St. Teresa of Avila: Stand With Us

by | Mar 25, 2015 | Ordinary, Reflections

March 28, 1515 is the birthday of St. Teresa of Avila. Happy 500th birthday.

When I was growing up, saints were statues in Roman Catholic churches. Even as I read about them and tried to understand their writing, they were slightly less than human. There was a great gulf between their life and mine. They were then and I was Protestant.

I’m still Protestant and, through the years, a few saints have come to stand with me, especially women saints. St. Hildegard of Bingen. St. Julian of Norwich and more recently, St. Teresa of Avila.

I respect their spunk.
They knit together silence and action, offering a ‘third way’ in our culture wounded divided between sacred and secular, prayers and politics, work and worship. They are more than examples; they are energy forces standing beside today’s contemplatives in the world. They took on kings, religious hierarchy and everyday trials with courage and audacity. Their work continues.

I respect their voice. 
Julian of Norwich authored the first book written by a woman in the English language.
Teresa is named a “Doctor of the (Roman Catholic) Church” for her writing and teaching on prayer.
Hildegard coined the word “veriditas,” the greening power of God, an animating life-force
deepening our understanding in our ecological age.

In an time where women’s voices were sanctioned and silenced, they put forth words that made, and make, a difference.

I respect their mystic in-sight.
They know God. Heart to Heart.
They desire union, (one-ing) with the Holy.
Though they often disparaged their abilities (a reflection of their time)
they knew their true self.
They were beloved.

Grammatical tense is difficult. They lived back then.
Yet, time and space are very flexible and they are here now.
Energy forces standing with us.

Increasingly we live in an inter-spiritual age and what is true, what is good, what is beautiful
will burst confines of religion, and time, and vibrate where needed.

Their lives and writing come alive in translations such as provided by Mirabai Starr.

They stand with us, a subtle perception moving through open hearts.

It’s St. Teresa’s 500th birthday so the last word goes to her. She reminds us that the Beloved is inside us.

Soul,
if by chance you forget where I am,

do not rush around here and there.
If you want to find me,
seek me inside yourself.

Soul,
you are my room,

you are my house, you are my dwelling.
If, through your distracted ways,
I ever find your door tightly closed,
do not seek me outside yourself.

To find me,
it will be enough simply to call me,

and I will come quickly.
Seek me inside yourself.

— Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle (translated by Mirabai Starr)

As we come close to her 500th birthday, I’ll post other soul-words at the Prayer Bench Facebook site. Come visit.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this excellent piece. I have come late to these saints who nourish me now also; they seem to have gone missing in Church History classes in seminary. I especially like “they are here now. Energy forces standing with us.” It made me think of the Seder script where Jews do not celebrate the liberation from slavery simply as an historical event, but as a present experience — using “we” not “they” throughout.
    .

  2. Yes, some of these women saints definitely accompany me along the way. We have a practice in our parish to begin the liturgy on the First Sunday of Lent singing the Litany the Saints, where we call on the saints to pray for us as we embark on this Lenten journey. I find it very helpful to remember that I walk this path with others who have walked before … “we are not alone …”

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