Christina Mayeux considers four ways we can imitate St. Teresa of Ávila in our own lives.
Each October, when fall makes its brisk presence felt, we are reminded of change. The seasons have transitioned from summer to fall, leaves blush and are plucked off the trees by the blustery air, and our spirits are lifted as we anticipate the cluster of holidays which cooler weather ushers in.
October is also the month of St. Teresa of Ávila, Carmelite, saint, and Doctor of the Church. We celebrate her feast day each year on October 15th. St. Teresa was, above all, a reformer, who used her gifts and talents to bring about change in the Carmelite order. In the spirit of Elijah, the prophet who inspired the first hermits on Mt. Carmel, St. Teresa was zealous for God and set out to lead her sisters back to the original discipline and rigor that was intended when the Carmelites were founded.
In the latter part of her life, she exerted all her energy and efforts traveling the roads of 16th-century Spain, founding convents and reforming and renewing existing ones. Her exemplary life, along with her instructions on prayer and Carmelite spirituality in her writings, have earned her the title of Doctor of the Church. How can we, as ordinary Catholic women, aspire to imitate the life of this great saint, who ascended to such lofty heights?
We can look to St. Teresa as the Carmelite nuns of her time did, as a guide, mentor, and instructor of the ways of Christian perfection. There are so many lessons we can learn from her; however, here are four ideas from her life which we can examine and imitate to grow in our faith:
- We are called to continual conversion and change. Some of us may have been following Christ for a very long time: years or even decades. We can fall into the trap of complacency or laxity, feeling weary, or just feeling “stuck” in a spiritual rut. At times, when we become lukewarm, we can even become in danger of falling back into old sins and faults. St. Teresa understood these temptations and difficulties, having experienced some of them herself. In her younger years, she describes how she was drawn into vanity and gossip, but through faithfulness to prayer, eventually overcame these tendencies. At the age of 39, she had a “second conversion,” in which she began to experience Christ on a deeper level. Like Teresa, we are called to continually examine ourselves through prayer and, if possible, a daily examination of conscience, to uncover our sins and faults. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we confess our sins and return, stronger and more determined, to grace.
- The importance of prayer, even when it is difficult. St. Teresa experienced many years of difficulty with prayer. She knew the importance of prayer but, like many of us, she struggled with perseverance and faithfulness to it. She describes prayer as “a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us." Vocal prayer is necessary, along with devotions such as the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and others. However, Teresa was speaking about contemplative prayer, which is the next step which leads us deeper into a close relationship with Jesus. We can learn from St. Teresa the importance of this “sharing between friends” and follow her example of learning about contemplative prayer and making time daily to practice it.
- You can find God in the ordinary. St. Teresa told her sisters, “Know that even when you are in the kitchen, our Lord moves amidst the pots and pans.” She was a very practical woman and encouraged her sisters to be so as well. We can practice the presence of God and maintain communion with Him no matter where we are or what we are doing. This is encouraging for us as mothers, who usually do not have the time to devote long hours to prayer. In our own homes, while serving our families is where we find our mission and our vocation and where we can find God if we attentively serve Him and listen to His voice.
- Use your gifts and talents. St. Teresa was a talented, charismatic, and gifted woman who was well-liked by others. Rather than sit back and live a comfortable life as a cloistered nun, she listened to the voice of God who was calling her to the extraordinary task of reforming the Carmelite order. While our tasks may simply include leading our own families to heaven, each of us is called to utilize our gifts and talents serve and to build up the Kingdom of God in some form. Whether in our homes, our domestic churches, or in the world, we all have something to offer God and we should allow him, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to lead us into whatever undertakings he is asking of us.
As we celebrate this great October saint, Teresa of Ávila, we remember the mark she made on the world and ask her to intercede for us. We pray that she will assist each one of us to carry out our particular mission and vocation in life, and to fulfill it more perfectly.
About the Author
Tina is a transplant to Mobile, Alabama from South Louisiana who enjoys cooking, writing, and exercising in her spare time. She is the wife of Jude and mother to three girls. She blogs at Diary of a Domestic Church and is also a contributor for Patheos Catholic at The Way of the Wildflowers.