This blog's overall focus is to relate some of the present moments in Christ, in the experience of living out the Order of the Present Moment.
On a personal note, this morning became difficult due to extreme sense of human isolation. The sense stymied my being, other than finally deciding to go to noon Mass. Then deciding not. Then deciding to. Then not. Then thinking of St. Teresa of Avila and an experience 22 years ago this past June, and that did it. I went to noon Mass if not for me, out of gratitude to Christ and St. Teresa, for a special gift given that would change a chunk of my life.
Early June, 1988, I was a year out of major back surgery in which I had a death experience and was sent back to rear children and fulfill the mission God gave me. I did not know exactly what was that mission but knew it was to help others come to Him and would include writing. I was not Catholic then but very much a Christian.
Having lost my career due to an accident and resultant surgery leaving me with constant, intractable pain, with the help of Dr. H., we decided that the only professional career I might be able to manage with such pain would be as a clinical psychologist. Thus, I was enrolled in a combined Master-Doctoral degree program. I will now focus on one course in which something amazing occurred.
The day before this particular weekend course, I received a second opinion from a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon in Scripps LaJolla. He looked over records and scans and sadly told me there was nothing more that could be done, that I'd had the maximum surgery due to complications, and I would have to face a life that I'd never dreamed I'd have to live. Cannot describe the impact.
The shock continued into the next day when in this course the professor asked for volunteers for a guided imagery demonstration. Usually too self-conscious to be in front of others, the news of having severe pain the rest of my life gave me a "why not" attitude. I raised my hand, was called to the front of the classroom and painfully sat beside the professor who began the demonstration.
The guided imagery went as expected at first. I was to report what images came to mind, which I did. [I described in far more detail then, but for brevity will stick to the highlights here.] I was walking, saw an old house, walked up to the door.
At this point the demonstration took on a movement of its own. I heard someone ask me to enter the house. Inside, I was beckoned to a back room, and there, I saw a woman sitting at a slant top, wood desk. She was writing--using a quill pen, dipping it into ink. She seemed from the Middle Ages, wearing some kind of black fabric over her head, and the rest of her garment dark, blending into the old desk. My view focused on her face. She was an older woman, in her sixties it seemed, and had a peaceful, wise visage.
Unexpectedly, the woman, with an odd accent, told me she wished to speak. I repeated this to the professor and other clinical psych students in the room. "She says she wishes to speak." So the professor, surprised, said to see what she has to say. I communicated this to the woman with thoughts, but she seemed to already know.
What occurred next is even more bizarre. I found my self, the inner of me, kind of shifted to the right of my body, and my throat felt a strange sensation as the woman utilized my voice somehow, to speak in her rather stilted dialect, but in English for all to understand. The words at first were slow and soft, seemingly as she accustomed herself to using my vocal chords to speak to the group.
She spoke astounding words of wisdom about suffering, about pain, about joy, about love, about Christ. What I mainly recalled after and still yet today, is that her kind, loving being emanated peace. A peak point of her message was a personal blessing. She emphasized that pain at other levels and dimensions, is sheer joy, and that at some point, through Christ's love, I would learn higher love in order to experience this joy in the tremendous suffering to be borne by my body. There was much more, too much to describe or detail, but all of Christ, wisdom, love, pain, peace, joy.
One other incident occurred after the message of finding joy in pain. There was a gnostic woman in the class, and the Medieval woman speaking through me suddenly raised her voice and declared, "There is one here who doubts and wishes to ask a question."
Throughout this process, my emotions and thoughts were intact and aware, and I was able through the woman, to know of which one she spoke. It was the caustic, new age woman. I recall embarrassment and not wanting to not be in the middle of this exchange! However, it was not of my control and hadn't been ever since in the guided imagery demonstration, meeting up with this Medieval woman.
So, the Medieval woman asked my classmate directly, "And what is your question?" The new age woman evidently knew she was being addressed, and asked a skeptical, caustic question. The Medieval woman answered her in no uncertain terms, evoking gasps from the other class members. For everyone, including the professor, had been stunned and silent throughout the Medieval woman's explanation of suffering and how to endure through love in Christ.
