The feast of Saint Teresa of Avila is just around the corner on October 15. I am delighted because Teresa is such an important person in my life. I never had any idea that someone who lived in the 16th century could become a close companion in my own life today. It underscores the power and presence of the Communion of Saints.
In honor of Saint Teresa, I am devoting this week’s posts to her. What follows is a piece I wrote last year for VISION, the Catholic Religious Discernment Guide sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference and published by TrueQuest Communications.
As a 21st century nun ministering in the digital world, I try to stay on top of the latest technology so that I can best serve the people who visit my website, aNunsLife.org. But when it comes to living religious life, I’m old-school. One of my greatest mentors is Teresa of Avila, a 16th century Carmelite nun from a small town in Spain. Teresa is best known for her writings on prayer and reforming the Carmelite order. She is venerated today as a great saint and Doctor of the Church.
My first encounter with Teresa was in grade school, when I needed to take a saint’s name for Confirmation. Teresa seemed as good a saint as any. I chose her name and then pretty much forgot about her.
But Teresa did not forget about me. Over the years Teresa remained with me, waiting, it seemed, for me to come by her convent cell and chat awhile.
That day came one Fall morning in a graduate theology class in which I was introduced to Teresa’s writing. I took an immediate liking to Teresa. She wrote of ordinary, everyday stuff and of profound theological truths. I discovered that Teresa was a wise woman from whom I could learn much about the spiritual life. At that time, I had no idea how important Teresa would be for me in the months and years ahead, when my world would be turned upside down by the possibility that maybe, just maybe, God was calling me.
I first read Teresa’s classics, Interior Castle and Way of Perfection, because I needed to write a paper for a class. But soon I began to realize that Teresa’s words were there not just for me to study. I felt a personal connection. Through her writing Teresa was alive to me. She gave me insights not only into our shared Catholic faith but into my own self and how I was living the Gospel.
Later in my studies, when I began considering religious life, I returned to Teresa. I wanted not to study her writings, but to see what she was like as a nun. I wondered if Teresa had any of the same questions as I now had. Did she know for certain that God was calling her to religious life? Did she resist or doubt or panic at the thought? Hoping to get a glimpse into how Teresa realized her call from God, I turned to her more autobiographical work, The Book of My Life.
To be continued tomorrow … Teresa of Avila’s desire to give her life to God
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How is Teresa of Avila present in your own life? What would you like to know about Teresa?