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Sunday, 12 July 2015

Framing Prayer 11 St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross continued....

Because of two books which I have now borrowed on the meditations of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, I can continue with the framing of prayer in a Carmelite way for the laity. Because I want to move on to Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Ignatius and the Benedictines, I shall only have a few posts today on Edith Stein.

Someone remarked today that the theme of obedience has been a major one on this blog, which it has. St. Teresa Benedicta states this, "It is a mysterious fact that obedience is efficacious against the power of darkness...but it is a fact."

For a lay person to submit one's prayer life to another may be one of the greatest challenges of these times of priest and nun shortages. Spiritual direction can come in many ways, and in these times of difficulty and trials, to find one may not be possible.

Then, what do we do with our prayer life? We turn to the Church.

Interestingly, Edith Stein began studying Thomas Aquinas because of the guidance of her spiritual director she had as a lay person. This director told her not to enter Carmel right away, but to study Aquinas and pray for a while, as well as teach.  She did this for eight years, living under private vows at this time. When she came under a second spiritual director, she was told to travel and give lectures, while she wanted to go into the convent and pray.

I readily identify with her humble decision to follow the director and wait longer before entering the convent. How long have I waited for a little cell, a little house of prayer?

In the absence of a spiritual director, one goes with the movements of the Holy Spirit and speaks with holy friends for guidance. Out of these discussions can easily come a consensus. Then, one must choose obedience to that consensus.

For example, in my decision to go back to wearing blacks and whites, slowly but surely, I asked the opinion of three mature women in Christ. All three who have known me, (two for more than 10 years), agreed that this was a good idea for several reasons. I can trust these three mature spiritual women in the absence of a director at this time. I do not want to go into blacks and whites, but this seems to be God's Will for me at this time.

Edith Stein knew that if one surrendered one's will to the Will of God, graces would flow from this denial of the self. Finally, she was encouraged to enter Carmel. All her years were a test of self-denial, and a growth of virtue. She states that for the layperson, Sunday is the great "door" to heaven and grace, which will take one through the work week.  On that day, and the day of special feasts, the time to concentrate on prayer and celebrate the liturgy gives strength to the lay person for the entire week.

But, perhaps the most important framework for lay prayer following the Carmelite way may be clearly seen in this quotation: "Lay all care for the future, confidently, in God's hands, and allow yourself to be led by him entirely, as a child would. then you can be sure not to lose your way."

Her emphasis on "childlike confidence in God" follows the examples of the two great Ts, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux.  She wrote that nothing is accidental, that all the "minute details" of her life were pre-designed, "in the plans of divine providence"  and therefore, "for the all-seeing eye of God a perfect coherence of meaning."

This confidence comes only through prayer, reflection and study.

She writes: "...those who attain the freedom of these heights and expansive views have outgrown what is usually called 'happiness' and 'unhappiness'. They may have to fight hard for worldly existence, may lack the support of a warm family life or, correspondingly, of the human community which sustains and supports--but lonely and joyless they can no longer be. Those who live with Holy Church and its liturgy, i.e., as authentic Catholics, can never be lonely: they find themselves embedded in the great human community; everywhere, all are united as brothers and sisters in the depths of their hearts. And because  streams of living water flow from all those who live in God's hand, they exert a mysterious magnetic appeal on thirsty souls. Without aspiring to it, they must become guides of other persons striving to the light; they must practice spiritual maternity, begetting and drawing sons and daughters nearer to the kingdom of God."

St. Teresa Benedicta was a lay person for a long time. Her ultimate goal was always oneness with God. The fact that she came to a holy lifestyle as a layperson inspires all of us.

The Carmelite way of prayer, study, reflection on one's own fits nicely into the single and married life.

I shall return to her later.....quotations are from Communion with Christ According to Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Author: Sister M. Regina van den Berg