Saturday, May 4, 2019

Retreat Thoughts - "Three Teresas" - Teresa of Avila, presented by Cris Goodman (1 of 4)

I am at a retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center, Los Altos, CA, May 3-5, 2019.The retreat is about 3 saints named Teresa: Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Last night the 3 leaders, Dr. Pat Campbell, Cris Goodman, and Leelamma Sebastian, gave an overview of the 3 Teresas, and today there will be a short session on each, with time afterward to reflect and pray. We have heard about Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, next will be Mother Teresa.

Teresa of Avila

I took notes on the overview of Teresa of Avila's life and I won't put all those here into my blog. Briefly, Teresa of Avila lived in the 16th century, a contemporary of Christopher Columbus and Martin Luther. She is called "Big Teresa," as opposed to "Little Teresa," Therese of Lisieux. Teresa of Avila joined a convent because she did not want to marry and that was the only other choice. Convents back then were full of women who did not want to marry and were not the fervent religious places that convents are now. There was a lot of socializing and Teresa loved that. She had a conversion experience, though, where she pictured Jesus alone and in need, as in Gethsemane, and she was able then to approach him and stay with him. After that, she did a lot of writing (including The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle) and started 14 convents -- that were not for socializing, but for dedicating your life to God.

Teresa of Avila said, "My life changed when I said yes to Christ." I feel like my life changed when I said yes to my imagination as my connection to God, most especially Ignatian contemplative meditation, where I use my imagination to be with, talk to, and listen to Jesus.

Teresa of Avila described growing in your prayer life using the metaphor of watering the garden.

The first stage is when you are watering with bucketfuls from the well. You must make many trips and you start to develop new spiritual muscles.

Stage 2 is when you are getting water from a water wheel. The water is higher, there is less work, and God's grace is more clearly evident.

Stage 3 is when a stream waters the garden. You need to dig ditches to speed the flowing water to the garden, but God does almost all the work.

Finally, stage 4 is when the garden is watered by rain. It is the union of our soul with God. God's rain does all the work. Prayer is not experienced as work, but joy. All our senses are occupied with this joy.

Wouldn't it be cool to have a fountain based on those 4 stages -- a bucket on a well, a water wheel, a stream, and rain?

I asked myself what stage do I think I am at. I think it is stage 2. Praying is not super hard work, but there is still some temptation to skip it. I see God's grace everywhere, though.

A handout had this "bookmark poem," found in a book of Teresa's after she died:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing distress you.
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
God alone is enough.
~ St. Teresa of Avila
I rewrote it using my own words.
When things I don't like or think are wrong happen at work, church, or home,
it disturbs me.
When my beloved family members seem in trouble,
it distresses me.
May I remember, God does not change. He loves and loves and loves.
God grant me patience, even if I wait all the way to death.
May I be filled with God. May I empty myself and may God rush in,
like water filling and overflowing,
like light filling and radiating.

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