As a cradle Catholic working as a hospital chaplain amongst mostly Baptists in the southern Bible Belt, you can imagine that my Catholic heritage would have been an issue of friendly debate with my chaplain peers. Levitating Saints, mystical experiences of God, and the whole papacy were NOT things that my chaplain co-workers embraced. I had to take these concepts to God in prayer and sort them out for myself.
I do believe that God comes to us in supernatural ways. Each Christian tradition is going to experience God in a way that is culturally acceptable to their tribe. The Pentecostals are not like the Baptists, or Methodists, or Catholics. Of all the Christian denominations, Catholics experience God speaking the love language of “physical touch” the most. Catholics embrace the sacramental worldview which finds God in the beauty of art and nature, as well as in the touch of holy water, and in the smell of incense. God “touches” earth in the Catholic tribe more than He does in any other faith. He most intimately touches Catholics through the Eucharist where His real presence becomes part of their own bodies.
God touched St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa of Avila was a spooky Saint for me as a child. These images portraying her life and relationship with God were beyond frightening for me. They seemed like some strange form of Halloween. Today I understand that St. Teresa of Avila experienced the touch of God through her openness to deep, prayerful contemplation. Today, meditation is a part of yoga, and tai chi classes that are offered at every fitness center in America. Meditation is not something to fear when it is done in connection with Jesus Christ as our contemplation companion.
There is wisdom and beauty in the healing arts of the East. Chinese medicine, herbs, therapeutic massage, and breath work were all of interest to me when my youngest son was chronically sick with asthma and pneumonia. Western medicine could not cure him. Western medicine was only able to manage his asthma episodes and keep him alive. I grew very stressed and anxious with a son who could not breath so I opened my mind to learning about Eastern spiritual practices related to healing.
I personally believe that what St. Teresa of Avila experienced was the supernatural touch of God that freed the flow of fluids in her body while releasing chronic muscle tension. St. Teresa of Avila read sacred scripture and understood the metaphor of God choosing to love His people like a bridegroom loves a bride. She pondered these scripture passages and accepted the Catholic tradition that honors physical touch as a genuine love language spoken by God. God never forced himself on St. Teresa of Avila. She chose to embrace such spiritual practices.
When the muscles in our bodies become constricted and stressed, lymph fluid stagnates and breeds chronic illness. Prayer as well as therapeutic touch, can eliminate these constrictions and allow these stagnant pools in our body to be refreshed. There is wisdom in the ancient healing arts. Above all, a body which embraces love is open to healing while a body that lives in fear becomes constricted. Mercy heals, rejection and resentment constrict. As we Christians seek to reflect the image of Christ to others, our words and actions must always respect and honor each other’s differences because we are all beloved children of God. (Some people just might not know how loved they really are yet.)