Before the days of cell phones and texting, many children knew when it was time to go indoors in the evening by the sunset. When that last sliver of the sun sank into the horizon, we knew we had to stop playing hide and seek or riding our bikes or fishing for crawdads at the creek. Before that sun completely went away for the night, we had to be in the yard and on our way through our front doors. When I was little, about 6 or 7, I wanted to play outside past dark. Jimmy and Shawn, my next door neighbors, and Clint, the kid across the street, could all stay outside and play, but my mom was a meanie and made me go inside. I’d hear them screaming and laughing in the street while I had to get ready for a bath and bed. Ugh!
So, in protest one night, I got out my Big Chief Tablet and a crayon and wrote a letter to my mom saying I was going to run away. I didn’t get to play like my friends could, so I was going to run away, and I’d be able to stay outside and play all night long if I wanted. I decided I’d run away during the night so she wouldn’t know. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make up my mind to take either Julie, my stuffed dog, or Rosie, my baby doll, and since I didn’t have enough room for both of them in my satchel, I crawled in bed with both of them and went to sleep. Apparently, the thought of leaving one of my treasures behind caused me more torture than my mean mom’s rule of having to go inside at dark time.
Teresa of Avila, our saint for this day, also found herself caught between what she wanted to do and where she was placed. A young girl born into the turmoil of the church during the Reformation, her very devout and pious father placed the rebellious and boy-crazy Teresa in a convent. There she learned the methods of a life of prayer, yet it was years after her entrance into the convent and an illness so severe that she was left paralyzed for three years that she finally discovered what a penitent life meant and how prayer could truly change a person. Tormented throughout much of her life, she felt caught between a carefree, uncommitted life and that of a pious, devoted relationship with God the Father. Feeling the pull of humanity that could draw her away from her prayers and devotion, she believed she constantly walked the fine line between Christ’s grace and hell’s temptations.
It was clear that Teresa was given a unique gift: passion. enthusiasm to found new convents, desire to learn more of Christ, devotion to God’s mercy through the burning power of prayer. She believed that through prayer God was able to touch the human soul and potentially transform the spirit and body. Shunned by many of her peers as diabolical rather than divine, she often wandered the Spanish countryside establishing a church and then being forced to leave after only a short time. Her passion was so strong and consuming that she felt a physical change after each encounter with God. Fr. John-Julian says that it is only when one makes a relentless and unswervingly concrete commitment to prayer that it becomes possible for God even to begin to act significantly in that life.
Similar to Saint Teresa, we too can feel the pangs of the touch of God. Additionally, we can feel conflicted between the pull and temptations of this life and the intense peace and passion of God. For me and for us all, I hope that we desire such purity and union with our Creator that can only come from a life devoted to unceasing and transformative prayer.