Last night I finished reading a Christmas gift from Andy, The Divine Adventure: St. Teresa of Avila’s Journeys and Foundations. (ICS Publications) I have been reading it slowly since late December, savoring the descriptions, color photographs and little details I found there that made our Carmelite saint’s travels come alive. The book also included small graphs plotting out the elevation between each city in Teresa’s travels, highlighting the difficulty of her journeys for those of us who have not been to Spain.
She was not a young, vigorous woman at the time she traveled in Spain either. Roads were poor, the weather problematic and bridges few and far between. Teresa had a singular mission to perform, though: the forming of the Discalced monasteries, where consecrated women hid themselves from the world and made prayer their first and foremost occupation. So she pressed on with energy and a lively sense of humor, seeing God at every roadblock and around every bend. Not content to rest when she had her sisters established in the city of Burgos, she pressed on, making two more stops before obedience saw her pick up her walking stick again and arrive at Alba de Tormes where she died at age 67.
In a little aside, the authors comment about the importance of the life of prayer.
Today we live in a world in which we’ve succeeded in establishing contact with the stars, a world hungering for the widest communication possible, eager to pass beyond cultural barriers to study languages and symbols, and demanding 24/7 communication with our electronic devices and social media. And yet we are practically illiterate when it comes to the one language we really need to know, prayer. Only when we are convinced that prayer is essential to really communicate with God, to discover the inner world of our spirit, and to help humankind will we try and learn how to do it. If we take Mother Teresa as our tutor, it will simply mean learning our native language.
Our native language! What a perfect way to describe prayer. And once we have passed beyond the proficiency that St. Teresa teaches us, how well we can communicate in this language, yes with God first and foremost, but also with others who speak the same language. Would that one day we really could truly “defeat our Babel with your Pentecost”.
We live in hope.