A Bookmark

I was only sixteen when I was introduced to a stunning Spanish lady. She was not only attractive physically but also had an amazing personality. She managed to win me over very early in life!

Her name was Teresa De Cepeda y Ahumada. We know her as Saint Teresa of Jesus. After more than 10 years as a rather pampered nun, this woman experienced a conversion that changed her life radically. She started on an adventure that has been going ever since.

Her life was exciting. She was born in Avila, Spain, amid profound changes in Europe and around the world. In her forties, she dared to challenge the standard traditions and embarked on a radical reform of her religious family. Being a strong-minded woman in a male-dominated society, she obviously experienced vigorous opposition, even being investigated for heresy.

When she died, the sisters found a bookmark in her breviary. Six terse sentences written in her own handwriting. They must have meant a lot to her.

Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God alone remains.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.

In every life there are moments that we define awful and moments that we deem as pleasant. Well, Teresa disagrees. Her encounter with Jesus Christ gave her a new perspective. Everything is ok, she claims, because God is always working in our favor. He cannot do otherwise because we are His.

This is why she dares to say “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you…” It is true that the waves may be very strong and the winds very frightening but remember, Teresa would say, He is always in the boat. Perhaps asleep. But even sound asleep, He is more powerful than all the wind and the rough seas. Relax!

“All things are passing.” ‘All things’ means exactly that, everything. Successes and failures. Health and sickness. Problems and joys. Hard times and good times.

Teresa had her share of pain. Her mother died when she was fourteen years old, when she was 21 she got into a sickness that nearly killed her (they had already prepared her tomb), most of her brothers died in fighting in Latin America (this was the time of the Conquistadores), many Church people just hated her guts and invented all kinds of calumnies… But she knew it. “All things are passing”; why ruin your stomach worrying?!

“God alone remains.” Around us everything fades away. Parents die, friends forget, your partner does not understand you, your children will all leave home… He alone remains. He is the stable companion. Nothing dissuades Him. Not even our sins and our forgetfulness. In fact, the best situations are those in which, in the midst of our weakness and powerlessness, we begin to beg for God’s mercy, being convinced that the He loves us as we are. The simple truth is that He is there always. Smiling, encouraging, cheering, lending a hand. Ready also to dirty his hands if necessary to pull us out of the filth we put ourselves in.

One of her favorite saints, Saint Augustine, expressed himself thus, “Beautiful is God, the Word with God … He is beautiful in heaven, beautiful on earth; beautiful in the womb, beautiful in his parents’ arms, beautiful in his miracles, beautiful in his sufferings; beautiful in inviting to life, beautiful in not worrying about death, beautiful in giving up his life and beautiful in taking it up again; he is beautiful on the Cross, beautiful in the tomb, beautiful in heaven. Listen to the song with understanding, and let not the weakness of the flesh distract your eyes from the splendor of his beauty.” This Beauty will always be there. For us!

“Patience obtains all things.” This simple statement is sheer wisdom. Patience does not mean to wait pointlessly; it means waiting with confidence. God understands when the best moment for something to happen is. God is also aware of the best way it can happen. Let God be God. Let Him act the way He wants to act. Let Him be the pilot…. You just relax in your seat and enjoy the ride!

Julian of Norwich echoed much the same sentiments centuries before. “All shall be well, and all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”

And this bookmark finishes with a gem. “Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God. God alone suffices”

Our hearts are infinite. They are as immense as God himself. This is why only God can satisfy us. Things are just wonderful. Money, marriage, house, car, career, children, furniture… are all good. But they are simply not enough to fill us up. They can never ever gratify us fully.

How many times, pitiable me, I tried to find satisfaction elsewhere and it was always a failure! How many people pass all their life wanting more, wanting it differently. What a waste!

But if one meets God, then it is pure joy. “And what a great reward that is! For even a moment of it suffices to recompense the soul for all the trials that it can possibly have endured.”

Indeed, God suffices. God is better.

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.