By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 October, 2014
5th centenary celebrations of the birth of Carmelite St Teresa of Avila launched in Ireland.
The tendency to focus on oneself as the centre of the universe, epitomised by the culture of the ‘selfie’, has a darker side the Bishop of Elphin has warned.
“It is all about me,” Bishop Kevin Doran warned as he pointed to its legacy in the economy where the thirst for excessive profit leaves many people homeless and unemployed.
The selfie mentality considers respect for the life of a human embryo “depends, not on what it is, but on how I feel about it”.
“Marriage is redefined as a faithful relationship between any two people, irrespective of gender, until one or other of them decides to walk away.”
He also said it was evident in the wasteful use of non-renewable resources which placed future generations at risk.
In his homily at the Mass for the initiation of the 5th centenary celebrations of St Teresa of Avila at St Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street in Dublin, the Bishop of Elphin said all of us who love the Church know that she needs to be renewed.
“The question is whether we are willing to undergo a personal conversion in order for that to happen.”
According to Bishop Doran, what makes St Teresa unique, not only in her time but also in our time, is that she wasn’t one of those angry reformers whose only interest is to change everybody else.
“She understood that any institutional reform had to begin with personal conversion,” he said.
The leader of the Church in Elphin noted that St Teresa herself said the only thing she did in her life which was of any special significance was to try and allow Christ to be at the centre of everything – and even that effort itself was God’s gift.
“For St Teresa, prayer is essentially conversation with Christ,” Dr Doran commented.
Putting Christ at the centre of things is not just about prayer, he said, “It is also about allowing Jesus to inspire the way we live in our religious communities and in our parish communities. Prayer and apostolic action have to go hand in hand.”
Prayer is not about thinking much but about loving much. Perhaps, for that reason, the Teresian conversion includes recognising that one of the fruits of prayer is authentic living, the bishop suggested.
“I told them that there would inevitably be some changes, but that I would be the first to be changed.”
“I meant it as a joke, but the more I think of it, the more I realise that, if I am to be an agent of renewal in the Church in Elphin, I must allow myself to be reformed and renewed by the Spirit of Christ.”
“The process of renewal is challenging and it takes time. Like prayer, it is a mixture of God’s gift and human effort. Teresa would not have wanted us to be discouraged, but simply to keep trying and to keep up the conversation with Christ,” Bishop Doran reflected.
Separately, on Wednesday, the feast day of St Teresa of Avila, Pope Francis sent a message to Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila to mark the fifth centenary of the birth of the Saint.
In his letter, the Pope mentioned the joy the Saint often spoke of “in encountering the suffering of work and pain”, and how she affirmed that “the Gospel is not a bag of lead that trails heavily behind us, but rather a source of joy that leads the heart to God and urges us to serve our brethren”.
St Teresa emphasised the importance of cheerful perseverance and prayer. For her, contemplative prayer was “a close sharing between friends; … taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us”, the Pope said.