|01-07-2012 - Traces, n. 7
HERE ON EARTH
THE WORDS OF ST. TERESA OF ÁVILA IN THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT OF A HOSPITAL
IN NEW YORK CITY REMIND US THAT, IN TRYING TIMES, IT IS NOT OUR ABILITIES, BUT OUR RECOGNITION OF A NEED THAT CARRIES US ALONG TOWARD GOD.
I will never forget the first time I saw Ávila, Spain, in the summer of 1970. I was overwhelmed by her presence, the presence of La Santa (in Ávila, you don’t have to mention her name). The presence of Teresa de Jesus is stamped on each one of those walls that seem less a military defense to keep out foreign armies and more a gathering inwards of more and more saints. Her presence is stamped on each plaza, big or small, each church and chapel, each restaurant and bar, with or without tapas.
This year on Independence Day (July 4th), I was reading from St. Teresa of Ávila in the intensive care unit of a hospital in a fancy suburb of New York City. My only brother, whom I love very much, was fighting for his life while I was being attacked and attacked myself for my inability to trust and accept God’s will.
I was trying to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and in the Office of Readings there was a reading from “The Way of Perfection” of St. Teresa of Ávila.
It was a meditation on the Our Father’s position: “Thy Kingdom come.”
Here are excerpts from the reading: “Could you not, my Lord, have ended this prayer in a single sentence, by saying: ‘Give us, Father, whatever is good for us’? For, in addressing One Who knows everything, there would seem to be no need to say any more.
“Eternal Wisdom! Between You and Your Father this was quite sufficient. This is how You made Your request of Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. You showed Him what You wished for and what You feared, but left it all in His hands. But You know us, my Lord, and You know that we have not given ourselves up to the will of Your Father as completely as You did. For us, it is best to pray for specific things, so that, as each of them comes to mind, we can pause to consider whether it is something good that we are asking for; so that if it is not, we should refrain from asking for it. Otherwise (being what we are, free will and all), we will not accept what God chooses to give us even if it is far better than what we asked for, simply because it is not exactly what we asked for. We are the sort of people who cannot feel rich unless we feel the weight of the actual coins in our hand.
“Now the good Jesus bids us say these words, in which we pray that the Kingdom may come in us: Hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come. See how great our Master’s wisdom is! I am thinking of what it is we are asking for when we ask for the Kingdom: it is important that we should understand this. His Majesty saw that because of our weakness we could not hallow or praise or magnify or glorify the holy name of the Eternal Father in a way adequate to its greatness. We could not, that is, do it by ourselves, if His Majesty did not help us by giving us His kingdom here on earth. And so the good Jesus places these two petitions–Hallowed be Thy name and Thy kingdom come–next to each other, so that we can understand what we are asking for and why it is important to beg for it and to do all we can to please the One who is able to give it to us.”
I must study more what she writes, but I felt her presence once again–Ávila on the Hudson–reminding me that the conversion and reform she lived and suffered from was not the result of perfection, but it came and comes through a recognition of spiritual impotence.