St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
(Patron Saint of: Headaches)
Image taken from http://www.bridgebuilding.com/narr/mi425.html
West of Madrid, there is a small town, called Avila. Teresa of Ahumada, called later Teresa of Avila, was a nun of the Carmelite Order – from “Encarnacion” – for the reincarnation of Jesus Christ- , who was punished several times by the Inquisition because of the stubborn reports on meditation. The scandal started on the 24th of August 1562 and the general opinion was unanimous: “A woman should not be allowed to do such a thing”.
On the pretext that she had to help her sister move out, Teresa of Avila left her monastery in the morning and met four nuns who were friends of hers, in a house in the San Rouque region. They secretly arranged the house for the purpose of later becoming a monastery, known under the name of “At Saint Joseph of Avila.”
The new monastery had no income, as no parent or brother had signed any contract to support it. The monk Angel of Salzar was assaulted by the angry crowd in the town, who knew nothing of what these women had done. This is when the courthouse and the consistory were called in, which decided that the monastery should be evacuated, even if it meant the forceful removal of the women out of the building. Blinded by fury, violently, some throw stones, some pushed on the monastery’s door while screaming “You mad woman!” An order to evacuate the monastery is emitted along with a papal order to excommunicate anyone entering the premises.
400 years later, Teresa of Avila becomes considered as the most renowned saint of the Catholic Church, while also being a classic of the Christian meditation. Pope Paul the 6th offered her, in 1970 the highest Catholic title: “Doctor Ecclesiae – professor of Christianity”.
At Salamanca, next to Avila, is the most renowned university of the 16th century. Professor Domingo de Spoto (1495-1560) said: “There are excluded from all the church’s dignities: women, bastards, who are rather women than men, and the mentally alienated who have no chance of getting better”, while Ignatius of Loyola, the most prestigious saint of the era supported the idea that “Satan behaves just like a woman does.”
Teresa of Avila was born on the 28th of March, 1515. She would write in her autobiography: “The thought that I was born a woman makes me mad”.
In 1535, at the age of just 20, she decides to become a nun and leaves to a Carmelite monastery.
She believed that there is an adventure a woman can live just as well as a man: the journey itself and this journey is called meditation.
In the Middle Ages the women monasteries were true meditation schools, the nuns of the Carmelite Order (after the Carmel Mountain in Palestine) –with the colors of their vestments brown and white- have always had a special inclination towards meditation
At first, Teresa of Avila discovered nothing more in herself than fear and boredom. Wanting to have it all at once and fast, she had a mental shock, which accentuated, and for 9 months suffered of total paralysis. On the 15th of August 1539 the rumor that Teresa has died started to spread. The long Spanish vigil started, but four days later, Teresa’s eyes opened: she had survived her mental illness.
Following the model of the first monastery, Teresa of Avila would found, throughout Spain, one after another, 17 monasteries. In the discussions she carried with the authorities she proved to be perseverant, a true businessperson.
As a main reform, Teresa introduced in the monasteries’ schedule two hours of meditation.
In 1575 she was accused by the priests of the Seville Inquisition, of things allowed only to a male monk (preaching and receiving confession). To escape, she obeyed the questioning and gave proof of great amiability, then changed her spiritual guides often, and also her confession priests – informers, who were sending reports on her visions to the church authorities.
If she had problems with the Jesuits, she demanded help to the Dominicans and then to the Franciscans, and if she fought all the monk church orders, she asked for help from the monk John of the Cross – monk of the Order of the Carmelites of Salamanca, who became a great mystic, together with her.
In 1568, Teresa of Avila trusted Saint John of the Cross with a branch of the Carmelites, this time with male members, who were to respect the rules established by her in the Reform program. The entire Spain is amazed: “A nun has created her own monk order!”
One of the men to bow with dignity in front of her and receive her blessing was the Seville archbishop, Christobal de Rojas. Felipe Sega, who was part of the papal court, denounced her to the pope as a “restless woman, wandering, disobedient and hidden.”
She had always managed to keep her interior peace, so necessary to write her two books, become classic now, which treated the subject of Catholic meditation: “The road to perfection” and “Soul bastion”.
Teresa of Avila believed, like the masters of the Japanese Zen, that meditation offers the possibility to break the barriers of logic: “If you want to be everything at the same time, you don’t have to be someone in particular.”
Before dying, at the age of 67, on the 4th of October 1582, she gathered her last powers to officiate the opening of the Alba monastery, moment in which her face lighted, filled with an indescribable joy.
St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent.
The gift of GOD to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.
As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man’s world of her time. She was “her own woman,” entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman.
Teresa was a woman “for GOD,” a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to GOD. Her ongoing conversion was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to GOD in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. A woman of prayer; a woman for GOD.
Teresa was a woman “for others.” Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.
Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.
In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.
Ours is a time of turmoil, a time of reform and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.
Teresa knew well the continued presence and value of suffering (physical illness, opposition to reform, difficulties in prayer), but she grew to be able to embrace suffering, even desire it: “Lord, either to suffer or to die.” Toward the end of her life she exclaimed: “Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for You is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love You if we understand its value.”
In The Book of My Life, Saint Teresa of Avila writes of seeking time to pray even as a child and turning often to the Rosary, a prayer dear to her mother.
Later as an adult and as a spiritual guide for her Carmelite sisters and brothers, Teresa wrote about the importance of being present to GOD in prayer: “Before we begin reciting the Hours or the Rosary, [let us consider] Whom we are going to address, and who we are that are addressing Him, so that we may do so in the way we should?” (The Way of Perfection).
Teresa calls you to be mindful in all of your spiritual practices that you are, in this moment, in relationship with our GOD.
Whom are you going to address?
Prayer of St. Theresa of Jesus
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift
of a Holy fear, and a respect of You
and all that You are.
In being mindful of this
help me to always
keep Your Name Holy.
Equip me to be concerned
with those things that
May I seek to never offend
or sadden You.
Penetrate my innermost heart,
that I may set You, my Lord
and my GOD, before my face
forever and shun all things that
are not a part of Your will.
May I always remember
the forgiveness and Grace that You
offer and readily provide, to all
who come to You and ask for it.
I Love You and thank You! Amen…
“Vocal prayer . . . must be accompanied by reflection. A prayer in which a person is not aware of Whom he is speaking to, what he is asking, who it is who is asking and of Whom, I don’t call prayer—–however much the lips may move.”
“Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”
“One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to GOD, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer.”
“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”
“Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
GOD never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses GOD lacks nothing:
GOD alone suffices.”
Source: American Catholic dot org
Teresa of Ávila
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia