Monday, August 8, 2016

Catholic Hermit: Reminder from St. Teresa of Avila

This, on pain and suffering from the great saint, Teresa of Avila:

"Make no account of any pain which has an end if by means of it any greater service can be rendered to Him Who bore such pains for us.  Always try to find out wherein lies the greatest perfection.  And for the love of the Lord I beg you to beseech His Majesty to hear us in this: I, miserable creature though I am, beseech this of his Majesty, since it is for His glory and the good of His Church, which are my only wishes." (from The Way of Perfection)

While out picking more produce for the roadside table, I considered St. Teresa of Avila and how she came to a point in her life, in her early 50's or a bit later, in which she had to divorce herself from a bad "marriage"--that is, the prison in which she had jailed herself with the other religious sisters who had remained at one level or even stepped backwards on the Stairway to Heaven.

St. Teresa felt the God-pivot deep within.  She immediately made efforts to change her imprisonment by which she herself had entertained rather pointless chit-chat, considering her profession of vows and place in the Consecrated Life of the Church in a religious community.  What ensued is a strong reminder of the good that can come when we God-pivot in major ways, as needed sometimes in our spiritual and temporal lives.

The devil used many of her religious sisters as pawns.  They lashed out at Teresa, and eventually she left to form the Discalced Carmelites--a more true-to-their-vows and the spiritual life, than what her sisters had remained (or become).

Some may find this harsh.  Why did she not try to just "go along to get along"?

Well, God instilled an awakening in her, causing a major God-pivot of her soul as well as her daily interactions and purposes.  She realized the artistry of her vocation and the artistry of the soul.  Most know the end of this story.  St. Teresa reformed the Carmelites, and within a few years, she revitalized the very monastery of which she had previously been forced to flee (for her safety and sanity!)  When she returned to "shape it up"  and "step it up" to a higher level of spiritual aspiration, many sisters were shaken and resistant to change, to God-pivoting.

Did she miss the "old life"?  No.  Do I?  No.  I do not at all miss the phone conversations with a relative who had difficulty not detracting her mother, to a point of obsession.  At various times in the past several years, I would explain detraction. I recall one time putting my foot down and saying I WILL NOT participate nor listen to it.  I worked hard at changing the subject that inevitably would surface: her mother and all the criticisms and annoyances incumbent.  

Then I tried a psychological ploy of mirroring the one obsessed with dislike of her mother.  I mirrored her feelings enough to gain comfort level from her, and then I would try to shift the conversation, shift the dislike and hatred to the positives.  Did not work.

Then I myself slipped into this rough situation in living conditions, and my conversation was of that or of pain, to a nauseating point of obsession (or so I thus accuse myself, which I suspect is not far off the mark).  When relatives or friends might call to inquire of progress I was making with all the work to be done, I'd slide right into the complaining about this or that, or who had cheated me or taken advantage, or what the latest incompetence and lies.  I also at times would have positives to report, for I truly did recognize my stuck-ness, the discouragement, the negativity of my plight.

Was nothing others needed to hear, read, or discuss.  It was not elevating others nor myself.  I even knew it at the time; but it has taken a major God-pivot reality to have me sick of my own self, of my own weakness and imprisonment.  Just this afternoon, the spinal headache has risen, and I beat back the thoughts that I cannot possibly finish the place.  Then I noticed something I'd not noticed before that may need to be re-done, and I have no means to re-do it.  Must simply let it go.  It is temporal, after all.

For a consecrated Catholic hermit to step up the vocational purpose and progress, I thank St. Teresa for the reminder not only of pain but also of how she had to free herself from the prison she had allowed herself to remain.  Had she been a lay person, and if I were not a hermit, avowed and professed these nearly 16 years, one with all others who are part of the Consecrated Life of the Church, it would not be such an obvious necessity to God-pivot.

Was it not just yesterday's Scripture at Mass that states:  To those who have been given much, much is expected?  Teresa of Avila had professed vows as a Carmelite.  I have professed vows as a Catholic hermit.  We are given much responsibility, and our fulfilling our vows and consecrated state of life, requires repeatedly our stepping up to the next level of the Stairway to Heaven.

We cannot remain behind or fall behind.  We cannot consider how "rude" it might seem or how "unkind" if we move on and leave off with what remains at whatever level or step of others.  If we can by our stepping up, influence or encourage others to come along with us:  Praise God!  If our God-pivot is too much for them to at this time embrace and follow, then we accept the mantle of God-pivoting ourselves, and pray for those to whom we bid adieu, at least temporarily.

As is written in Scripture:  Let the dead bury their dead.

We must never lose faith in our prayers for others and that the Lord is looking out for all souls.  Others, no doubt, have had to bid adieu to us at times, just as Teresa had to bid adieu to her fellow religious sisters when she fled for her life from the Monastery of the Incarnation.  Mercy! I wonder if she even had the time or circumstance to "bid adieu"--but rather had to escape their anger...and all over simply her realizing that she had to God-pivot and step up to the next level on the Stairway to Heaven.

Even among fellow religious or fellow hermits or even among the laity, God-pivoting on the part of one person can stir the devil in others.  Or, it can inspire others, too; God-pivoting will sooner or later create a good cause and effect.  We must trust God in all of that, while we keep our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits focused on getting to the next step, keeping our balance, steadying ourselves, and then on and up to the next and the next.

Such is the rule of thumb on airplanes with oxygen masks.  The adults are told to get their mask securely in place and then deal with placing an oxygen mask on their children.  Those who grasp and see, finally, that a God-pivot is needed at least in his- or her own life must God-pivot, including all that means of relationships being shaken or circumstances altered.  Then, if others are interested and respond, more can be discussed of the spiritual life and of what ensues of the next step.

If we are honest and humble enough, we also might note that others will actually be relieved in the change of relating.  Either they will drop by the wayside and not enjoy communicating if not in the habitual way or of remaining stuck; or they will themselves feel free from the spiritual turning such as this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit must live and do, breathe and be.

Had my health permitted my finishing my second doctorate (in clinical psychology), it would only be right for me to counsel others indefinitely on temporal issues and problems.  But I am a consecrated Catholic hermit; my call is of the spiritual realm.  As such I must be available first to His Real Presence and then to those who seek the spiritual as well as in whatever temporary day-to-day issues--by relating all to the spiritual.  I must not get caught up in nor catch up others in:  too much temporal!  Not good for any soul to be thus stuck!

God-pivot!  Step up to the next stair or more.  Climb the Stairway to Heaven.  Don't dally and don't step back.

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