Get Down on Your Knees!

By Chris Sparks

Before anything else, St. Theresa of Avila (1515-1582) - whose feast day is Oct. 15 - was a woman of prayer.

If you wish to understand her, what she did, what she is to the Church, know that.

Everything else flowed from that life of prayer, and returned to it. Everything else in her life was transformed by it.

When we talk about the power of prayer, we don't necessarily mean miraculous cures or an infallible ability to get precisely what you prayed for when you prayed for it. No, when we talk about the power of prayer, we mean the power of God's Spirit moving in your life, God almighty indwelling your heart, the life and love of God "shining like shook foil," in Gerard Manley Hopkins' phrase, through your own life and love. We're talking about grace and peace, about healing and wholeness through holiness. We're talking about patience instead of irritation, of love rather than indifference, of hope instead of despair, of light in the darkness and a fire on the mountaintop, calling the angels to your side.

We're talking about the quiet, hidden power of the holy, which sometimes erupts sideways in a person's life in miracles, in signs and wonders, in extraordinary physical effects and impossible things happening. Look at Padre Pio! Look at St. Jean Vianney! Look at those whom the Church calls "thaumaturges," wonder-workers! Sometimes, yes, the power of prayer is plain to see from the levitation, the cures, the visions, the wonders. And other times the power of prayer is in the patience with which a saint faces challenges, the humility with which they accept correction, the love with which they administer correction.

In the life of St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast we celebrate on Oct. 15, you see both the wonders (the ecstasies, the miracles) and the sanctity (the reforms she wrought, first in her own life, and then in the life of her order). You see the power of prayer in all its forms, and we need all its forms. We need both the people transformed by their communion with God, and we need the signs and the wonders to sustain faith and help make converts of a wounded, weary, cynical age. God gives us both, time and again, throughout all the ages of the Church, including in the modern day.

So let St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church, teach you the power of prayer. Turn to those who have benefited from her insights and share them again in our own time, like Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, in Consoling the Heart of Jesus or Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, in Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life: A Practical Guide to Prayer for Active People. Trust in God's loving desire to help you with His grace, to transform you into a saint, a font of living water (see Jn 7:38), of grace, life, and love for your neighbors, and to bless you with everything you need.

Let us ask St. Teresa of Avila to pray for us that we may trust and love Jesus as she did. Let us ask her intercession for us to develop deep, rich lives of prayer, transforming ourselves and the world around us by the strength of our loving communion with God.


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