Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila. We honor her because like Mary, the sister of Martha, she allowed herself to become completely wrapped up in Jesus.
Teresa, born in 1515 was fifteen when her mother died; and her father, a strict Catholic put her in a convent because she was boy crazy and clothes crazy. She found convent life confining, but a little freer than life with her father.
She tried to practice mental prayer, but in her life story she wrote, “I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me, but my imagination was dull, with my having no talent for coming up with Theological thoughts.” She forced herself to stay with mental prayer for an hour, but she did a lot of shaking of the hour glass to get the sand to flow through quickly.
But she stuck with her determination for twenty years, and she began having what she called “Spiritual delights.” She began experiencing God’s presence. Our Lady of Victories Church in Rome houses a reclining statue of Teresa with an angel driving an arrow through her heart.
She began politicking to get the Carmelite Order to establish convents free of open socializing. It wasn’t that she was a prude or kill joy. She was just behaving like any of us would when a blaring radio interferes with the serious work we are wrapped up in.
She found a kindred soul in St. John of the Cross. They were mystics, but they weren’t nuts for fancy religious stuff. John didn’t think Teresa’s “spiritual delights" to be important, and he said he wouldn’t walk across the street to see anyone’s stigma.