Holy Week: Christian life in miniature

“Forever and ever and ever,” St. Teresa of Avila and her brother used to repeat to each other when they were little. For them, the saying was a reminder that the joys of heaven last forever, but the joys of earth are fleeting.

This week we celebrate two important moments in history—the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila and the beginning of Holy Week 2015. As I look ahead at the events that marked Christ’s path to Calvary and remember the story of St. Teresa of Avila, I am struck by how they mirror the path of conversion that each of us is called to walk.

St. Teresa of Avila was born Teresa de Ahumada on March 28, 1515 in Avila, Spain. The fifth of 12 children, she displayed a strong faith in her early childhood, even plotting with her brother to find a way to become martyrs.

Palm Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, reminds me of this kind of faith. When Christ first enters into our lives, forgives us of our sins, and claims us as his own, we welcome him with joy. We respond with childlike faith similar to St. Teresa’s and sing God’s praises. And each time our hearts undergo conversion, we are called back to that kind of love and devotion.

But life is not always easy. When Teresa was 13 years old her mother died, dealing a blow to her faith. Her worried father intervened and sent her to a convent school run by the Augustinians, where a kind nun befriended her and helped her return to a deeper faith. The pivotal moment for St. Teresa came when she was reading the “Letters of Saint Jerome,” which convinced her to stop resisting the calling she heard to be a nun. At the age of 20, she entered the Carmelite order and two years later made her perpetual vows.

Like St. Teresa of Avila, we might also stray from the path leading to the Father, but for these times he gives us himself in the Eucharist and forgives us in reconciliation. He accompanies us in our every-day life with grace and mercy. On Holy Thursday, we participate in this reality when we celebrate the institution of the holy Eucharist.

Because of our fallen nature, Good Friday comes to us all. Soon after she professed her vows, St. Teresa became sick with a fever and had fainting episodes. The doctors couldn’t determine the cause or find a cure. In a last ditch effort, her father sent her to an herbalist, but this intervention made things drastically worse, putting St. Teresa in a coma for four days. When she emerged from the coma, St. Teresa was paralyzed. She didn’t regain full mobility for almost three years, and from that point on her health was poor. This was her Good Friday.

When we suffer and unite our sufferings to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we experience it too. In these trials, we can be purified and our love can grow. Father Kieran Kavanaugh observed in “Teresa of Avila: The Way of Prayer” that “one of the amazing features of her life was her ability to rise above her illnesses and carry out her many and complicated affairs with exceptional diligence and enthusiasm.” She was driven by her love for Christ, just as Jesus’ love for us compelled him to embrace the cross.

Those of you familiar with St. Teresa will realize that I haven’t mentioned the two things she is most known for: her spiritual writings about prayer and the numerous Carmelite monasteries she founded.

During her religious life there were many “Holy Saturdays”—times when God seemed silent. At one point, she was caught in the middle of a power struggle between the King of Spain and the superior of the Carmelite order. For a time, St. Teresa’s superior required her to leave the communities she had founded and return to the convent where she first became a nun. On the spiritual front, she also experienced periods when God seemed absent. As we mature spiritually, there are always “Holy Saturdays,” periods when God seems far away.

St. Teresa of Avila’s most famous work, “The Interior Castle,” presents us with the path to Easter Sunday that she experienced in her prayer life. Within the interior castle there are seven spiritual dwelling places, and in the final one, the soul experiences the intimate communion of the Holy Trinity. This communion of life and love is the seat of the power that raised Jesus from the dead.

In our Christian walk, each of us is destined for eternity; we are made to live “forever and ever and ever” in communion with God. As you move through Holy Week, I encourage you to reflect on where you are on the lifelong path of conversion and turn to God for the grace to seek him more fervently and grow in intimacy with his son.

COMING UP: Colorado bishops issue letter on the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life Congressional policies

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We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, urge Congressional Representatives to support the Hyde Amendment and the Walden Amendment. We also ask the Faithful to sign The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petition to lawmakers encouraging them to preserve the Hyde Amendment, which can be accessed at: NoTaxpayerAbortion.com, and to contact their Congressmen and women to support the Hyde and Walden amendments.

The House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee recently passed a spending bill that strips protections for pre-born children, healthcare providers,and American taxpayers by excluding pro-life provisions, including the Hyde and Weldon amendments.

The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortion in most cases, except for rape and incest, has received bipartisan support since its inception in 1976 – including by pro-abortion administrations. Hyde is critical in saving lives. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that approximately 60,000 pre-born babies are saved every year because of the Hyde Amendment.[1] This is the first time in 40 years that the Hyde Amendment was not included in the annual appropriations bill[2] and failure to include pro-life amendments will only further increase divisions in our country.

The Weldon Amendment prevents any federal programs, agencies, and state and local governments from discriminating against health care practitioners and institutions that do not provide abortion services. It ensures that pro-life individuals and organizations can enter the health care profession without fearing that the government will force them to perform a procedure that violates their well-founded convictions. It has also received bipartisan support and was added to the appropriations bill every year since it was first enacted in 2005. [3]

Congress’ recent actions endanger the lives of pre-born children and infringe on the rights of millions of Americans who do not wish to participate in the moral evil of abortion. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions[4] and a 2019 Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in a few circumstances.[5]

The government should neither use taxpayer funds for the killing of pre-born children nor compel medical practitioners and institutions to violate their well-founded convictions. Congress must uphold these long-standing, common-sense bipartisan policies that promote a culture of life in our nation.

Human reason and science affirm that human life begins at conception. The Church objects to abortion on the moral principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with respect due to every human person. There has never been and never will be a legitimate need to abort a baby in the womb.

It is critical that Congress continue its long-history of supporting policies such as the Hyde and Walden amendments, and that all Colorado Catholics and people of good will make their voice heard in supporting these life-affirming policies.

Sign the petition to Congress here: www.NoTaxpayerAbortion.com

Contact your Congressional Representatives here: https://cocatholicconference.org/news/

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend James R. Golka
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver