One of the greatest things about being Catholic, not that one could ever say there is one thing, or even a dozen great things about being Catholic because there are so many more than one or a dozen, but one of the greatest things about being Catholic is the Communion of Saints, most especially those we know about. I love waking up on a great saint's feast day and just thinking about the awesomeness of that one person all day. Even if it's a saint I don't know very much about, and I'll tell you that would be most of them, I can just think about that person, and have little private conversations all day. It's sort of like having lots and lots of grandparents up in heaven, available for frank discussions and prayer intentions at any time.
This morning I woke up and thought about St. Teresa of Avila. Admittedly I don't know a lot about her, at least as far as her life is concerned, except that she helped reform the Carmelite Order, ultimately resulting in the formation of the Discalced Carmelites and she is a Doctor of the Church. She had a hard life, I think at least mentally -- she was a deep thinker. Anyway, when I woke up this morning, I had St. Teresa on my mind and looked forward to reading my Divine Intimacy, which was written in the spirit of the Discalced Carmelites.
I thoroughly enjoyed today's reading and wanted to share it with you. It communicates thoughts I've always had about humans and our relationship between growth in charity toward each other and growth in love of God. Fortunately I found it here, and am copying it entirely. St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us.
Human Qualities and Apostolic Charity
The apostolate is the expression and the fruit of caritas apostolica, that is to say, of love of God and neighbour, which has increased until it has become zeal for souls. But besides this essential aspect of the charity which must animate the apostle, there are secondary aspects; we might almost say human ones, that are, nevertheless, of great importance, since they permit the apostle to exercise his influence over souls. We here speak of such qualities as affability, thoughtfulness, courtesy, sociability, sincerity, understanding, which although human gifts in themselves, acquire supernatural value when elevated by grace and placed at the service of the apostolate. It is a matter, in substance, of those qualities which St Paul attributes to love: "Charity is patient, is kind … is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil … rejoiceth with the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
It is not sufficient to love souls in the secret of our heart, working and sacrificing ourselves for them; this love must also be manifested exteriorly by an agreeable and pleasant manner, in such a way that those who approach us may feel themselves loved, and consequently encouraged to confidence and to trust. A rude, brusque or impatient manner might cause some to go away offended, and perhaps, even scandalized. The apostle may well have a heart of god, rich in charity and zeal, but if he maintains a rough and sharp exterior, he closes access to souls, and considerably diminishes the good he could realize. The saints, while being very supernatural, never neglected these human qualities of charity. St Francis de Sales liked to say that, as more flies are attracted with a drop of honey than with a barrel of vinegar, so more hearts are conquered by a little sweetness than by rough manners. And St. Teresa of Jesus, who wished her daughters to be united by the bond of pure supernatural charity, did not believe it superfluous to make recommendations of this kind: "The holier you are, the more sociable you should be with your sisters. Although you may be sorry if all your sisters' conversation is not just as you would like it to be, never keep aloof from them if you wish to help them and to have their love. We must try hard to be pleasant, and to humour the people we deal with." (Way of Perfection, 41) This is very useful advice for anyone who wishes to win souls for God.
2. Concerning natural qualities employed in the service of apostolic charity, we can meditate fruitfully on the exhortation addressed by Pius XII to a group of religious men: "Before the young religious (and this could be said of the apostle) becomes a shining example, let him study to become a perfect man in the ordinary everyday things…. Let him learn, then, and show by his works, the dignity proper to human nature and to society; let him regulate his countenance and bearing in a dignified manner and be faithful and sincere; let him keep his promises; let him govern his acts and his words; let him have respect for all and not harm the rights of others; let him endure evil and be sociable…. As you well know, the virtues called natural are raised to the dignity of the supernatural life chiefly when a man practises them and cultivates them in order to become a good Christian and a worthy herald and minister of Christ" (September 1951). There is, therefore, no reason to believe that an antagonism exists between the plenitude of the supernatural life, union with God, and the plenitude of human virtue, deriving from a right development of the natural virtue. We must remember that grace does not destroy nature, but elevates it. The struggle against nature making way for grace, tends to mortify and to destroy only what is defective in nature, leaving intact the good qualities and powers to be raised and transferred to the supernatural plane. Grace, and consequently the Christian life, greatly respects and uses all human values; moreover, how could we believe that the supernatural destroys nature when the latter, no less than the former, is the work of God, the fruit of His wisdom and of His infinite goodness?
In raising man to the supernatural plane, God did not intend to destroy in him what had already been created, but only to sublimate and to elevate it. In the light of these principles, we understand why it has been said that the apostle, as well as the priest, must be a "perfect gentleman" (Cardinal Newman). We also grasp why the saints are the more perfect men, in the sense that they have carried the natural virtues to their highest perfection and sublimation. It follows that the saints are more capable than others of surrounding men with amiability, delicacy and understanding, while loving them with a purely supernatural love; thus they more easily win their hearts. This perfect courtesy, ever self-possessed, even with the importunate, and even in moments of weariness, can only flow from great supernatural virtue and delicate charity.
O Lord, "if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal … if I should have the gift of prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it would profit me nothing.
"Grant me charity, then, O my God, for charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely: is not puffed up; is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
Grant, O Lord, that in consecrating myself to Your service, my tenderness toward my neighbour may not diminish, but may grow in my heart, and may become ever more pure, more supernatural. Teach me to love tenderly all who draw near to me. Make me gentle, affable, agreeable, not to attract to myself the affection of creatures, but to conquer their hearts for You.
O Jesus, if the apostle should be a copy of You, not only in broad lines, but even in details, how shall I be such if I do not try to imitate the gentleness of Your heart? O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Yours.