Erin Foord, ocds: St. Teresa’s Bookmark Novena Day 8

St. Teresa of Jesus Novena

O most loving Heavenly Father! We thank you for the great gift you gave us through your beloved St. Teresa of Avila, virgin and doctor of the Church. Her life was a great example of prayer, sacrifice and faith in You. We humbly pray for her most holy intercession… (Mention your intentions)

St. Teresa, we know that you are a powerful intercessor because of your close relationship to the Holy Mother and Jesus through prayer. Open wide the doors to the interior castle of our hearts and souls so that we may know how to pray! Pray for us, that we may have the gift of prayer. St. Teresa of Avila, you are an example of prayerful holiness that we will try to follow. You are in heaven praising God. With your seat of honor, please beg God to bring me to eternal rest with you.

Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…

Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us! Amen

All things are passing away:

What is Saint Teresa teaching us through this third line of her bookmark? Is it merely a warning? Do not allow the love of the world into our heart, it will be disturbing and frightening, and in the end will abandon us because, all things are passing away?

It can be emotionally upsetting and worrisome when we have invested our faith, hope, and love in things temporary and constantly changing. The things of this world pass in and out of our lives; successes and failures, health and sickness, life and death, problems and joys. Saint Teresa understood this well. She was no stranger to life’s pain and heartache. She lost her mother at twelve. (cf. Life, I, 7) She struggled with weakness and poor health her whole life. Three years after entering Carmel she fell seriously ill and remained in a coma for four days appearing as if she were dead (cf. Life, 5, 9). Five years later, she was alone in the world, her father died and her siblings immigrated to America. Yet through it all she was able to proclaim, “Our greatest gain is to lose the wealth that is of such brief duration and, by comparison with eternal things, of such little worth!”

This is not to conclude that it was easy for her. Saint Teresa was not immune to enjoying the world’s distractions. In her adolescence she developed an affection for her cousins and reading romance novels. Later in her religious life she lamented of her relationship with Jesus, that “…he had brought me back to himself so many times, and I as often had left him” (Life, 7, 8). But, her experience was not without merit, as she goes on to assert, “To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.” From her experience she realized that, “Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”

She taught that we are free to enjoy the created things of this life while they last, but should use them to turn our minds and hearts to God. She explains, “Reflect upon the providence and wisdom of God in all created things and praise Him in them all.” She warns not to cling to things with our will and our heart and counsels that we must be prepared to let them go when it is time, “have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that.” In fact, those special moments become all the more precious when we come to understand that they are not meant to last. It may even provide some measure of comfort that whatever hardships and pains we experience, they also will pass, as Saint Teresa reasoned, “Pain is never permanent”. She embraced suffering with this understanding, “Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end . . . and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.”

For Saint Teresa, the primary understanding of the line, “All things are passing away”, was never bleak and depressing. It was never about the end! Rather, interpreted in faith it is a message of hope. Scripture confirms, “…the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” (1Jn. 2:17) Saint Teresa is echoing the words of Saint Paul as he explains, that only “the world in its present form is passing away.” (1Cor.7:31) Its passing makes room for a new creation. He continues, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2Cor.5:17) This is the message Saint Teresa intends to convey. This life as an ongoing journey of change and choice, a surrendering of the old and a trusting in new beginnings. Let nothing disturb or frighten you, the “old” world is passing away… but the good news of Jesus Christ is, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev.21:5)

About the author: Erin Foord has been a Secular Discalced Carmelite for 40 years.  He served as President of the California-Arizona Provincial Council from 2014-2017. He gave this conference as part of an Ongoing Formation class for the Santa Clara , CA OCDS community.

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