Now, this veritable take down of the caustic new age woman topped the limits. As a result, she was chagrined to silence. The Medieval woman bid adieu, for her main message had been delivered--of the joy in pain, how through Christ's love anyone could endure suffering which in other dimensions becomes sheer joy. The Medieval woman disappeared, and I found myself once more "myself", sitting beside the professor who was trying to announce a 15-minute break, above the clamor of the classmates' chattering awe.
People huddled around me, asking what was it like? Do you know the woman, recognize her? No, I'd never seen her before. As for what was it like, I could not describe it other than it left me so very refreshed and with a peace and assurance beyond anything I'd felt.
When class resumed, the professor asked me many questions, and also entertained questions and comments from others. The new age woman opined it was channeling, which is a new age, contrived state in which a person opens up themselves to spirits called entities. It is very dangerous and unwise to ever contrive, entertain or invite such notions, spirits, demons, or whatever.
The professor immediately disproved that answer. He said in years of experience and background, he'd witnessed people channel, but this definitely was not channeling, nor was anything he had ever witnessed. He said it was supernatural yet unexpected, not contrived, and very beautiful, peaceful, and positive.
A few weeks later the professor contacted me and asked me to write what I could of the experience (which is pretty much what I've tried to describe here) and to offer what I thought it was or whence it derived. He was writing a book and wanted to include this experience since he'd never encountered anything like it.
I wrote back that I knew deep inside this surely came from God. The Medieval woman was sent to console me and tell me how I would endure the suffering for life, how if I could strive in the love of Christ, the pain would be as joy. It was an unexpected grace from God due to the despair of having been told the day before that I would live a life of utter pain, with it worsening as I aged.
Also, yet another woman in that class had tape-recorded the event, but later when she wanted to send me a copy, she said that nothing recorded of the Medieval woman's words! But I was left with the inner gift of the message and experience, and of the key thoughts that remain with me to this present moment.
As for the woman's identity, when I became a Catholic some eight years later, I was given a holy card with a painted image of St. Teresa of Avila. Well, we all by now know who was the mysterious Medieval woman.
The one hitch I had until recently is that in the experience, the woman wore tiny, quaint spectacles. Even when I saw a life-size statue twelve years after the experience and knew even more surely the woman was St. Teresa--I never saw paintings or statues of her wearing spectacles. Not until I took a course on St. Teresa in Avila, Spain, and then saw the recent DVD series of her life, did I know that she did, in fact, in her later years, wore spectacles.
So what does this bizarre experience have to do with Christ in this present moment? Perhaps it is to encourage myself and others who suffer. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this morning, in addition to physical pain, I was suffering the pain of extreme, human isolation. The thought of this most dear and kind Medieval woman, St. Teresa of Avila, and realizing it was her feast day, that motivated me to go to Mass, for she would go, and I owe her much gratitude for her message of over 22 years ago. That message was very much needed today, in the present moment.
Home after Mass, I saw a short, online video clip of a Lutheran man who authored a book about miracles, as he had experienced two healing miracles himself. He was so open about it, so natural. It seems we Catholics are repressed in sharing the supernatural realities. Why? Perhaps it seems as if one is boasting, or promoting --promoting what? Christ? The reality of God's care and love for us? Maybe we need to be less fearful when it comes to sharing that which might help or inspire others.
Again, I thought about this amazing event with the Medieval woman, St. Teresa of Avila, and it just seemed right to share. Miracles do encourage us, don't they? And it did not seem as if it was meant just for me, or why would God have allowed the words to be spoken and heard by not only me, but all in the classroom?
Thank you, St. Teresa of Avila, and please pray for us!
Note: The above painting of St. Teresa is about the closest to what I saw, but her veil was raised higher on her head and not contoured so much to it, and that around her face seemed more dark fabric showed with less white. In what I saw, she was writing on parchment paper, not a book.