Saint Teresa of Avila (Teresa of Jesus), Virgin, Mystic, and Doctor of the Church

Mass for the school children.

Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Teresa of Avila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus.  Saint Teresa was a mystic, one who had deep experiences of prayer that enabled her to have visions.  She was known to have a very deep relationship with Jesus.  She once wrote, “We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to look upon Him present within us.”

Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, and was the third of nine children.  When she was just thirteen years old, her mother died.  So her father sent her to an Augustinian convent to be educated by the nuns there.  After about two years, she became very ill, and had to return home to her family.  During that time, she began to think about what she wanted to do with her life, and decided to become a nun.  She wanted to join a Carmelite convent, but her father would not give her permission to go.  So she snuck out one night to join the convent, and her father gave his permission.

The convent was huge.  It had 140 nuns, each of whom had a large space to live including a bedroom, kitchen, and a guest room.  Some of the nuns even had maids!  Eventually during this time, she found the busy convent a hard place to have a life of prayer.  One day, she was praying before a statue of the wounded Christ and was meditating on his sufferings, and had a deep experience of Jesus’ love.  That was when she decided the convent was keeping her from the real work of prayer that she was called to, and began to dream of a small convent where the nuns lived simple lives.

Along with Saint John of the Cross, and some others, she set out to reform the Carmelite order, founding the order known as the Discalced Carmelites.  “Discalced” means “shoeless” because the nuns wore no shoes in the chapel, recognizing the holiness of the ground there.  She traveled extensively to promote the reform, and eventually founded sixteen monasteries of women who were drawn to her love of Jesus and love of people.  She wrote extensively and is known as a Doctor of the Church.  A Doctor of the Church is a saint whose writings and teachings have had a profound impact on the Church.  There are four women who are known as Doctors of the Church.  The others are Saint Therese of Liseaux, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Hildegard of Bingen.

Saint Teresa’s life was heavily influenced by her reflection on all that Jesus suffered for us.  Whenever we see the Cross, we too should remember Jesus’ love for us, because it never ends and that love can change our lives.  As Saint Teresa wrote, “If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend.”

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