As both a writer and a woman, Claudia Mair Burney has tremendous warmth, compassion, humor, charm, and the wisdom of one who has seen her share of suffering. Knowing this, I looked forward to reading God Alone Is Enough even before I knew that it was about St. Teresa of Avila. When I found that out, I was even more excited, because I’ve long been drawn to this sixteenth-century mystic who was down-to-earth enough to say to God (on the occasion of her carriage getting stuck in the mud), “If this is how You treat Your friends, it’s no wonder You have so few of them!”
But oops—I’ve used the “s” word—(whisper)—saint. In her author’s note, Burney promises not to use this word, for the sake of those who may have uncomfortable associations with it. She intends instead to introduce us to “a trusted friend who has already walked, run, or inched baby step by baby step into the arms of God.” Although I have no problem with the “s” word myself, I respect her ecumenical intention.
In chapter 1, Burney introduces us to a real woman, someone I could easily identify with: a woman of beauty, passion, and zest for life, tempted by the pleasures, distractions, and praise of the world, but at heart longing intensely for the total love that only God can give.
As a child Teresa was zealous for God and moved by the stories of martyrs. I laughed out loud at this imagined exchange between Teresa and her less devout playmates:
“Teresa, wanna play Barbies?”
“Barbies are lame. Let’s run away to Africa and preach the gospel to the Moors.”
“But . . . um . . . they’ll cut our heads off.”
“Yes, but we’ll go straight to heaven!”
But in her adolescence, after losing her beloved mother, Teresa turned aside to typical teenage concerns, and only decided at last on a religious vocation out of the fear of hell. It wasn’t until she was in her forties that her journey into intimacy with her Beloved Bridegroom began in earnest. And that’s a journey I’d love to tag along on.
Burney’s portrayal of Teresa’s life in this chapter left me intrigued, inspired, and hungry for more.
Claudia Mair Burney is the author of seven novels, including the Amanda Bell Brown mysteries, and Zora and Nicky, and Christy Award finalist in 2009. Readers familiar with her style will enjoy this rollicking journey through their own interior castles. She lives in Kentucky, where she also authors the popular blog, “Ragamuffin Diva.”