Today, the feast day of my favorite saint Teresa of Avila, I got a letter from Joanna Davis, a grad student and SPO missionary from my church. Joanna is living and working with a group of college students to help them grow strong in the faith. Although she is not married and has no children, in a sense she too is an “Extraordinary Mom,” for she is using her spiritual gifts to raise up spiritual children.
Category Archives: Teresa of Avila
"Don’t Be Weird, Mom!"
(This is a continuation of the series of articles reflecting on Come Be My Light and the spiritual motherhood of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, patron of adoptive and foster families, which I began earlier this year. For the original post, click the title.)
A Dangerous Prayer
Today I received a letter from a writer friend who had just finished my book Behold Your Mother and found herself being drawn toward the Church. I understand completely her struggle: It is an unsettling, even embarrassing to realize that the one you once regarded as the “Whore of Babylon” is actually your spiritual mother.
Even so, the Church continues to draw her children out of their self-made rafts of subjective religious experience and selective Scripture study, and into the Barque of Peter. Christians are “crossing the Tiber” into the fullness of the faith all the time, from every possible tradition: Baptists, Pentecostals, Vineyard, Methodists, Presbyterians (I was baptized Presbyterian, but because of my music background I’ve been involved in all of them at one time or another).
Perhaps you find yourself standing on the edge of your raft, gazing serreptitiously (yet longingly) at those who have already taken the leap of faith, and entered into the fullness of the faith through the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church founded by Christ. Yet you are afraid of being tricked, afraid of being deceived … just afraid.
In the words of the late, great Pope John Paul II: “Be not afraid! Open the gates to Christ!” His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, echoes, “Christ is our hope!” It is Christ, who alone atones for the sins of the world, and who offers Himself — Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity — in the Holy Eucharist.
Take your Bible and spend a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Open to the sixth chapter of John, and read each verse very slowly. Let it sink into your heart. Ask God to speak to you through these verses, to reveal to you what HE wants you to understand. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”
Once you get your heart around the Eucharist, what a gift Our Lord gives to us in that Holy Sacrament, you will not be content until you receive Him. However, please remember that St. Paul urges us not to take the sacrament “unworthily.” To be ready to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, you must enter the Church. There’s no way around this. It will take time … but by God’s grace, your hunger will be satisfied in His perfect time.
Finally, a gentle warning. Jesus warned that unless we become like little children, we cannot see the Kingdom of God. It took God many years and quite a number of strippings and humblings before I was willing to say,
“I don’t have the answers, Lord. Only questions. You are God, and I am not … You are pure mystery, and my mind is blinded by prejudice, ignorance, and error. Help me. Guide me each step of the way, and take these blinders from my eyes and help me to truly see.”
This is a dangerous prayer, but a necessary one. It’s not enough to read the Bible … one must interpret it correctly as well. We do this not in isolation, but in union with Christians going all the way back to the first apostles. We must not “proof text” isolated Scriptures to harden our hearts and minds, but invite the Holy Spirit to open us to ALL the truth God wants us to understand. Almost inevitably, He does this through the treasury of wisdom that is available to us through the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium) and the saints.
I suggest you start with Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle and move on to her Way of Perfection. St. Teresa was a sixteenth-century Carmelite mystic who taught that the Lord (she called him “His Majesty”) dwells in the center of our hearts, but that we must strip ourselves of everything — even good things — in order to reach that inner chamber.
If you find yourself embarking on this journey alone, and need someone to pray for you … I’m here. Drop me a note at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com. God bless you!