Saint Teresa of Avila, virgin and Doctor of the Church

Today’s readings: Romans 8:22-27; Psalm 19:8-11; John 15:1-8

Saint Teresa was a virgin, mystic, nun, reformer of the Carmelite order, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites; over all a woman deeply devoted to her God – mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  She was of a large family, toward the end of the group of twelve children.  When she grew into a teenager she began to read and attempt to write romance novels, which, she says, led her into all sorts of other things teenage girls like to explore.  She writes, “I began to imitate the fashions, to take delight in being well dressed, to have great care of my hands, to make use of perfumes, and to afford all the vain trimmings which my position in the world allowed.”  Her father sent her for a time to live in an Augustinian convent, until she became ill about a year or so later.  During her illness, she began to contemplate the prospect of living a religious life, which was both emotionally a positive and negative proposition to her.

She decided to join a convent of Carmelite nuns, which her father strongly opposed.  After she turned twenty-one, she did join, and her father gave up opposition to it.  She was known to be a woman of prudence, charity and personal charm, and so many people came to be devoted to her charism.  She struggled, though, with personal prayer until her early forties.  Persevering in prayer, she found that she more and more enjoyed being in the presence of the Lord, and really began to grow in friendship with him.

A story is told of her that one day, as she walked along a muddy stream pushing a cart, it tipped over and she and the cart ended up in the stream.  Muddy, drenched and frustrated, she said, “God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!”  This might seem for almost anyone else kind of blasphemous, but for Teresa at this point in her life, it was an expression of conversation with a friend, which is what her prayer life had become.

She truly became that branch that remained part of the vine, bearing fruit in prayer and contemplation, as well as spiritual writing.  She was canonized in 1622, and in 1970, became one of the three female Doctors of the Church we now celebrate.

“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”  This was what Teresa took to heart, resulting in a friendship with God that was her strength and a glorious inspiration for others.  May our friendship with God become as wonderful.