St. Teresa of Ávila, the great mystic and Doctor of the Church, said: “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of him.” In addition to the wonderful words of wisdom from my patron and favorite saint, whose feast day we celebrated on Oct. 15, we have countless Scripture verses, as well as writings of other saints and scholars, that remind us not only of the awesome nature of God, but of how much he loves us and how he is longing to show us that love in mighty ways if we only ask him and believe.
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his paths beyond finding out” (Rom 11:33).
“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens” (Jer 10:12).
I could go on and on, and you probably could as well with your own favorite verses that express the awesome nature of God. I’ve actually dedicated segment after segment on my radio program, chapters in some of my books, and even given countless presentations on this topic trying to encourage fellow Catholics to have faith even when things don’t look very optimistic. “Go ahead and ask God to do something big in your life,” I can often be heard saying. Or else I often pull out one of my favorite quotes from Mother Angelica, the foundress of EWTN: “We have lost the theology of risk. There is an inner confidence that we’ve lost. We’ve lost zeal. We’ve lost guts. Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous.”
All of this is true — and then some. I know this from my own reversion experience and all the miracles God has done and continues to do in my life. But sometimes those of us in ministry allow doubt to creep in.
Case in point would be the Augustine Institute’s wonderful Beloved marriage enrichment program, which my husband and I decided to present at our local parish. Beloved is a beautifully produced teaching series that brings couples together over 12 weeks to help them understand God’s plan for marriage. Since the healing of our own marriage played a major role in our journey back to the Church, we try to do whatever we can to help other couples understand the importance of God being at the center of the marriage relationship.
I wish I could say we approached hosting the series with great expectations. Hardly. While we were excited about hosting Beloved at our parish, we weren’t expecting a large turnout — nor did we bother to “compliment” God, as St. Teresa’s says, by asking him for one.
As a matter of fact, we did just the opposite. We put God in a box and told him we would be happy with 10-15 couples. “We will take whomever you send our way, Lord,” was our prayer, never thinking to even ask God to pack that church basement. We thought we were being practical or realistic. Quite frankly, we didn’t trust enough and didn’t want to get our hopes ups. “Oh, ye of little faith.”
When the first night finally rolled around, not only did we surpass our wimpy request of asking for a dozen or so couples, but the Lord provided four times that number with close to 50 couples from across the Detroit area signing up. We ate our share of humble pie after we watched the reception hall at our parish fill to the brim with married folks eager to take part. Take it from me and my husband, God cannot only handle our big requests, but he delights in answering those prayers. And sometimes those of us who teach and preach learn more about in the end.
This column first appeared on OSV Newsweekly. To read Teresa’s latest OSV columns click here.