Tuesday, October 14, 2014

St. Teresa of Avila

"Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
Everything passes away
except God."
Teresa of Avila

 A few years ago, I was in Spain and visited the convent of St. Teresa of Avila. She is also known as Doctor of the Church for all her writings. I remember the great stone walls, her sandals, and parts of the convent. Her ring finger with two of her rings are relics displayed in a gold case.

 Last week I had lunch with a friend who mentioned that U-Tube had her life story under the title of Santa Teresa de Jesus in eight episodes. It was filmed in Spain and I had problems understanding some of the Spanish words, yet, I understood the majority of the story. For three days I sat hunched over my laptop watching the grainy movie and found her life to be interesting, hard, at times comical, and mystical. She wrote that her heart had been pierced by an angel of God. Other nuns saw her leave the ground as she levitated. Aside from the "miracles" all she wanted was for the Carmelites to lead a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer.

In the movie, I had problems telling the characters apart because they all dressed and looked alike. The  princess with an eye patch was easy to spot and I wish other characters would have had some sort of tell-tale sign also. The movie moves slowly in parts because of all the traveling done by Santa Teresa as she goes all over Spain and Portugal opening up convents for the Carmelites. The mode of travel at that time was by mule, horse, cart, or wagon and they go through deserts, mountains, towns, wheat and flower fields. The swaying motion of the carts lasted too long and almost put me to sleep!

Santa Teresa seems to have been sickly when she was young and then again in her later years. The nuns watching over her, especially when she was ill, to me, are more saintly than Santa Teresa. One nun shines in  beauty with her sweetness, kindness, compassion and caring ways as she watches over Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa's feast day is October 15. She was born on March 3, 1428 and died in 1515. She was canonized in 1662. A heart, an arrow, and a book are emblems used to represent her. She is the patron saint of people with headaches. When she died, it seems that her incorrupt body ended up in different parts of Spain.

Even though she has many writings, three quotations hit close to home: 1) "If you do something wrong, don't punish yourself -- change." 2) "If you are depressed go outside to see the sky and take a walk." 3)"It is love alone that gives worth to all things."

To me, as I watched the movie, I thought of how difficult it must have been living in bare-bone homes, not being accepted or liked by many of the townspeople or some priests and nuns, being questioned by the Inquisition, and traveling in such primitive wagons. Her vision of starting convents throughout Spain became a reality and her rules were to be followed. They were to separate themselves from the public by being behind a wooden screen and spend their lives in contemplative prayer.

I couldn't help but like the nun who may have seemed harsh at times, yet her kindness and love also came through, especially in her writings.
"May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are
exactly where you were meant
to be. May you not forget the
infinite possibilities that are born 
of faith. May you use these gifts
which you have received, and
pass on the love that has been
given to you. May you be content
knowing you are a child of God.
Let his presence settle into your
bones, and allow your soul 
the freedom to sing, dance, 
praise and love. It is there for 
each and everyone of you."
Teresa of Avila

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