Maria L. Diaz, ocds: Jubilee Year of Mercy 2

‘Ecce Homo’, La Encarnación, Avila. This statue, no more than ten inches high, converted St. Teresa. Photo credit:

When I entered the Secular Carmelite Order, it was a great discovery for me to find in it this charism of prayer and meditation. The solid foundation of the spirituality, the type of formation involved, and the study of the Carmelite heritage and Saints really attracted me; this was the answer to what I had been searching for. I knew this would be the way to draw closer to God. But this great discovery has also required from me an obedience and daily commitment to the Order, over the years, which has also led me to discover, not only the truth about God and love, but about myself as well. It has been in the trials and struggles of my life, that the discovery of prayer has challenged yet strengthened me with joy and peace. To be a Secular Carmelite has not only been a privilege, but a responsibility

As Teresa came to understand prayer, she began to understand who Jesus was in her life. A couple of events helped Teresa move toward a profound discovery of the humanity of Jesus Christ. The first event was the reading of St. Augustine’s Confessions. The manner in which the Lord called him to conversion resonated with Teresa. She tearfully read how Augustine spoke about waiting until “tomorrow” to change his life; she recognized this in herself.

One day while she was in prayer before an image of Christ at the pillar, she was moved by the deep recognition of how much he had suffered out of love for her. This experience of His love finally moved her heart, and she begged Him to never let her offend Him again. This marked a decisive turn in her life. She writes, “I saw that He was man, even though he was God; that he wasn’t surprised by the weaknesses of men; that he understands our miserable make-up, subject to many falls on account of the first sin which he came to repair.”

Teresa’s discovery of the humanity of Jesus Christ gave her search for God a concrete form which in turn, healed the division she experienced between her spirit that longed for God, and her humanity. As Teresa put it, “Well, come now, my daughters, don’t be sad when obedience draws you to involvement in exterior matters. Know that if it is in the kitchen, the Lord walks among the pots and pans helping you both interiorly and exteriorly.” She writes, “After that point, my prayer began to really take shape because it was being built on a solid foundation.”

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis tells us, “Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience Mercy. This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!”

From Teresa, I have learned that I can meet God in the heart of my daily life because I know that Christ endured so many trials for me. Nothing surprises Him; He understands me. I can remember, many years ago, waiting upon the Lord to help me through another personal trial. Out of desperation, I surrendered myself, feeling as if I were hanging high upon the clothes-line of God with nothing to offer but my pain, and knowing so well that I could easily fall if he wasn’t there to hold me. It was there that I spoke directly to God, heart to heart, with nothing to offer him. I was a beggar, begging for mercy and for help with my great difficulty.

Indeed, I was given mercy and help through this intense prayer and difficult time, and Jesus answered me with physical results and specific unexpected actions. This was truly a miracle!

 After the conversion she experienced when she contemplated the suffering Christ, Teresa began to experience the powerful and transforming presence of the Risen Jesus within herself and in the Church in ever deeper and decisive ways. On January 25th, 1561, on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Teresa had a vision of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ in his Risen Form.

Her experience of the Risen Christ healed her affectivity, renewed her hope, liberated her from fear and anxiety, and gave her a desire to proclaim the Mercy and praises of God to the whole world. This presence gave her courage and enabled her to accept and face the realities of daily life calmly and confidently. In a powerful way, her encounter with the Risen Christ profoundly shaped her particular vision of the Christian life, primarily her view of prayer.

In the depths of silent prayer, Teresa experienced the liberating power of the Risen Jesus, freeing her from fear and awakening her to a deeper faith, knowledge, and love of God. This was an outburst of the kingdom of God within her and her experience of being “absorbed” by the spirit of the Risen Lord. Today, we can look at her struggles and her journey, and be encouraged by her witness. She wanted to spread far and wide the message of freedom, love, and friendship she had found in Jesus. For Teresa, Jesus is the source of our Salvation and the cause of all healing and sanctification in every age.

Many years ago, I received healing from chronic sore throats and infections I was experiencing as a result of extreme stress. I saw many doctors over a long period of time, but none of them could help. I remember my mother-in-law saying, “Don’t you worry, I will pray and you will be fine.” She told me that in her younger years, she had suffered from the same problem and was also liberated through prayer.

At about the same time, while I was in silent prayer at Santa Clara Monastery, I heard a voice say, “Give your clothes away.” They were expensive clothes, and shopping for them had taken much of my time, money, and attention. When I look back at my life, I believe that the Lord was calling me to follow Him and wanted to free me of my own material attachments so I could make room in my heart to follow Him and live out my vocation in a more selfless way. I never once regretted the fruit that this action produced.

Most of Teresa’s experiences took place and her deepening relationship with Christ happened within the context of the Eucharist. Her love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament would break forth in ardent prayer and ecstasies. She concretized her union with God through a life of love for neighbor and service to the Church. She writes, “We have Him so near in the Blessed Sacrament, where He is already glorified and where we don’t have to gaze upon him as being so tired and worn out, bleeding, wearied by his journeys, persecuted by those for whom he did so much good, and not believed by the apostles.” Teresa tells us that, “If our health doesn’t allow us, to think always about the passion of Jesus, for who can prevent us from being with Him in his Risen State present in the Eucharist?” She concludes, “This heavenly food provides both spiritual and bodily sustenance. It is a great “medicine” even for bodily ills.”

Our Holy Father writes, “The Church lives within the communion of the saints. In the Eucharist, this communion, which is a gift from God, becomes a spiritual union binding us to the saints and blessed ones whose number is beyond counting.” He also writes, “We all need the quiet and the solitude of prayer and the strength of the Eucharist. When we become overwhelmed by the struggles of life, it is there that we can experience God’s grace and love, in spite of our sinfulness and our failures.”

Today, I understand that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. It is the bridge between heaven and earth. It gives me a sharing in our Lord’s Resurrected life and in the Church. When I receive the Eucharist, my identity as a beloved of the Lord, is solidified. The Eucharist increases my longing for prayer and desire to be in the presence of our living God. The Eucharist is where I receive God’s liberating and healing love. It is also where my capacity to love God and my neighbor is deepened (to be continued)

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Santa Clara OCDS Conference, 2016)

Copyright 2016, Mary L. Diaz. All Rights Reserved

‘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.’

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