Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
We began our Mystical Heart 10-month series of retreats on Love as a Creative Force in September with St. Hildegard of Bingen on her feast.
This month we are delighted to be hosting the wonderful Claudia Love Mair (who is my Lift Every Voice book club conversation partner and a gifted writer) next Saturday, the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, for an online mini-retreat on Teresa’s wisdom.
Claudia wrote a delightful book about Teresa (when her name was Claudia Mair Burney) – God Alone is Enough: A Spirited Journey with Teresa of Avila. Here is an excerpt from the introduction of her book to give you a sense of this amazing woman and what Claudia will be inviting us to explore together:
“Through her prolific writing, Teresa told me about adventures in prayer and God that I hadn’t begun to dream of, and what’s more, she persuaded me that our good Father God was willing to give me these kinds of glorious encounters with him. Her wise words convinced me to take her hand, and she would show me the way to the diamond inside of myself: brilliant, previous, and full exciting facets to explore.
I had my doubts. She was a nun, and I was married and the mother of a sizable brood. She lived five centuries ago. I was thoroughly postmodern. She was considered a leader of the Counter-Reformation movement. I was born and bred thoroughly Protestant and, despite my love of John of the Cross, had an almost pathological fear of most things Roman Catholic. Teresa led a life of poverty, but I had hundreds of spiritual books, cable television with four different Christian networks, and unlimited wireless Internet access. Yet, I still felt lost most days. How could her centuries-old teachings possibly calm the screeching wilderness with me?
Teresa shushed me. Generally I hate it when people I’m reading shush me, but I suspected she had something important to say. So I quieted myself and continued to read until I came upon her famous bookmark prayer. The words washed over me in waves of peace:
Let nothing upset, let nothing startle you. All things pass; God does not change. Patience wins all it seeks. Whoever has God lacks nothing: God alone is enough.
God alone is enough? Now that was a fresh idea for me, a woman who perpetually felt like “enough” was a little more than whatever I had. I found myself not only wanting to know – in every way such a concept could be known – that yes indeed, God alone is enough, but I also wanted to know the woman, so unlike myself, who was bold enough in one of the most volatile times in Christian history to say so.
Maybe you, too, are a soul child of the Reformation and never thought you’d show any interest in a saint. Maybe you view mystical as yet another word that is best avoided in a Christian vocabulary, or even find the whole idea of mysticism a little silly, but you picked this book up because the idea that God alone is enough speaks to a yearning deep inside of you. Are you willing to put any misgivings you may have aside and give St. Teresa of Avila a chance, if only because she possessed the kind of patience and forbearance to say “Let nothing upset you” and mean it?
If you want to live with such grace-infused assurance, prepare to meet my friend Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, a woman responsible for revolutionizing the prayer lives of millions. More important, prepare to meet Christ, Teresa’s Beloved, in new, exciting ways. As we travel together, may you find yourself held tightly in his everlasting arms.”
(Excerpt reprinted with permission from Paraclete Press, God Alone is Enough by Claudia Mair Burney © 2010 by Claudia Mair Burney)
Please join us for our retreat on Teresa of Avila next Saturday, October 15th – her feast day!
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Dancing Monk icon by Marcy Hall (available to purchase at Etsy)