography, El libro de la vida (the book of life), which she called Libro de las misericordias del Señor [book of the Lord’s mercies].
Among the most precious passages is her commentary on the Our Father, as a model for prayer. St Teresa’s most famous mystical work is El Castillo interior [The Interior Castle]. She wrote it in 1577 when she was in her prime. It is a reinterpretation of her own spiritual journey and, at the same time, a codification of the possible development of Christian life towards its fullness, holiness, under the action of the Holy Spirit. Teresa refers to the structure of a castle with seven rooms as an image of human interiority. She simultaneously introduces the symbol of the silk worm reborn as a butterfly, in order to express the passage from the natural to the supernatural. The Saint draws inspiration from Sacred Scripture, particularly the Song of Songs, for the final symbol of the “Bride and Bridegroom” which enables her to describe, in the seventh room, the four crowning aspects of Christian life: the Trinitarian, the Christological, the anthropological and the ecclesial.
Prayer is life and develops gradually, in pace with the growth of Christian life: it begins with vocal prayer, passes through interiorization by means of meditation and recollection, until it attains the union of love with Christ and with the Holy Trinity. Obviously, in the development of prayer climbing to the highest steps does not mean abandoning the previous type of prayer. Rather, it is a gradual deepening of the relationship with God that envelops the whole of life.
Another subject dear to the Saint is the centrality of Christ’s humanity. For Teresa, in fact, Christian life is the personal relationship with Jesus that culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance she attaches to meditation on the Passion and on the Eucharist as the presence of Christ in the Church for the life of every believer, and as the heart of the Liturgy. St Teresa lives out unconditional love for the Church: she shows a lively “sensus Ecclesiae”, in the face of the episodes of division and conflict in the Church of her time.
A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine which I would like to emphasize is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole of Christian life and as its ultimate goal. The Saint has a very clear idea of the “fullness” of Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of the route through The Interior Castle, in the last “room”, Teresa describes this fullness, achieved in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union with Christ through the mystery of his humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters, St Teresa of Jesus is a true teacher of Christian life for the faithful of every time. In our society, which all too often lacks spiritual values, St Teresa teaches us to be unflagging witnesses of God, of his presence and of his action. She teaches us truly to feel this thirst for God that exists in the depths of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with him and to be his friends. This is the friendship we all need that we must seek anew, day after day. May the example of this Saint, profoundly contemplative and effectively active, spur us too every day to dedicate the right time to prayer, to this openness to God, to this journey, in order to seek God, to see him, to discover his friendship and so to find true life; indeed many of us should truly say: “I am not alive, I am not truly alive because I do not live the essence of my life”. Therefore, time devoted to prayer is not time wasted, it is time in which the path of life unfolds, the path unfolds to learning from God an ardent love for him, for his Church, and practical charity for our brothers and sisters.
A Visit from Jacob(part of the 7-day feast of Sukkot)
Genesis 37:3-4 “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.”
Israel is Jacob. God later changed Jacob’s name to Israel and was no longer seen as a supplanter or deceiver, but as one which “God prevails,” which is what the Hebrew word “Yisra’el” means. The prophets sometime use Jacob’s name when they are writing about Israel (Isaiah 41:14).
Never give up on someone they may be a Jacob with an Israel waiting inside them.