The intentions of Aleteia's readers will be remembered in Avila on November 10. Sign up through the link in this article.
The Bishop of Avila, José María Gil Tamayo, speaks of the service that cloistered religious women and men offer for the Church and the world by entrusting our concerns to God.
For All Souls Day, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, Aleteia is offering our readers the opportunity to share their prayer intentions with the Monastery of the Incarnation of Avila.
(Click here to sign up your loved ones: A special Mass for your loved ones: submit your prayer intentions!).
The community of the Discalced Carmelites, where St. Teresa of Jesus lived for 30 years, will remember the intentions of our readers in the Mass to be celebrated on November 10.
There’s no one better than Bishop José María Gil Tamayo of Avila, a recognized expert in communication, to help us appreciate the service that contemplative religious men and women perform for the Church and the world.
Aleteia: What sense does it make in our hyperactive and hyper-technological society for women and men to dedicate their lives to prayer for the Church and the world?
Bishop José María Gil Tamayo: They are a reminder of God’s presence in our secularized world. Unfortunately, we want to take God from the horizon. We want to restrict believers to the sphere of private life or to the interior of churches. The presence of contemplatives is a reminder of the primacy of God: that God is the most important thing. We need these reminders of God’s presence. We need to vindicate this presence of the contemplative life, of monks and nuns. Without God, you have nothing. By reminding us of this truth, contemplatives not only become a way of raising a silent cry to God for our world, for people, they also remind us that God loves us, forgives us, has saved us in his Son Jesus Christ, embraces us, and brings us to wholeness.
Aleteia: Do you think even the Catholic world is aware of the value that contemplatives bring with their constant prayer for humanity?
Bishop José María Gil Tamayo: I think that we have lost a certain degree of awareness of the contemplative life, perhaps because of the internal secularization that has affected the Church itself. Pope Francis asks us to be evangelizers with spirit, in fullness. Without contemplatives, without monasteries, we would not be seeing Christian fullness. Therefore, I believe that we must vindicate the role of the cloistered nuns, of the monks, in real life. It is very important. We have to be loudspeakers in parishes, in associations, in families, in schools, of that call of God: God calls souls to dedicate themselves to the contemplative life.
Aleteia: With this campaign, we are inviting everyone to share their prayer intentions on the occasion of the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, this year marked by the pandemic. Do you also entrust your prayer intentions to monasteries?
Bishop José María Gil Tamayo: Yes, I do because I am needy. The bishop is the main person in need of prayers for his ministry and also for the life of the Christian community. I am fortunate, because I have in our diocese 15 monasteries, including five convents of Teresa of Jesus. I ask them to pray to intercede for so many needs that we have. We have experienced it especially this year: to feel their help, to feel strengthened, to feel in the hands of God … God tells us: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Moreover, Jesus told us that where two or more agree to ask Heaven, it will be granted to us.
At this time, this initiative in favor of the deceased is necessary. Sacred Scripture tells us that, if we did not believe, it would be useless to pray for our deceased. We cannot forget our dead. It is a duty of justice and charity. We ask for them the vision of God, which is the fullness to which we are heading in a complete way in the final resurrection. We pray for them and at the same time we feel the blow of death, the emptiness, the missing, which is a form of affection.
This has now been transformed not only by beautifying the cemeteries, but through prayer and, above all, through the renewed sacrifice of Christ.
Contemplatives offer their lives for us without asking anything in return. How can a Catholic collaborate in an active and tangible way with these monasteries?
Bishop José María Gil Tamayo: Well, I would say that, in the first place, prayer has to be reciprocal. The fact that there is contemplative life, in monasteries, does not exempt us from the primacy of prayer, because it is the primacy of God. And prayer has to be part of our life. Jesus teaches us the most beautiful prayer, which is the Lord’s Prayer. “Pray without losing heart,” he tells us. First with prayer: pray for them. So that the contemplative monasteries have that much needed renewal of vocations. This is very important. Monasteries are closing because of the aging of their members. Young people are needed.
This happens to us when we live as if God did not exist, when God is excluded from ordinary life, when we put merely having things as the first goal, when we forget our reason for being and the reasons for faith, when we lose the meaning of our life.
That is why the contribution of families is important; they are necessary for educating in contemplative life as a horizon … of living life as self-giving. That is the best contribution.
And then there is almsgiving. It is certainly important. They need it. Within this “ora et labora,” foundational to monastic life, there is earning a living. Helping them is important.
Summarizing: we can contribute above all with prayer, with a vocational culture that encourages others to follow this call of God to dedicate themselves to prayer, to contemplation, to the mystery of God, witnessing the Resurrection of Jesus.
However, the affection we have for the monasteries has to pass through our pockets as well.
Aleteia: As Bishop of Avila, what message do you think St. Teresa would leave us if she were alive today, in 2021?
Bishop José María Gil Tamayo: I would change the verb tense. I would not say if she “lived today,” but she “lives today.” She lives in the monasteries, she lives today in her daughters, she lives today in her writings, and she lives today with that presence of the communion of saints.
The message she gives us is the same message as always: the one she gave us in her writings, as a “teacher of spirituality,” as Pope St. John Paul II described her. She would tell us that “God alone is enough”: the primacy of God, the life of prayer, and the art of communicating with God.
Pope Francis wrote me a letter on the occasion of the congress of the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Teresa of Jesus as Doctor of the Church. In it, the pope told us: St. Teresa “continues to speak to us today through her writings, and her message is open to all, so that in knowing and contemplating it we may be seduced by the beauty of the word and the truth it contains, and it may give rise within us to the desire to advance on the path to perfection.”
The pope went on to say: “To have her as a friend, companion, and guide on our earthly pilgrimage confers security and peace of mind. Her example is not only for those of our brothers and sisters who feel the call to religious life, but for all those who wish to progress on the path of purification from all worldliness, which leads to espousal with God, to the lofty abodes of the inner castle.”
This is the message of Teresa, always.
And let us not forget: let us pray for our deceased. It is a duty of justice and Christian charity.