By Denise Trull
"I will walk in the way of perfection
O when, Lord, will you come?" - Psalm 101
How very perfect those two lines are to describe a saint's life. We might picture saints in ecstasy half the time, or in peaceful prayer surrounded by a dimly lit chapel. But most saints’ lives are ones shot through with sudden "arrows" of love and light and ecstasy punctuated on either side by long stretches of determined perseverance in the dark. St. Teresa was no exception. But she took the way of humor and it made all the difference.
She probably often said, "O when, Lord, will you come?" as she traveled high and low across the Spanish countryside seeking a place to build her Monasteries. When the wheel fell off her wagon in the stream, when her shoes filled up with mud, when she wasn't quite sure if she should be writing books when there was so much else to do but she had to obey her confessor, when her nuns squabbled, when there wasn't much to eat, when people came to her for prayer, when things looked mighty bleak for the Church and she wondered if she was doing any good at all. Yes, she probably often asked, "When, Lord, will you come?"
She wrote “The Way of Perfection" which is filled with the most wonderful quips and quotes. She was a master of women’s souls. She understood our foibles, our quirks, the pitfalls, the pretenses, the romantic notions we all suffer from. You don't have to be a nun to understand her words. I guarantee, you will have moments of uncomfortable but efficacious “ouch" as you read and find yourself there.
She was genuine! She saw the humor in everything. Whenever St. John of the Cross came to the monastery, she would levitate off the ground when talking to him. This mortified her immensely, but she took it with great good humor and told him how ‘uplifting’ his conversations were. She was someone who could talk of pots and pans one moment, and the innermost castle of our souls at another with an ease and naturalness so uncommon to most of us. This was a woman who had the witty humility to chide the artist who painted her portrait once - a portrait she under holy obedience had to allow. “God forgive you, Fray Juan, you have made me so ugly and bleary eyed!”. She was fierce when it came to praying for priests and the Church which was under attack. She was faithful to this prayer until the end.
I think in all honesty she could assure the Lord that she was walking in the Way of Perfection and taking care of all those whom He had given her to bring with her on the way.
Yet, being a faithful and longing lover, I think she often cried in her heart, "O when Lord, will you come?”
He did come and get her in the end with great fanfare. This delightful description of her death by the biographer Thomas Walsh says so much about her. It is the perfect ending to such a life as hers.
"While Sister Catalina de la Concepcion, who was very holy and had less than a year to live, was sitting by the low window opening on the cloister by La Madre's cell, she heard a great noise as of a throng of joyful and hilarious people making merry, and then saw innumerable, resplendent persons, all dressed in white, pass the cloister and into the room of the dying saint, where the nuns gathered about her seemed but a handful in comparison, and then all advanced toward the bed. And this was the moment when Teresa died.”
St Teresa, pray for us!