Monday, 15 October 2012

The Mother of all Headaches

"Give me wings to get to the point"
(St Teresa of Avila)

Today is the feast day of St Teresa of Avila, the Spanish-born mystic, reformer of the Carmelite Order and Doctor of the Catholic Church (see earlier post: "The Friendship of God", April 2012)
Although she produced some of the most remarkable mystical writings, she retained a down to earth manner of communion with both her peers and God. She told her Sisters: "If you do something wrong, don't punish yourself - change!" A lady after my own heart, her reply to criticism that she preferred to eat well was that there is a time for partridge and a time for penance. Although obviously I would prefer a bean burger and a bar of chocolate. One of her most quoted offerings, "Nada te Turbe (Let Nothing Disturb You)", is still popular in Spain and beyond, as a meditative chant, a ballad or even as a Flamenco guitar solo.
The patron saint of those in need of grace as well as those ridiculed for their piety, she is also patron of headache and migraine sufferers! My migraine today is probably due as much to my own intolerance of my neighbours' high-spirits yesterday as it is to any particular clamour they were making. St Teresa's "Prayer for Virtue" is as stoical as it is inspiring: where is it written that saints can't have a sense of humour? I would have thought it was a pre-requisite.

(This little post is especially for Catriona McGlynn and her lovely mum; but also for all those with headaches today...)

St Teresa's "Prayer for Virtue"
Thou knowest better than I myself
that I am growing older and will someday be old. 
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking 
I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. 
Release me from craving to 
straighten out everybody’s affairs. 
Make me thoughtful but not moody; 
helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom, 
it seems a pity not to use it all; 
but Thou knowest, Lord, 
that I want a few friends at the end. 
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details:
give me wings to get to the point. 
Seal my lips on my aches and pains; 
they are increasing, and love of rehearsing them 
is becoming sweeter as the years go by.
I dare not ask for improved memory, 
but for a growing humility and a lessening cock-sureness 
when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. 
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. 
Keep me reasonably sweet, for a sour old person 
is one of the crowning works of the devil. 
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places 
and talents in unexpected people; 
and give, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

"Nada te Turbe"  as sung for meditation on retreat at Taize, France (2009)

"Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good."
(St Teresa of Avila)

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