In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My God, I pray that as I write this, You inspire me. Any good whatsoever that may be found in the following is from You alone. All errors stem from my lack of understanding and wretchedness. May You guide my hand as I write this, and may You bless those who read this with the intelligence to turn away from this writing should it offend You in any way. May I not shine, but Your Glory shows through my writings if it be Your Will. May I, a wretched and faithless sinner, ever decrease except that my vileness may be known so that Your Glory and Honor and Might may increase. May I be merely Your instrument, my Lord. I lay myself at Your feet as a most unworthy servant. Use me as You please, my God. Amen.
I have been reading through “The Way of Perfection” by St. Teresa of Avila once again – I recently purchased the study edition from the Institute of Carmelite Studies, and have been enjoying working through the questions for discussion in my journal as I read. One question struck me following the first chapter: “After Teresa’s example what ‘little that is in our power’ can we do to become good friends of the Lord?” This question came at a very opportune time for me as I am also participating in a small group at our parish called “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” which deals with Divine Mercy and building an intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. The question seemed well-timed – thanks Holy Spirit! – and so I felt I would share some of the reflections I had while wrestling with ways I – and we all – could become better friends, indeed “good friends,” of our Lord. Perhaps you will find something useful in here as well.
A passage written in the post-chapter reflection by the author of the study edition Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD stood out to me as I began this reflection:
“The way of Jesus means taking up our cross and following him, having even a willingness to give up our own life. Thus discipleship in the New Testament entails a personal following of Jesus that will touch every area of our life.”
Ponder on this for a moment in the context of what prompted St. Teresa to write her masterpiece on prayer to her dear Sisters and in the context of the troubles which the Church was facing at the time. The Church was waging fierce internal battles against Protestantism and some heretical practices which were sadly flourishing at the time. St. Teresa saw her founding of St. Joseph’s (the first Carmel of her Diasclesed Carmelite reforms) as a way for her and her sisters to fight against the problems of the Church; however, the sword they would take up would not be that of iron and steel but that of prayer and personal sacrifice. They would battle not against temptations that afflict living bodies, although these they would battle as well in the austerity imposed by the Rule of their Order – but those whose assault is waged upon an even more valuable citadel – the living souls of all Christians. They would build up the walls with the bricks of constant prayer and fortify them with the mortar of sacrifice. She and her sisters knew they would be unable to do any feat considered significant by most at the time as they would not correct heresy, capture enemies of the Church or combat against those who sought to do physical harm to her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. No, because women in her era were seen as weak, emotional, and incapable of producing much good at all. This social belief invaded – even if mildly – the minds of St. Teresa and her nuns; however, in their meekness and humility, afraid of taking on more than they believed their fragile feminine souls could bear, they soared to the front lines of the battle raging against the Devil and his army of poor souls enlisted by him to wage his battles against Holy Mother Church, Her teachings, and Her faithful servants. The swords of prayer wielded by St. Teresa and her sisters cut through the waves thrust against the battle lines of the Church with absolute precision, and continue to do so to this day. May God bless these faithful souls who took up the arms of the spirit and covered themselves in the armor of God so that the faithful, even today, may know better ways in which we ‘little souls’ may make ourselves ‘Good Friends’ of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. May St. Teresa interceeded for us, and pray that we all may be fortified with similar courage to combat those challenges which face our Church this very day. Amen.
