Mr. Duterte and St. Teresa

Mr. Duterte and St. Teresa

WITH the President’s DDS—Duterte’s Denial Squad—glossing over the SWS survey results showing the tough guy’s apparently declining popularity, I can’t help but wonder how much Mr. Duterte is in touch with himself.  Doesn’t he cringe to hear replays of his pronouncements, speeches, tirades, and outbursts?  If his critics are to be believed, it would seem that the president is a bit unhinged.  Does he see and like himself that way?  Does he examine his image in moments of silence and solitude, like when he’s alone and quiet at night?  How well does he REALLY know himself?  I would relish launching my two-cents’ worth on the matter but today (as of this writing, Oct. 15) being the feast of St. Teresa of Jesus who is endearingly dubbed as “the wild woman of Avila”, I feel duty-bound to focus the limelight on this great Saint who so values self-knowledge as a portal to a more intimate relationship with God.

Self-knowledge is a tough thing to face—it’s like standing naked before a mirror and seeing yourself, warts, wrinkles, flab and all. St. Teresa says in her book Interior Castle: “Self-knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it; so long as we are on this earth, nothing matters more to us than humility.”  (Interior Castle, Chapter 2)

One of the most endearing traits of St. Teresa is her self-knowledge, as shown in her admission of the mediocrity of her prayer life for many years: “I thus began to go from pastime to pastime, from vanity to vanity . . . . And I was aided in this vanity by the fact that as the sins increased I began to lose joy in virtuous things and my taste for them. . . . This was the most terrible trick the devil could play on me, under the guise of humility: that seeing myself so corrupted I began to fear the practice of prayer.

“It seems I desired to harmonize these two contraries—so inimical to one another—such as are the spiritual life and sensory joys, pleasures, and pastimes… I should say that it is one of the most painful lives, I think, that one can imagine; for neither did I enjoy God nor did I find happiness in the world. When I was experiencing the enjoyments of the world, I felt sorrow when I recalled what I owed to God. When I was with God, my attachments to the world disturbed me. This is a war so troublesome that I don’t know how I was able to suffer it even a month, much less for so many years . . . For more than eighteen of the twenty-eight years since I began prayer, I suffered this battle and conflict between friendship with God and friendship with the world.” (The Book of Her Life, Chapters 7-8)

Just like us ordinary mortals, St. Teresa of Avila would be restless and too  lazy to pray, as she wrote:    “Over a period of several years, I was more occupied in wishing my hour of prayer were over, and in listening whenever the clock struck, than in thinking of things that were good. Again and again I would rather have done any severe penance that might have been given me than practise recollection as a preliminary to prayer. Whenever I entered the oratory I used to feel so depressed that I had to summon up all my courage to make myself pray at all.”

She even gave up her habit of mental prayer, using as a pretext her poor health. The excuse of bodily weakness, she wrote in her autobiography, is not reason enough to abandon prayer which is “so good a thing” and which doesn’t call for physical strength, but “only love and habit.”

Speaking of “love and habit” my mind wanders off, again, to a loveless habit which seems second nature to our Chief Executive: cussing.  The habit is certainly not coming from a place of love or humility, a place where God dwells.  I do sincerely wish that for the sake of the country he so zealously professes to love—or a country worth killing for?—Mr. D would make an effort to stand before the mirror and ask “Digong, quo vadis?”

Will somebody please introduce him to the spunky Spanish saint?  He just might fall in love with her once he knows they have something in common: their birthday, March 28.  And that’s the truth.