Wednesday, April 3, 2013

78. St Teresa of Avila. Part five



Miracles. Here are two examples. Once she was earnestly begging Jesus to restore vision to a totally blind man. The Lord appeared and talked to her. Then He said that He would always grant her anything she asked, because she won’t ask Him anything which did not tend to His glory. The vision was restored within a week.

A man was gravely ill. His sufferings, for two months, were intolerable, and he was in such torture that he would lacerate his own body. She was moved to such pity for him that she begged earnestly to Jesus to cure him. On the very next day he was free from that pain

Fray Peter of Alcantarta. St Teresa does not have enough words to praise this holy man. He did severe penances for forty seven years. He slept only for an hour and a half each night for forty years. What sleep he took was sitting down. He could not lie down in his cell which was only four and a half feet long. He never wore a hood or shoes. His only dress was a habit of sackcloth.  It was a very common thing for him to take food only once in three days. Sometimes he would go without food for a week. Once he spent three years in a house of his Order, and could not have recognized a single friar, because he never raised his eyes. Since his death she had more discussions with him than when he was alive. He advised her on many subjects. She beheld him in great bliss. He always appeared as a glorified body. He told her that the penances he had done been a happy thing for him, since they had won him such a great reward.

Some thoughts. She has written so many pearls of wisdom that it is difficult to choose. Here are some of her thoughts which have not been mentioned before in these blog:

“When one is stricken with love for God, it is a great comfort to find another stricken by it too. The two will be of mutual help”. Sri Ramakrishna used to express the same feeling by saying, that one hemp smoker likes the company of another hemp smoker.

“If there is a single thing to which a man clings, it is a sign that he sets some value on it; and if he sets some value upon it, it will naturally distress him to give it up, and so everything will be imperfection and loss (also mentioned in blog 37)”

“We shall get along all right if we walk in righteousness and hold fast to virtue, but it will mean advancing at the pace of hen and will never lead us to spiritual freedom. This procedure is good for married people……………………………………………………I would not like it in any other state, nor will anyone persuade me to think it is a good one” So much so for shariat  which Shahab advocated ( see blog 32, other paths )

This mote got a very good advice on this point: I could not advance beyond a certain point during my meditation. I tried to force the progress by whatever means I could employ. Recently I came at this warning by the saint;" when I say that people should not try to rise unless raised by God...............In the mystical theology........the understanding loses its power first because God suspends it................we must not do is to presume or think that we can suspend it ourselves; nor must we allow it to cease working: if we do, we shall remain stupid and cold and shall attain nothing whatsoever..........."

There are some thoughts of St Teresa in blog 37. They pertain to ups and downs in spiritual journey, and the joy the travelers derive from suffering.

Legacy. Her legacy is her books (specially ‘Life’, which is her autobiography) and the Houses of St Joseph, which she founded. Her autobiography has been translated in many languages. For over four centuries, millions of persons have benefitted from it, including this mote. If a book can be a guide to a seeker, this book can fulfill this role, because it gives practical steps, especially if he is a Christian, Furthermore, her love for God, pours over every sentence, and inspires the reader, especially if he suffers from the same malady. Just read these lines in the last chapter of the book:

“As I am now out of the world, and my companions are few and saintly, I look down upon the world as from above and care very little of what people say………………………………………….

He has given me a life which is a kind of sleep: when I see things, I nearly always seem to be dreaming them. I myself find no great propensity to either joy or sorrow……………………….”

“To die Lord or to suffer! I ask nothing else of Thee for myself but this” It comforts me to hear a clock strike,……………………I seem to be getting nearer to the vision of God”.

She lived for almost seventeen more years after she completed the book. We have no way of knowing what she experienced during those years. What further heights did she attain?

She established the first House of St Joseph at Avila in 1562-3. There was such a great opposition to it, that it took two years. Jesus Christ appeared to her repeatedly and told her, that how much this house meant to Him, Holy Mary, and St Joseph. At critical junctures Fray Peter of Alcantara helped her when he was alive and even when he was dead. This house was for twelve secluded Carmelite nuns who were going to live in extreme poverty, and no visible means of support. The city opposed it, and church officials opposed it. She was so wearied and tired that, one time, she agreed to the proposal of accepting an endowment. The same night Lord told her that she was not to accept an endowment. Fray Peter also appeared the same night and told her the same thing. Steady revenue causes great problems, she was told in no uncertain terms.
Now there are thousands of similar houses, both for men and women, throughout the world.

She was the originator of Carmelite Reform.  In 1970, she was declared Doctor of the Church, the first woman to be so honored

This mote considers her, along with Data Gunj Bakhash and Sri Ramakrishna, among the greatest mystics of all times                               






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