Teach me your ways, oh Blessed Trinity
Teach me your ways, oh Creator of earth,
Born before the beginning of time.
In your cavernal womb,
Envelop me in loving secrecy.
Breathe into me the cool breath of life
From walls that have carried waters and springs eternal.
That I may never forget,
In the beginning, I was dust,
Formed into beauty by the Word,
Hidden beneath the stillness of Grace.
Here am I, Lord.
For I am nothing,
and You are everything
In all that I am,
and in all that I will be.- TL
Editor’s note: Saint John of the Cross’s sepulcre is located on the grounds of the Segovia Carmelite Friars Monastery. St. John spent his later years praying in caves like the one in this photo, which is the same as mentioned in Father Robert’s homily below. This homily was Father Robert’s final talk of the 2015 Pilgrimage to Spain in celebration of Saint Teresa’s Centenary. I wrote the prayer above after spending an extended time of silence in this cave.
Saint Teresa’s soul was prepared and marinated, like the meat Wisdom speaks of at the beginning of Proverbs, by the gifts of the Spirit. What does it mean to marinate meat? Those of you who have had more experience than I have know all the different spices that have to come in – oregano, the wine to receive the juices. Then it has to be refrigerated overnight to allow the meat to marinate, to soak up the juices of all the spices and flavors of the choice wines.
This is how our soul must be. Carmelites [pray novenas and] go to pilgrimages so as to marinate our souls in the spirit of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila. We haven’t yet begun to fully see the effects these experiences can have on us. The fruits are still concealed when we return home and to our daily lives. The effects of how, our prayerful experiences in some way have imprinted itself upon us in order to shape us in some fashion will not be obvious. That spiritual growth and change usually takes place as an experience of God, but that encounter and experience is not necessarily going to be something overwhelming, something that can be fully grasped by our senses. That experience and encounter can be very subtle, very gentle, and even hidden from ourselves. Nevertheless, it is real, living and active in our spirits.
In Segovia, there is a large cave with a curtain at its entrance, and if you go into that cave, it is very dark. You don’t see anything that would really engage the senses. It doesn’t have all the baroque, gorgeous displays of the grandeur of God, as can be seen in many churches. In fact, the cave is the opposite; it’s poor, it’s barren, it’s dark, it’s cold, and it’s empty. Yet in the midst of that emptiness is a plump Presence and a supernatural peace. In that darkness, is the center of where God dwells. Hidden, unseen, and yet living and active, and ever so present.
When God speaks in the depths of our spirit, our senses cannot perceive how He is present, but He is certainly present. In the midst of His hiddenness, God is marinating us. He is planting seeds and the change, the effects, the fruits of the conversion that this encounter is meant to have isn’t necessarily going to be something extreme or clearly radical. It’ll be very subtle as well. We will see it in the subtlety of our choices, the subtlety of our drive, in the orientation of our desires, the subtlety of all the decisions that we make, in all the different opportunities, in how we move our senses, and in what we allow our eyes to look at and to not be engaged in; the subtlety of our choices on what we choose to respond to, and to hold back our tongue; the subtlety of our choices when we have a variety of options and we choose not simply what is good, but what is best. We choose to go from good to better and not settle for less.
This is conversion. This is the kind of change and transformation that is more common and more realistic when conversion takes place. Conversion happens in three primary stages and St. Teresa talks about this in The Interior Castle. There are always different degrees of conversion. St. Teresa herself experienced the fullness of conversion. She is a great theologian of the heart, the theologian of love, a teacher of love and life, a great master of wisdom. She teaches us the way of love, the way of the heart as a way to God through faith, hope, and love. Saint Teresa, pray for us.
Toledo, Spain 2015 (Last Pilgrimage Homily) – transcribed by TL
Copyright 2016, Father Robert Barcelos
Novena to Saint Teresa of Avila (written by St. Alphonsus of Liguori)
O most amiable Lord Jesus Christ! We thank Thee for the great gift of faith and of devotion to the Holy Sacrament, which Thou didst grant to Thy beloved Teresa; we pray Thee, by Thy merits and by those of Thy faithful spouse, to grant us the gift of a lively faith, and of a fervent devotion toward the most Holy Sacrament of the altar; where Thou, O infinite Majesty! hast obliged Thyself to abide with us even to the end of the world, and wherein Thou didst so lovingly give Thy whole Self to us.
Say one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.
V. St. Teresa, pray for us:
R. That we may become worthy of the promises of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray: Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation! that as we rejoice in the commemoration of the blessed virgin Teresa, so we may be nourished by her heavenly doctrine, and draw from thence the fervour of a tender devotion; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’