I have to admit I was quite intimidated at first. I was honored, as well, but mostly intimidated. It’s not every day that a writer, even one with several books, and more than 30 years of media experience under her belt, is asked to come up with a compelling introduction to a Christian classic.
It was definitely a first for me. But, hey, no pressure. I was being asked to produce an introduction for a famous work, “Interior Castle,” by my absolutely favorite saint: the one and only St. Teresa of Ávila. Our Sunday Visitor is reintroducing several classics from great saints such as St. Teresa and St. Augustine. Knowing of my great fondness for the first female Doctor of the Church, and knowing that I had mentioned over the years that I was also named after her, they thought it was a perfect fit.
I was given a month to come up with something that would draw those unfamiliar with this incredible volume detailing the challenges and the gifts experienced by the soul as it journeys to complete union with God. It wasn’t the deadline that was causing me to break out into a cold sweat every time I thought about it.
Deadlines are something I have dealt with all of my professional life, especially in my years as a secular journalist. A month is a piece of cake. The bigger issue for me was the responsibility of expressing the treasures of Teresa in an inviting and nonthreatening way.
How was I going to explain in a world dominated by text messages and tweets that “Interior Castle” was well worth the time and effort it takes to go through each and every one of the seven dwellings detailed within its pages? Even those who actually do read — and the numbers are dwindling — barely do so past the first few sentences of a front-page news story or one or two chapters of a book. What would make someone take a big chunk of their already hectic day, stop and read the writings of a mystic who lived hundreds of years ago?
These same questions, I decided, would be great ones to propose to the great saint herself. St. Teresa has been a powerful intercessor in my life, and as I was going through “Interior Castle” in preparation for my writing project, she was there for me — as she always is. How could I have forgotten that one of the reasons I admire St. Teresa so very much is her ability to bring her extremely deep understanding of God’s love for us down to a level that any one could appreciate? In page after page and quotation after quotation, she had me chuckling to myself — and about myself. It’s almost as if I could hear her saying to me directly: “Silly girl. This is not about you. It’s about him.”
That was it. If I really wanted to write a good introduction, I would need to include her own words to help potential readers realize that when you come right down to it, it’s not rocket science. It really is all about discerning and following God’s will. And no one says that quite like St. Teresa of Ávila.
“[I]t is presumptuous in me to wish to choose my path, because I cannot tell which path is best for me. I must leave it to the Lord, who knows me, to lead me by the path which is best for me, so that in all things his will may be done.”
And some 400-plus years later, it was presumptuous of me to think that St. Teresa’s voice would not be heard clearly among the noise and busyness of today’s increasingly fast-paced world. While God indeed is the ultimate rocket scientist, so to speak, he doesn’t expect us to have advanced degrees in theology or anything else. It all starts with our loving him and trusting him enough to go deeper, and “Interior Castle” can help us do just that.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95).