The Wisdom of the Theresas in Times of Adversity

To help us during struggles and challenges in life, Our Lord has given us the great Theresas: St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, Doctor of the Church; St. Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite reformer, Doctor of the Church; St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, philosopher and martyr; St. Teresa of Calcutta who embodied the perfection of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These saints who totally abandoned their lives to the Lord will keep us focused on what is necessary as we live through this very difficult time.

Grace   

  Feelings of fear and anxiety are rising more quickly than the rate of covid-19 infections. It’s easy to get caught up and forget that God’s grace is in everything that happens. St. Therese of Lisieux was, as Pope St. John Paul II called her, an “expert in scientia amoris,” the science of love. She accepted all of her trials and great physical sufferings with great humility out of love for Our Lord and for others. In all of our challenges great and small, this reminder from her will give hope and clarity:

“Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father’s love – difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs – everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift.”

Turn to Christ

     We mustn’t lose sight of Christ even if the virus has personally affected us. Some of us have family and loved ones who have fallen sick or who live in the hardest hit areas. We may be sick ourselves. As we follow the mandate to keep our distance and self-isolate for our sake and for the good of others, remember the One Person to whom we need to draw closer. St. Teresa of Avila’s wisdom is timely:

“Behold him burdened with the cross, for they didn’t even let him take a breath. He will look at you with those eyes so beautiful and compassionate, filled with tears, he will forget his sorrows so as to console you in yours, merely because you yourselves go to him to be consoled, and you turn your head to look at him.(Way of Perfection, Ch. 26:5)

Take up your cross

The martyrs and saints have shown us by their example how to embrace our cross of involuntary suffering. In humility and faith we embrace the cross that the Lord invites us to carry in expiation for sins and great love for Him. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, scholar, philosopher, convert, martyr, saint, wrote volumes of works on the “science of the Cross.” In an essay for the Feast of St. John of the Cross, Love of the Cross: Some Thoughts for the Feast of St. John of the Cross, she wrote:

“The battle between Christ and the Antichrist is not yet over. The followers of Christ have their place in this battle, and their chief weapon is the cross…. The entire sum of human failures from the first Fall up to the Day of Judgment must be blotted out by a corresponding measure of expiation… Christ the head effects expiation in these members of his Mystical Body who put themselves, body and soul, at his disposal for carrying out his work of salvation.”

In her essay, Elevation of the Cross, September 14, 1939, she noted:

“The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.”

Silence

We are constantly being bombarded by the latest Covid-19 news and statistics from all over the world. We ought not to follow every news article and media post since they cause a great clanging of noise and restlessness in our souls that easily distract us from what is important at this moment: prayer and helping our brothers and sisters in Christ to the best of our ability. St. Teresa of Calcutta who worked among the most disease-stricken people in the world, can teach us how to overcome distractions:

“The first requirement of prayer is silence. People of prayer are people of silence.”

“Silence will teach us a lot. It will teach us to speak with Christ and to speak joyfully to our brothers and sisters.”

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noises and restlessness. God is the friend of silence… Is not our mission to give God to those we walk with? Not a dead God, but a living, loving God. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. Words that don’t give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”

Holy Mass

       While we are grateful that our faithful priests continue to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on our behalf, a hardship of this pandemic is not being able to publicly participate at Holy Mass. In His mercy, one of the graces given to us is the daily televising of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration that we can access through the media. But even in the absence of technology, when we do not have an image of the tabernacle or Blessed Sacrament before us, we can still look at Our Lord. St. Teresa of Avila instructed:

“I am not asking you to do anything more than look at him. For who can keep you from turning the eyes of your soul toward this Lord, even if you do so just for a moment if you can’t do more.”

Finally, let’s not waste this opportunity to offer to the Lord everything we are feeling, experiencing, suffering. No matter how small or how great is our difficulty at this time, we have something to give to Him who loves us beyond anything we can imagine.

“I desire to suffer, Lord, all the trials that come to me and esteem them as a great good enabling me to imitate you in something. Let us walk together, Lord. Wherever you go, I will go; whatever you suffer, I will suffer.” (St. Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection, CH. 26:6, 8)

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Terry McDermott has been married for over 34 years, is a mom of eight and a grandmother of one. She is a registered nurse employed in Ontario. She holds a certificate in Parish Nursing Ministry and in her precious little spare time uses her certification in her volunteer work.