When Love Grows Cold

St Teresa de Jesús, more often known as St Teresa of Avila
St Teresa de Jesús, more often known as St Teresa of Avila

Hardly a phrase one would associate with St Teresa of Avila, is it? But if one looks at the divisions in the Church, the sorry state of British politics or the sheer ugliness of much of which passes as ‘international relations’, one could surely be forgiven for thinking we have all gone mad. But it is more than that. I think, quite simply, we have forgotten how to love. We are all too busy pressing our own agenda — often, let it be said, an apparently good and worthwhile agenda — to notice that the well-spring of our actions isn’t, as we would like to think, love, but something much closer to selfishness. We are not good at self-knowledge and tend to hide the truth from ourselves. ‘The lie in the soul is a true lie’ is utter nonsense. A lie is a lie is a lie. So, is there a remedy? I think there is, and one of which St Teresa is herself a great exponent: prayer.

People often ask what prayer is (which makes a nice change from those anxious to tell me what prayer is) as though it were some strange activity in which one may occasionally indulge, but only as a last resort. My answer, that prayer is allowing God to love us and loving him in return often seems to disappoint. It is like Naaman being told to bathe in the Jordan to heal his leprosy — too simple, too easy. I smile a little smile at such times and think, ‘You try it, and you’ll soon see!’ For, of course, to pray perseveringly, day in, day out, not just when the mood seizes or when one feels the need, is a form of asceticism, properly understood — and how few are willing to submit to such a discipline!

Most of us are quite good at recognizing what is wrong with the world and we take to Social Media or blogging to share our insights (criticisms) with others. I wonder how many of us take to our knees instead or as well? St Teresa’s great work for her Order and for the Church rested upon her largely unseen life of prayer. We read her letters or pore over The Interior Castle and think how wonderful she was and how attractive the way in which she teaches us to pray, but at five o’clock on a cold winter’s morning or after a hard day at work, the enthusiasm drains away, and who can blame us?

Today’s challenge, therefore , is simultaneously hard and easy: it is to resolve, yet again, to make time for prayer and stick to it — not prayer as endless petitions; not prayer as flowery phrases or telling God what he already knows; but prayer as allowing God to love us and loving him in return. The prayer of love and silence comes to us as sheer gift but it transforms life because it leads to Life himself.

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14 thoughts on “When Love Grows Cold”

  1. I have made a conscious decision to ignore the troubles of this world. We hear and see too much.The troubles of this world have always been with us and presumably always will.Teresa of Jesus loved chocolate biscuits, I love the garden and all the life in it. In the garden(plenty of references in the Bible), I can sense God and all the goodness of our world. It aids better sleep.

  2. Time to reappraise my approach to prayer. I’ve never been good in silence or without some kind of format in prayer. You have inspired me to try again and ‘Let go, and let God…’ Thank you Sister Catherine.

  3. Perhaps I’m lucky in that my personal circs.allow for it (even demand it in some ways) but as I get older I find it not only natural but indispensable to make time for prayer. What I find harder is keeping prayer simple, as you set out so tellingly (the Curé d’Ars’ parishioner’s summary “I look at The Lord and He looks at me” comes to mind). Thank you once again for reminding me of something *I* already know – we all need such reminders at times.

  4. Thank you. words of wisdom and a simple message. I am appalled at all the nastiness going on right now. also, I had a stroke a few weeks ago and now a full time patient coordinator for myself. I feel like a ticking time bomb!! also, if I may be so petty. my name is Therese and nobody can spell it correctly!!! Thank you for the good words.

  5. Somehow these words resound with me, because of the Anglican Benedictines at Malling Abbey, where I spent three days on retreat three weeks ago. I was privileged to share their life of silence and prayer for three days, five times a day, a discipline that I know that I couldn’t hope to meet with so many distractions. But by purchasing a copy of their office and carrying it with me I am able to use it at approximate times without distraction when I am alone, even in the car to pray.

    Its a sort of discipline, not perfect, but it is reflective and I can use a period of silence to repent and renew and than move on. So, your words about us forgetting how to love just struck me as something that I am trying to do, not separated from the world, but seeking to be in love with the world, creation its beauty and that beauty we can find in others if we love enough to look, to listen and to see the image of God within them.

    Someone said to me this morning, do you have a camp bed in church, because you’re always here. Off course that is a joke, but I find myself drawn to the peace and light in our parish church, which has served our community for the past 1 65 years, the anniversary of which falls this Saturday, and where the doors are to be thrown open to welcome all of support the church, even if they rarely enter our doors, day to day.

    This morning I was part of the team who sit in church when it is open to welcome visitors, even when services are not on. We have a small cafeteria and serve tea and biscuits and often have interesting conversations. Today a lady came who is from the Sikh tradition. She is not working, suffering with anxiety and depression and caring for a sick mother as well as herself. . She wanted a quiet space and to light a candle for her mother. She could go to the Sikh Gurdwara for consolation, but told us that she wouldn’t find the quiet that she needed there at the moment.

    This was her first time in our church and I feel that our listening was some help for her. She had some coffee, lit her candle and departed refreshed after more than an hour with us. This surely is among the things to do that open up God’s love and Grace and our just sharing time and space with her allowed that love and fellowship to flow both ways. She said she will come again, asked for our names and gave us hers.

    Afterwards we prayed for her well being and care for herself as well as for her mother. This demonstrates for me that an open heart and church can provide a place of safety and peace for all, whether Christian or of an other faith. We share our humanity that God created, and find common ground in that sharing.

  6. I have been conscious lately of how much my prayer life is lacking. Yes, I am busy looking after various family members but I know that can easily become an excuse. My husband and I do set Offices morning and night and I have a list of people and organisations to pray for but I spend little time in “loving God and letting Him love me”. So, thank you for this timely reminder – I am resolving to do better!

  7. Thank you !thank you! thank you! Was my instantaneous reaction when I first read this blog on Monday morning, I have re read it just now and still say Thank you! It gives hope.

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