We celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila each year on October 15. If you are not familiar with her, she was a reformer of the Carmelite Order, a friend of St. John of the Cross, first female Doctor of the Church, a mystic and author of spiritual writings. I could go on and on with fast facts about this great Saint, but I want to share the lessons that I have learned from her.
I am not saying that I didn’t know about loving Jesus before I came to know St. Teresa, but she showed me that falling in love with Jesus, really falling in love with him is key. She found many graces in meditation upon the humanity of Jesus. She especially contemplated Jesus through his sufferings and passion.
One of the hallmarks of the spirituality of St. Teresa is her experience of prayer. Like me and most, she struggled with prayer. And because of her struggles she taught that perseverance in prayer was of utmost importance. She insists that we must never give up in prayer because we can’t live without it. For her, prayer is to the soul, what oxygen is to the lungs.
St. Teresa’s constant friend was the cross of Jesus. Like many, she was not a stranger to suffering. She was in poor health, took on the task to reforming the Carmelite Order, she endured constant assaults and persecutions from people in all directions. Instead of becoming discouraged and running away, she trusted in Jesus all the more and followed his example.
As I already stated, St. Teresa is renowned for the reformation of the Carmelite Order. However, she was keenly aware that to convert others, one must be converted themselves. In her autobiography we are privy to the journey of her inner conversion. She took to heart and lived Jesus’ words “Be converted because the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).
To attain constant growth in the spiritual life, St. Teresa relied on spiritual friendships. She knew that the spiritual life can be torturous, and we will need help along the way. She sought spiritual direction all through her life. Granted, she was blessed to have future saints as her guides. Unfortunately, we can’t have St. John of the Cross, St. Francis Gorgia and St. Peter of Alcantara as our companions, but surely God will put holy men and women in our lives to accompany us on the way.
If you like this little taste of St. Teresa, I encourage you to learn more about her. Read the Story of a Soul or watch the movie St. Teresa of Avila (you can watch it free on Formed.org). She is one of my Saint heroes. Her example inspires me as I continue to learn from her. I wonder if St. Theresa of Avila can do the same for you!