Sunday, August 30, 2015

Spiritual Direction with St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila)


Photo: R. Massaro

In the Life of St. Teresa, she writes that after her conversion, she was so intent on pleasing the Lord that she did everything possible to avoid venial sin.  For most people in the spiritual life, who are striving to be perfect, we usually find ourselves in the territory of committing venial sins, the same venial sins, over and over again. 

Perhaps we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and repeat the same sins month after month, even though we have a firm desire to overcome even these venial sins. St. Teresa exhorts us to overcome these sins, so that we don't repeat the same sins to our confessor, she writes:

There are some persons who have already attained friendship with the Lord because they have confessed their sins well and have repented, but two days don't pass before they return to them. Indeed, that is not the friendship the bride is asking for. Always strive, O daughters, so that you don't go to the confessor each time to confess the same fault.

We must be careful and not be alarmed by the words of St. Teresa. We shouldn't be alarmed if we, at times, confess the same sin over and over again.  Did not Our Lord tell St. Peter that we should forgive seventy times seven times?

Then Peter came up and asked him, "Lord, when by brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?" "No," Jesus replied,  "not seven times; I say, seventy times seven times."
(Matthew 18:21)

If we, as his lowly creatures are called to such mercy, will not the Lord be very merciful toward us who are struggling with the same sins? And forgive us over and over again, if we are truly sorry? Pope Francis has said in his teaching, that the Lord never tires of forgiving us: 

“God never tires of forgiving us; 

we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”

(Pope Francis)

St. Teresa, in her Meditation on the Song of Songs is speaking to the "bride-to-be." She is speaking to the soul who desires spiritual perfection so that she can be joined with the Bridegroom.  She writes:

It's true that we cannot live without faults, but at least there should be some change so that they don't take root. If they take root, they will be harder to eradicate and even many others could arise from them. If we plant an herb or small tree and water it each day, it grows so strong that afterward you need a shovel and a pickax to get it out by the roots. Committing the same fault each day, however small, if we do not make amends for it, is like watering a plant each day. And if one day it is planted and ten more pass by, it can still be easily rooted out. In prayer you must ask help from the Lord, for we of ourselves can do little; rather, we add faults instead of taking them away. Reflect that in that frightful judgment at the hour of death we shall see that this was no small matter especially for those the Judge took for His brides in this life.  (Meditation on the Song of Songs, Chap. 2, No. 18)

Our Statutes state the importance of the member receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a frequent basis:

Called to continual conversion, Secular Carmelites will seek to identify and place before God any obstacles and impediments to union with him. Confident in God's loving mercy, they will:

a) Engage in a daily examination of conscience, ideally just before retiring or at the beginning of Night Prayer.

b) Participate frequently in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance).                  
(Daily Life, No. 5)

Let us pray for each other that the Holy Spirit inspire us to desire to please the Lord in all things. Let us guard the door of our heart, to prevent even the smallest sin from entering it. 

Most Pure Heart of Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel, pray for us!

Rosemarie, OCDS

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