The long wait lifted, our new priest processed up the aisle, flanked by a full team of altar servers. His demeanor solemn and reverent, his calm voice betraying the internal nervousness he must have felt at taking the leadership of our parish into his young hands. Ordained only two years, this highly anticipated Mass required his careful attention to detail and thoughtful concentration. Although a daily Mass, the pews were quite full, with many parishioners making a special trip to Church for the momentous occasion.
A sense of spiritual relief flooded my soul at Holy Communion, I felt profoundly grateful to be safely in the hands of our next priest, our new spiritual father. Following a month of being somewhat father-less after the departure of our beloved pastor of six years, the arrival of our new Father was truly a cause for celebration. Although I missed my sons and my husband in a particular way at this first Mass, I lifted them in prayer and asked Our Lady’s protection for them during their week at Boy Scout summer camp.
After Mass, a text message from my oldest son arrived, inquiring about my impressions of the first Mass and asking if I had remembered them to Father. I replied with a promise to do so, provided I should have the chance.
When the opening presented itself, I gave Father the greeting from my summer campers. “Oh, yes, I have heard of your son… the one who impetuously stepped into the role of acolyte at a recent Mass.”
I was stunned, stopped dead in my tracks, and instantly felt the sting of humility rising. “So that story has already reached your ears?” I stammered.
Hours later, while attempting to focus in evening prayer, I found myself stumbling over Father’s mention of my son’s recent misstep in the sanctuary. I found myself growing annoyed with the person who had told Father and troubled that his first impression of my son, before even meeting him, would be tainted by this incident. I ruminated on the exact word Father had used -impetuously- and although I thought I knew what it meant, I half-heartedly resolved to take the time to look it up later.
By God’s grace and before too long, I recognized that the root of my emotional discomfort and spiritual disquiet was my own pride and vanity; not that this realization of my faults made it any easier to immediately digest and discard the moment’s trial, but it was a beginning. I praised God for allowing me another opportunity to grow in humility and asked His mercy upon my soul for being so concerned with the (perceived) judgment. I resolved to consider it a joy to suffer such a simple (perceived) disgrace without complaining or giving in to gossip or thoughts of revenge, and continued my evening prayer. Afterward, I set a goal to reach the 50% mark in my Kindle version of St. Teresa’s Life.
St. Teresa of Avila’s words literally jumped off the page as I read her Life in the quiet of my empty house,
How rich will he be who gave up all his riches for Christ! How honorable will he be who, for His sake, sought no honors whatever, but rather took pleasure in seeing himself abased!
It felt as if this paragraph, written by the Spanish Carmelite nun in the 1500’s, had been written just for me. Gratitude lifted my soul, and I thanked God for the light of St. Teresa’s wisdom. And then to my astonishment, the next paragraph revealed another great insight:
Such is the state of the world, and so forgotten are matters of perfection, and those grand impetuosities of the Saints.
I immediately recognized the beginnings of the gifts of knowledge and understanding. With a click of the Kindle, I soon learned the actual definition of the word which had haunted my overactive imagination and given me (unnecessary) grief:
Impetuous (adj): of, pertaining to, or characterized by sudden or rash action, emotion, etc.; impulsive; Impetuous (and) impulsive both refer to persons who are hasty and precipitate in action, or to actions not preceded by thought. Impulsive emphasizes spontaneity and lack of reflection: an impulsive act of generosity.
My own ignorance, pride and self-righteousness had been at fault all along (big surprise!). Mistakenly presuming that the word used to describe my son had meant impish –mischievous- I had misjudged Father’s passing comment to be a criticism and so reacted accordingly. My Jesus, mercy.
Heaping grace upon grace, and further aiding my growth in understanding, the daily Office of Readings this morning offered an excerpt from (none other than) St. Teresa of Avila. From The Way of Perfection:
You see, the gift our Lord intends for us may be by far the best, but if it is not what we wanted we are quite capable of flinging it back in his face. That is the kind of people we are; ready cash is the only wealth we understand.
Ready cash is indeed what I had desired, in the form of my new Father’s immediate approval and acceptance. But in His great mercy, my Heavenly Father gave me a greater gift, one that I needed rather than wanted: an increase in humility and a better knowledge of my own weakness. He also gave me the gift of a new friend in the communion of saints, in my morning reading from St. Teresa’s Life. Remembering a dearly departed holy confessor and trusted friend, Father Peter Alcantra, St. Teresa wrote:
One of his companions told me that he would be occasionally eight days without eating: that must have been when he was in prayer; for he was subject to… the impetuosities of the love of God, of which I was once a witness myself.
Through Saint Teresa, my Lord has gifted me with a new intercessor for my impetuous son, and indeed for my impetuous self – St. Peter Alcantra, pray for us!