Thursday, October 15, 2009

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

Painting by Janet McKenzie

It's the feast of St. Teresa of Avila!
I love her. I feel she is one of my patrons due to our shared tendency toward massive headaches and migraines. Only one who has them all the time can really understand how they scramble you...and she did. So, she's my gal!
Painting by Francois Gerard, c. 17C

But more importantly, St. Teresa of Avila is just one heck of a great saint. She is one of the three women Doctors of the Church (noting that her spiritual writings are both sound and very important, influential). For a woman of medieval times, that is no small accomplishment, not to mention: staying power! Her books such as Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are just amazing reads. Not fast page turners, but mind blowers. You have to stop every few pages and just sort of...digest it all. And then soak it in, let it sink in....it's great great stuff and will change your prayer life. She founded the Discalced Carmelites (Meaning "shoeless," again, what's not to like?) and had an ongoing friendship and correspondence with the mystic and poetically powerful St. John of the Cross {And if you want a really phenomenal book, tough, dense, but OH so worth it: read the compilation/commentary on these two together: Fire Within, by Dubay}.

But on another level, not the "resume" angle...St. Teresa of Avila appeals to me because she was first of all a real living, breathing woman. I know, they all are, doh. But what I mean is that she was a woman of opinions and ideas and kind of stubborn and pushy, even when that wasn't always overtly sanctioned in the culture of her time. She was extremely social and loved to sit and chat and flirt even...she was quiet beautiful and knew how to use it too. She had to struggle against the urge to chat and flirt and spend too much time doing it, because she could lose afternoons to it. Sound familiar to any of you, especially you gals? Um, yeah. That stuff IS fun. Sounds pretty modern to me.

St. Teresa's monastic cell at the Convento de la Encarnación, Ávila

And yet, even so, St. Teresa could hear in her inmost self the whisper of God who loved her as she was, more than anyone else could. And she responded, bravely, to that irresistible call. And it brought her the ecstasy of union with God in prayer. And that amazes me and intrigues me as I know firsthand how hard it is to push all those opinions and flippy chitchatty conversations out of my head to pay attention to God himself. Distraction? I'm the poster girl for it. But St. Teresa gives me hope and I have hope that she prays for me...for my attention to what is important, for responding to that call, that whisper, for my headaches, for being brave enough to listen through the din of my modern mundane life.

Sculpture by Bernini, "St. Teresa in Ecstasy"

So, happy feast day!

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

2 comments:

Coffeedoc said...

Mother Teresa took her name from the little flower, Therese of the child Jesus (of Lisieux), who took her name from Teresa of Jesus (or as she's better known -- of Avila). And you know one of my heroes, Theresa Benedicta a Cruce (Blessed by the Cross) also took her name from Teresa of Avila after being converted from Judaism by just reading TA's autobiography...
All you grace filled, blessed Theresas, ora pro nobis -- pray for us.

Amy said...

She is a wonderful saint isn't she! I just read a quick fun little book called The Four Teresas (Avila, Little Flower, Edith Stein, and Mother Teresa)- wonderful short book on 4 amazing women.