Today we honor St. Teresa od Avilla.

Saturday, 10/15/16
After the Spanish Inquisition had suspected Teresa’s grandfather of being secretly Jewish, her father strove to be seen as a model of strict Catholicism, but that strict life was hard on her mother who was a closet reader of romances. The good woman, finding Teresa to be the most sympathetic of her ten children, brought her into the conspiracy of hiding the romances from her stern husband.

That mother died when Teresa was fifteen, and her father, unhappy over Teresa’s liking for boys and fine clothes, put her in a Carmelite convent; and although she was at first unhappy with convent life, she came to realize it was less confining than life with her father.

She found herself locked in a struggle with inclinations toward sinfulness, and that ended with her deciding that staying in the convent was the best protection from her wayward nature. With that decision made, she took up the task of learning how to meditate on God.

Writing about those years,Teresa said, “I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me, but my imagination was dull, and I had no talent for coming up with Theological thoughts.”

Teresa was forty before she met up with a priest who gave her a good scolding for her laxity, and that forced her to determine to make the best of praying. She began forcing herself to spend a full hour at mental prayer, but she would spend that hour holding up an hourglass, shaking it to get the sand to run through more quickly.

But, having stuck for yars with her determination, she began having what she called “spiritual delights.” They were experiences of God’s presence. Our Lady of Victories Church in Rome houses a great Bernini statue of Teresa, laid low with an angel driving an arrow of love into her heart. 

The unusual favors God granted Teresa became so obvious that people turned her over to the Inquisition, but its learned fathers found no hint of heresy in Teresa. Emperor Charles V, wanting to put the matter to rest, sent St. Francis Borgia to question her closely; and that future General of the Jesuits, came away with his own spiritual life lifted to a higher plane. 

Teresa spent her last twenty years founding convents where silence and poverty were strictly enforced. On hearing about that, you might conclude that she was a wowser. (Young Australian priest friends of mine gave the name wowser to any priest whom they found to be far too rigorous.) No Wowser, Teresa so much delighted in being with God that she wanted to be away from the chatter that interfered with it.

When Teresa was fifty-two she met a twenty-six year old priest who was searching for the kind of quiet that would let him be alone with God. That priest was John of the Cross.

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