Like St. Teresa our Church today faces many problems both from within and without. Internally, a division has struck at the heart of our Mother Church and is tearing Her family of faithful apart. Sexual abuse, scandal, and corruption have been discovered to be running rampant among Her servants sworn to uphold Her sacred teachings and to shepherd Her flock into the embrace of our Lord. The faithful have fallen away from God in record numbers. Attendance at Mass is down, and our Blessed Lord often sits alone for many long hours waiting for His family to visit Him in Adoration chapels around the globe. Externally, the world is pushing modernism, secularism, and social and sexual depravity which would make even the unrepentant vile sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah blush in embarrassment! Once again, our Lord sits alone in the Garden with nobody to comfort or console Him. How much greater must His agony be knowing that those He died and suffered for reject, forsake, and – God forbid – even mock Him! We have in our hands the hammer and nails. We have once again gleefully stuck Him to the Cross with reckless abandon! Oh, how our Lord’s once dear friends have turned their back on Him for personal gain, wordly honor and glory, and for the fulfillment of carnal pleasures. O Lord, my God, my Saviour, how little we remember you in our daily lives, how infrequently we come to you with our concerns, our cries, our weeping, and our expressions of love choosing instead to seek worldly psychologists, life coaches, and new age spirituality. Instead of turning to you we turn to the world. Instead of joining ourselves with You Passion and dying to the world so that we may raise again in Your Glory we take up the banner of temptation, pleasure, and worthless amusements. We trade eternal happiness for temporal comfort, but most of all, my Lord, we offend you by sinning openly and without remorse! O, my God, how I pray your servants to turn from our wretchedness and come running back into your arms. May we put aside our petty differences, personal egos, and thoughts of worldly pleasure and turn towards your infinite Mercy, Love, and Compassion. May you soon, I pray, find yourself surrounded once again by the loving children You have redeemed by your Sacrifice. Amen.
Therefore, like the nuns of St. Joseph’s we must take up our swords if we wish to be faithful servants of God, but not swords with which we shall spill human blood but those who will cut out our wretchedness from within ourselves and Holy Mother Church. When one threatens our worldly mother how quickly we rush to her defense even at the risk of bodily harm; but how slowly and reluctantly – if at all – we come to the aid of our Church and our Saviour when we face only perhaps social humiliation and ridicule for doing so. How much we must make the Holy Martyrs weep when they who met a baptism of Blood with courage are forced to watch us flee from comparably insignificant trails as cowards of the highest order! Take up your bow of prayer, and let your arrows fly against the enemies of God and His Church. Brothers and sisters, put on the armor of God and fight! Do not cower in the shadows waiting for others to take up arms and protect you. Are you cowards? No, you are not! You are children of God, you have been personally chosen and called by God to His Holy Church, and with God, on our side, all things shall be made possible even for the weakest and vilest of creatures such as are we. Therefore, if you wish to be a ‘Good Friend’ of our Lord – and you most certainly ought to pine for this from the depths of your soul – pray unceasingly. The Good Lord has given us the power of free will. We must not squander it by doing that which our lowly passions and wordly emotions tell us to do. No, instead we must sacrifice our free will as our Lord sacrificed His human nature for our salvation. The Lord has once against provided a lamb – our free will – to be sacrificed to Him and joined with His most perfect Sacrifice. We must unite ourselves to the Cross of our Lord through passionate and persistent prayer. Those of our Holy Church who have the learning, the strength, and the great Grace of God to speak and preach to the faithful should most certainly do so, but those of us who are weaker, meeker, and wretched – we ‘little souls’ who are not capable of flying with spiritual giants – must also take up arms for our Lord and Church. We must take up our Rosaries, we must go to Adoration, we must attend daily Mass, we must Consecrate ourselves and our families to our Blessed Lady, we must pray the Divine Office and the Little Offices, and we must pray my brothers and sisters for those holy souls who shepherd us into the Kingdom of God.
What “little that is in our power” to become “good friends” of our Lord, then? It is the power to pray and to pray unceasingly! The ability to use our free will to serve our Lord with devotion, love, and detachment from self. Every act must be turned into an act of worship. Every thought, word, and deed must be aimed as a soldier points his arrow indeed towards increasing the glory of God and of fortifying our Priests, Deacons, Bishops, Sisters and Brothers religious, and all our clergy. Pray for their souls, for their missions, for their parishes. Pray that they may all lead holy and righteous lives. Pray for our Chruch, and for our countries that they may both be protected against secularism, modernism, and moral depravity. Pray for the souls lost to abortion and contraception; but most of all, pray for God’s great Mercy to fall upon His Chruch, His servants, and our world that all may come to know the neverending unconditional Love of Our Lord, to taste the sweetness of Salvation, and to know the glory that is a life lived for His Glory and spent worthily In His Service.
Let us close this letter with a prayer in common, my brothers and sisters in Christ, from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
O Mary blessed Mother of God, ever a Virgin, the Lord’s own temple, shrine of the Holy Ghost, thou alone as none other didst please our Lord Jesus Christ; pray for the people, intercede for the clergy, plead for religious women. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.