I bought this spring 2 small books, edited by Mirabai Starr, one on St. Francis of Assisi and one on St. Teresa of Avila – 2 of the greatest saints in the Catholic pantheon, and both of them excellent writers. I already knew a lot of Teresa’s writing, not so much of Francis, but settled in for enjoyment.
And didn’t get it. I was obviously in a different place last time I read their words than I am now. These books subtitled Devotions, Prayers & Living Wisdom just didn’t provide that. Lots of focus on negativity, pain and suffering. And the constant references to God as He and Him grated as well.
To me, God is a living, pulsating, co-creating Presence in the Universe. We are co-creators in that process, and are always bringing the world closer to what it can be. We are God’s Hands in creation, and can trust that what we are drawn toward is the right step forward for us.
Both Francis and Teresa punished their bodies in many ways, Francis perhaps pushing himself toward his beloved Death, Teresa to prepare herself for her Bridegroom. What Bridegroom wants a half-starved, much scarred bride? What kind of sense does any of this make? And they gather praise for that continuous self-abuse.
Much of Francis’ writing is focused on death, though the best is focused on life, especially in nature. Teresa clearly was a mystic, was united with her Higher Self often. And yet still destroyed her health, treated her body often as her enemy, sought control over what was really her best Partner in reaching what she was searching for.
None of this makes sense to me, spiritually or logically. And I am not persuaded or consoled by statements that it was just that period in history. Their actions supported those malignant beliefs, and have allowed those beliefs to maintain power to this day in our culture.
What if they had truly dared to love all of creation, including their own physicality? We’d be living in a very different world – joy, health, ease, partnership.
As you can see, rather than just arguing with Teresa, I’m now also arguing with Francis. And I’m not giving up just to smooth things over.