Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, one of our Church’s greatest personalities. Born in Spain in 1515, she was one of ten children. With the Inquisition having questioned her grandfather about his Jewish roots;, her father; to establish his orthodoxy, had purchased a title, and he forced his family to carry themselves with great shows of devotion. That was hard on Teresa’s mother who was a secret reader of romances. That mother died when Teresa was fifteen, and her father, suspecting Teresa of having been in to something with his departed wife, put her into a Carmelite convent. It was tough on Teresa, but she found it more congenial than life with her father.
When she slipped into a coma in her late twenties, Teresa heard the others talking about digging her grave. When she came out of that, she made a strong effort at learning prayerful contemplation, but she was not successful at it. Later she wrote, “I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me, but my imagination was dull, with no talent for coming up with the right thoughts”
When she turned forty she met up with a priest who scolded her for the poor approach she was making to prayer. That had her binding herself to spending an hour at a time kneeling in silent prayer. She later wrote about how she would shake her hourglass to get the grains of sand to move through faster. But she stuck to it, and she came to a secure knowledge that she was truly in the Lord’s presence.
Silent prayer became the most important thing to her. She began wanting a convent life where the others were not just passing there time amusing themselves. She was in her early fifties when she met the young Carmelite priest, Father John of the Cross. Together they petitioned the head of the Carmelite Order to let them found monasteries and convents where souls could pursue mental prayer free from conversations and other distractions. While they went about making contemplative foundations, each of them penned invaluable writings on the secrets of reaching union with God in prayer,
If you have never achieved an exalted form of prayer, you can at least enjoy the fact that others have, and that you still might. There used to be a popular song named, “There Are Such Things.” It went like this, “Have a little faith and trust in what tomorrow brings. You’ll reach the stars, because there are such things.”