Today’s readings: Romans 8:22-27 | Psalm 19:8-11 | John 15:1-8
Today we have the joyful memorial of Saint Teresa of Avila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus (but not to be confused with Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as Saint Therese of Liseaux, whose memorial was earlier this month!). Saint Teresa was a virgin, mystic, nun, reformer of the Carmelite order, and, with Saint John of the Cross, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites. When she was a girl, her father sent her for a time to live in an Augustinian convent, until she became ill about a year or so later. During her illness, she began to contemplate the prospect of living a religious life, and eventually decided to join a convent of Carmelite nuns, which her father strongly opposed. After she turned twenty-one, she did join, and her father gave up opposition to it. She was known to be a woman of prudence, charity and personal charm, and so many people came to be devoted to her charism.
Teresa struggled, though, with personal prayer until her early forties. Persevering in prayer, she found that she more and more enjoyed being in the presence of the Lord, and really began to grow in friendship with him. This is the message of today’s Gospel: “Remain in me,” Jesus says to us. The way that we do that is by persevering in prayer, whether it is difficult or easy. The saints all tell us that staying with prayer, even in the hard times, is the key to a fulfilling spiritual life. Sometimes it may feel dry or unfruitful, but the Spirit continues to work in us as we continue to pray. It’s okay if we struggle with prayer, as long as we keep up the struggle. When we give up and forget about prayer, that’s when things go wrong. Saint Teresa’s struggle with prayer led her to a deep, mystical friendship with God.
Saint Paul tells the Romans the same thing today: “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” So today we trust that, just like for Saint Teresa, the prayer of our hearts would find expression in whatever way God wants for us, and that we might always remain in Christ. And for those struggling in their prayer lives, may Saint Teresa intercede for us and lead us to deep relationship with our Lord.