Let's Talk about Two Teresas

Blog Published: October 15, 2023
By Sister Rejane Cytacki, SCL
teresa of avila

There are several well-known Saint Teresas -- for example, Saint Teresa of Calcutta -- but I'd like to focus on the two people tend to confuse the most. These Saint Teresas have more in common than the others: both Carmelite nuns, both with feast days in October, and both Doctors of the Church. 

“May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.” (Teresa of Avila)

I am going to start with Teresa of Avila. Her religious name was Teresa of Jesus, and her feast day is October 15. She lived in 6th century Spain and entered the Carmelite Order. She is known for her reformation movement of both the women’s and men’s Carmelite communities, which came to be known as the Discalced Carmelites. 

What I admire most about her is that she was an educated writer in a time when women were not considered intelligent enough to educate. Miraculously, she and her writings survived the Inquisition, which was active in Spain. Her spiritual writings are still accessible to people today. 

She traveled all over Spain, founding new communities and interacting with top religious and political figures -- even though she wanted a more cloistered prayerful existence. She lived to age 67. 

"For me, prayer is a burst from my heart, it is a simple glance thrown toward heaven, a cry of thanksgiving and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy." (Therese of Lisieux)   
The religious name of Therese of Lisieux was Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She was born in France in the late 1800s, and her feast day is October 1.

Her mother died when she was four-and-a-half, and she became a very demanding child for her father and older sisters. At 10, Therese came down with a grave illness. A statue of Our Lady of Victories sat on her bed table, and while everyone was praying for her healing, Therese reached out in prayer to Our Lady. Mary appeared to her with a beautiful smile, and she was cured. The statue is now called Our Lady of the Smile. It changed Therese’s focus from the outer world to the inner world of her soul.

What stands out to me is the amount of joy and suffering she dealt with in her short life. With God’s help she transformed that suffering into an ardent and passionate faith. At 14 she knew she wanted to be a Carmelite, and was persistent enough to travel to see the Pope to gain permission to enter the convent at 15. While in the convent, she wrote her autobiography, Story of a Soul.  She died of tuberculosis at age 24.  

While these two Teresas share much in common, I think the most important thing is their ardent devotion and faith in Jesus. Jesus was the center of their lives, and it showed through their lives and their writings.

How can you and I follow the example of the two Teresas, and continue to give Jesus space in our lives?

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