Hanging above my desk at the Pilgrim Center of Hope (which used to be a Teresian convent) is a huge painting of her, as she writes her famous poem / prayer in Spanish. The translation is:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things pass away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
Teresa lived in sixteenth-century Avila, Spain. She was beautiful, intelligent, and headstrong. As a teenager, she ran away from home and entered a Carmelite convent (her father, who had originally opposed her entering, later gave his approval). After she took vows, she became seriously ill, and her health was permanently impaired.
She also began receiving heavenly visions. Word spread throughout Avila, and people became concerned that she was influenced by evil spirits. She was cross-examined by many priests and religious including Dominicans and Jesuits, who deemed her visions to be holy and true.
In the portrait above my desk, she holds one hand over her heart; a special memorial day in the Church celebrates the day her heart was ‘pierced’ with deep love for God. The experience for her was like an angel piercing her through with a flaming arrow. Bernini’s famous sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Teresa illustrates this event. Her incorrupt heart can be seen and venerated today.
Even with her poor health, she believed that the convent she had entered needed reform. She established the convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph. After the Carmelites’ head honcho expressed his admiration and approval, she began reforming the Carmelite order, with the help of St. John of the Cross. This was not an easy task; she faced violent opposition but always marched forward with her eyes on Jesus.
Teresa died Oct. 15, 1582. Paul VI declared her the first female Doctor of the Church. Teresa, pray for us.
Read St. Teresa’s book on the spiritual life, Interior Castle, by clicking here. (Versions available for your computer or digital reader.)