“Our Lord has so many enemies and so few friends, I was determined the friends he had should be trusty ones.”
When St. Teresa of Avila wrote those words, she was in great distress for the Church, for the schism happening within it, for the attacks against it, and she wanted to defend it. So she banded together a few like minded women, and they lived in a little convent together and prayed, living outstandingly holy lives of deep prayer and transforming love.
Why would that help the Church? Maybe direct prayers for the defense of the Church would be helpful. But what difference does hidden holiness make?
How does it help anyone to go someplace quiet, enter into deep prayer and friendship with Christ, and to grow in silent sanctity? By today’s individualistic way of thinking, it may tend to the self realization of the one who prays, but little else. “What a waste,” people might say. How can that be of much use to society or the Church to live a hidden life of devotion?
Everyone who gives herself or himself to prayer becomes a channel for the outflow of the Divine will into this world. *
By the principle of the Communion of Saints, our unity as Church, all that each of us does or experiences has its effect on everyone else, and on the Body as a whole. This is why after we make our confession and are absolved, we also are given a penance. The penance is not just for us, it is for the entire family of Jesus. It is one thing to say we are sorry, and another to make amends and to repair what has been harmed. We pray our penance to make amends for the spiritual harm we have done to the whole Church by our sins.
In the same way, the contemplative, giving his life to prayer, heals the whole church and brings the rest of us that much closer to perfection and a life of transforming love; for all the Church, and even the whole world.
“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
We are here to help each other.
When I made my promises in the Teresian Carmel (Secular,) I promised to tend toward perfection in the spirit of the Beatitudes, among other things, and I promised to do this for the glory of God and the good of the Church.
Entering into prayer, deep prayer of the heart, not only allows us to become channels of grace, it empowers us to do good works, and in our growing intuition of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer, we become better at discerning what good works God wants us to do, and where we are being led.
“Prayer must lead us to good works, my daughters, good works.” ~ St. Teresa of Jesus
To pray is to tap into the full potential of our reason for existing, which, according to the Baltimore Catechism, is to know, love and serve God, and thereby our neighbor.
To pray is to come to know God through direct experience, to love Him as He is, to serve Him by the gift of self, and by helping His people with the love and energy God gives in prayer.
That is why St. Teresa founded the convent of St. Joseph’s in Avila, and why she began the Reform that she did within the Order of Carmel. She did it for the glory of God and for the good of the Church.
You may be alive today because of a nun in an out of the way convent nearby, praying for you. Maybe you got through a dark time in your life because of an elderly man in a nursing home who takes all day to finish one rosary, but his heart is in Heaven. Nobody knows that he accomplishes more than anyone would dream.
And what about you? Who knows what you might accomplish in prayer?
“Whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord, not to go without so great a good. There is nothing to fear, but only something to desire.”
~ St. Teresa of Jesus
“Pray pray pray! Until prayer becomes your joy.”
For a way to get started with contemplative prayer in the tradition of St. Teresa of Jesus, see my post http://www.austincnm.com/index.php/2013/07/five-minute-mystic/
*”Make of me a smooth channel for the outflow of Your Divine Will into this world.” Fr. Adrian van Kaam