Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saint Teresa of Avila

Gianlorenzo Bernini. Ecstasy of St Teresa.1645 -52. Santa Maria della Vittoria. Rome.

She, that we know as, Saint Teresa of Ávila, was known in religious life as, Saint Teresa of Jesus, was born, Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, in 1515, immediately before the religious revolt, that did not touch Spain. Spain was the world power then. Spain was finally free of all foreign occupation. Spain sought to maintain one religion only. The centuries of moorish mohammedanism and their jewish intermediaries were not appreciated. Spain was christian, and christian meant catholic. Spain was first in Europe and first in the world.

Teresa’s father’s father, was a converso, and a wealthy man, that, married well. Her mother was very religious. In this atmosphere, it was not surprising, that as children, Teresa and a brother, Rodrigo, were caught running away from home, by their uncle. They were going to moorish Africa to become martyrs. Why? she was asked,“I want to see God, and I must die before I can see Him.”

She entered her heavenly reward on the 4th of October 1582. The next day was the 15th of October, hence to-day is Saint Teresa of Ávila’s day. Yes, the next day was the 15th, this was when the Julian calendar gave way to he Gregorian.

In between, she lived her life. She and Saint John of the Cross were founders of the Discalced Carmelites. She was a great mystic and an important spiritual writer on prayer ( The Life of St Teresa by Herself, The Way of Perfection, The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, Letters). She was recognised as the first female Doctor of the Church. She was so recognised, in Spain, centuries before, although she did suffer opposition, and periods of illness. During the illnesses she lived this important prayer life.

She is remembered for experiencing deep spiritual ecstasies. After her death and burial, she was found to be bodily incorrupt and having the odor of sanctity. Her heart was transverberated. Transverberation, is the wound imparted by an angelic arrow.

She had a sense of humor and exasperation:
Dear Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!

To argue over who is the more noble is nothing more than to dispute whether dirt is better for making bricks or for making mortar.

From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.

Some of her other thoughts:
Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.

Granting that we are always in the presence of God, yet it seems to me that those who pray are in His presence in a very different sense; for they, as it were, see that He is looking upon them, while others may go for days on end without even once recollecting that God sees them.

Take care not to miss this wonderful opportunity. Say the 'Our Father' slowly without rushing. He is listening very close to you. This is the best way to praise and honor His name.

Let him never cease from prayer who has once begun it, be his life ever so wicked, for prayer is the way to amend it, and without prayer such amendment will be much more difficult.

With the help of our guardian angel we can try to see it reflected in God as in a mirror, for we will never come to know ourselves if we do not try to know God.

Whenever I read in the lives of Saints of how they converted souls, I seem to feel much more devout, more tender, and more envious of them than when I read of all the martyrdoms that they suffered. This is an inclination given me by Our Lord; and I think He prizes one soul, which by His mercy and through our diligence and prayer we have gained, for him, more than all the other services we can render Him.

We know only that we are living in these bodies and have a vague idea, because we have heard it, and because our faith tells us so, that we possess souls. As to what good qualities there may be in our souls, or who dwells within them, or how precious they are, those are things which seldom consider and so we trouble little about carefully preserving the soul's beauty.

Each of us has a soul, but we forget to value it. We don’t remember that we are creatures made in the image of God. We don’t understand the great secrets hidden inside of us.

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.

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