St. Theresa of Avila was a great mystic of the sixteenth century and reformer of the Carmelite Nuns. The reading from Romans defines her life. Theresa led the reform of Carmel against strong internal opposition. She had to be a woman of hope "for it is in hope that we are saved." She pressed on toward the future goal trusting that God would bring it about. Though she did not see it, she "waited with endurance." We are asked to have that same spirit of trust and perseverance as we face challenges and difficulties.
Theresa wrote three classics on prayer and the spiritual life: her Autobiogaphy, The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle. They have been sure guides for many people. Romans 8:26-27 is Paul’s great teaching on prayer. Paul tells us that because of our human weakness we do not know what to pray for, but the Holy Spirit prays the correct prayer for us. In any situation we simply do not know what is best for us. The perfect prayer is simply, "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit. Not my will, but Thine be done."
Finally for a mystic and any person of prayer the passage from John’s gospel is very appropriate. Every Christian is vitally connected to Jesus. He is the vine and we are the branches. He invites us to "Remain in me, as I remain in you." Let us make Him the center of our lives so that, like Theresa, we fulfill the prayer of Jesus to "bear much fruit and become my disciple".
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.