Monday, February 15, 2010

God: the goal of human desire

"'Our hearts are restless,' wrote St. Augustine, and that truth remains fundamental to the human condition. Human restlessness, human desire, human yearning - none of it ever seems finally and fully satisfied. The baby beginning to crawl and explore the environment is an expression of human restlessness; the journeying of the first Carmelites who left their homes to gather in a valley on Mount Carmel was fuelled by the same desire. We are truly pilgrims.

We humans never have enough because, with St. Thérèse of Lisieux, we choose all. And we will never rest until we get it. The Carmelite tradition recognises this hunger in the human heart and says we are made this way. We are made to seek and search, to yearn and ache, until the heart finally finds something or someone to match the depth of its desire, until the heart finds food sufficient for its hunger. We name that food, that fulfilment, that goal of human desire, God. Carmelites have been intentionally pursuing that elusive, mysterious fulfilment for 800 years. 'I wanted to live,' wrote St. Teresa of Avila, 'but I had no one to give me life...'

We believe that, named or not, every human being is on this quest. We can assume this: that every student in our school, every member of our parish, every pilgrim to our shrine, every candidate in our seminary has an openness to the transcendent mystery we name God. Time and time again the desire will be denied, the hunger temporarily satisfied, the yearning stifled, distracted, weak. But we know it is there and it will emerge in one form or another. Our tradition has the power, the language, the imagery to help illumine what people are experiencing in their innermost being.

The Carmelite tradition attempts to name the hunger, give words to the desire, and express the journey's end in God. The human heart will forever need this clarification of its wants. Carmel has wanted the same thing and will walk with anyone who is met along the way. We cannot satisfy their hunger, but can help them find words for it and know where it points. We can do it, and have done it, in art, in poetry and song, in counselling and teaching, in simply listening and understanding. And we can warn people that eventually all words fail and at times all we have is the desire itself."

-- Seasons of the Heart by Fr John Welch, OCarm

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