Hello everyone, oh I am so excited. Today we celebrate the Feast day of my favorite saint – the great Carmelite mystic and Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila (St. Teresa of Jesus). Teresa was a woman of extraordinary wisdom, charm and sanctity. In her life as a Bride of Christ and reformer of Carmel, she lived the virtues of Humility, Poverty of Spirit, Joy and Perseverance in an exemplary manner. For these reasons, as well as for her profound spiritual writings, we, the Church, do honor Teresa of Jesus as a Saint and Doctor of the Church.
When one considers the incredible graces bestowed on Teresa on this life on earth and in her Eternal Life in Heaven; as well as the titles which the Church confers upon her, it is sometimes hard for us to remember that she was a real human being with real struggles. However, the prime reason we venerate her as a great saint is her perseverance in these struggles. As we shall see, Teresa was a real woman, with real toils, real temptations and a real strong, simple, childlike love for her Spouse, Jesus Christ.
St. Teresa was born on March 28, 1515 to Don Alonso Cepeda and his second wife, Beatriz de Ahumada. Don Cepeda also had two children from a previous marriage. Teresa had a total of 10 siblings. When she was fourteen, her mother Beatriz also died. Her faith was tried (as it would be many times in her life) but it remained unshaken; for even after experiencing such a loss, Teresa turned to the Blessed Mother for motherly guidance and love.
As a child, St. Teresa of Avila had a great yearning for sanctity, however as my spiritual director put it: “she was flame of zeal which lacked prudence.” The following was one of her feverous but not-so-well-thought-out endeavors: “One time Teresa convinced herself that she was called to be a martyr. So, dragging her brother with her, Teresa set out on a journey from Avila to Africa – where she was sure the Moors would kill her. The group had gone only a short distance out of the city, when a concerned uncle caught up with them. By this time, Teresa’s brother had lost his fervor and patience with his sister and turned her in to Uncle Francisco – blaming her for the whole matter. Yet, Teresa continued to grow in zeal for Christ.”
All too soon Teresa reached the marrying age for the girls during the time of the 1500’s and as she grew in beauty, she retreated in her fervor. She was exceedingly charming and thoroughly enjoyed herself at the many dances and parties that she attended. This is not to hint that she ever “took it too far.” No, she was always a pure, good child, but during this time in her life, Teresa chose a lesser good over the Greatest Good. However, she had consecrated herself to Mary and the Blessed Mother never abandons her special children. Teresa’s father had enough of her parties and sent her to an Augustinian Convent to get her act together.
After entering the convent, Teresa experienced a conversion and returned to her old ways of sanctity and zeal. Yet, with her conversion also came the lack of prudence she had shown previously when practicing penance. Teresa considered herself such a sinner that she took upon herself too many hard penances. She soon became sick and very nearly died (Teresa went into a four-day coma and her fellow sisters almost buried her). She later credited St. Joseph’s intercession with her miraculous recovery, and to this very day, Discalced Carmelites have a deep devotion to him. It was finally her uncle Don Pedro and St. John of the Cross, the other great reformer of Carmel, who put her on the right track. By keeping consistent in prayer, St. Teresa grew in wisdom and holiness.
Teresa continued to grow in her life with Jesus. However, it still took her 19 years before she was finally able to shake off the chains of the attractions of this world, throw herself wholly and entirely on the mercy of Our Lord and proceed to enter the “Interior Castle.” It was in this next period of her life, that she began the great reform of Carmel.
St. Teresa of Avila is known for her profoundly deep, but beautifully simple writings. Although, the Holy Mother of the Discalced Carmelites lived nearly 500 years ago, her writings are just as relevant today as they were in the 1500s.
I personally believe that the “Theatrical Trailer” of St. Teresa’s writings and the one that best sums up them all, in a few short sentences, is her famous “Bookmark.” This poem was basically the whole reason why I started my blog and has been the chief source of advice and encouragement to which I have turned in my discernment. Please allow me to share it with you:
“Let nothing disturb thee;
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God Sufficeth.”
– St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
That really says it all right there. For all of us, but most especially for those of us discerning, God must be everything. He must be our rock, in which we put our firmest faith. Trials and struggles will come and in this increasingly materialistic and secular world, we are tempted to put out trust in material wealth or power. Yet, as significant as these may seem, they will all lead to emptiness. We must not be afraid, rather we must trust! All things pass and change, only “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (13;8).” In Him we will find everything!
“God Alone Sufficeth!”
St. Teresa of Avila – Pray for Us!