“Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing dismay thee:
All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God finds he lacks nothing; God alone suffices.” – St. Teresa of Avila
Dear St. Teresa of Avila,
I hope this letter finds you well. I have a quick confession to make: I find you incredibly intimidating.
Your writings are always so fiercely passionate and incredibly firery; they have pierced the depths of my soul, over and over again. Paradoxically, however, my trepidation towards you does not stem from fear but more from awe. I am awed that a living, breathing individual like yourself was able to reach such immense depths of union with Christ whilst on this earth. I am awed by how you remained steadfast and convicted to our Faith despite the numerous trials and tribulations that you experienced both from the world and from our very own Church.
Though I find you very intimidating, I must also add that your writings and ideas have aided me enormously and have drawn me closer to God. Indeed, you have been a very effective instrument of His will, and a very clear signpost pointing towards God to so many people. Some of my friends even consider you as their closest spiritual companion, and I know a couple of them who have entered Carmel, so moved by your life and intimacy with Jesus Christ.
As a Doctor of the Church, you have inspired and taught me in so many of aspects of spirituality. For one, thank you for always reminding me that “no matter what happens, do not stop praying”. Thank you for reminding all of us that however we may serve God and others in our lives – indeed, whatever task that we may embark upon – should stem from our prayers. Thank you for showing us that all that we do – however altrusitic our intentions may be – will be futile and for our own vainglory should the endeavour be divorced from prayer.
As such, you have taught me that the cultivation of an inner life enriched in prayer, silence and solitude is fundamental to one’s spiritual health. As you’ve rightly mentioned, “we need, therefore, from time to time to cast aside our daily concerns. We need to reflect upon the state of our soul (…) We need to withdraw from time to time from all unnecessary cares and business.” All of these form the primary anchor for our ‘life-ship’, keeping us grounded in faith amidst the turbulent sea of nettlesome hearts, and the waves of worldly troubles.
Thank you, too, for teaching me about the importance of detachment and Holy Indifference. Akin to St. Ignatius, the two of you have been remarkable teachers in re-itereating how we can often times become overly-attached to just about anything – even spiritual goods, spiritual consolations, spiritual companions etc. We can sometimes neglect the Creator as we contemplate on the created; we can sometimes mistake and replace God with the mere feelings of God. Indeed, we can even be overly attached and obsessed with supposed “goods” such as ministry work, a particular form of prayer or a specific homilist. Being overly attached to all of these detract and distract us from what remains most important: our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In the final analysis, all of these are shown to be mere means to help us on our journey of faith.
Lastly, thank you for daring me to dream big with God. Thank you for spurring me to be audacious, bold and incredulous with the Almighty, “to dream great dreams” and “to pray great prayers.” Because, as you rightly pointed out, “with only you to hear, I can be as bold as I need to be, as courageous as my dreams permit, as faithful as your love for me demands.” If I truly believe that God is my Father and that He truly loves me, why should I hold back my deepest desires to serve, please and love Him – steadfast convictions that He has placed within me in the first place?
Intimidating as you seem to me, dear St. Teresa of Avila, one thing’s for sure: your love for God and your corresponding love for neighbor has touched the lives of many. Please continue to intercede for us – that God may grant us a fragment of your single-minded intensity to love God with “all your heart, all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
“Above all else, help me always to remember that I have only one soul, that I have only one short life that must be lived by me alone, that I have only one death to die, and that there is only one glory that is eternal. If I do this, as you have promised, there will be many things I will not care about at all.
Nothing will disturb me.” – St. Teresa of Avila
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Christopher Chok