October 25, 2007

Belated Happy Feastday of St. Teresa of Avila

Last Monday was her day and since I know very little about her these anecdotes and quotes are probably well-known to most readers:
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One confessor was so sure that the visions were from the devil that her told her to make an obscene gesture called the fig every time she had a vision of Jesus. She cringed but did as she was ordered, all the time apologizing to Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus didn't seem upset but told her that she was right to obey her confessor. In her autobiography she would say, "I am more afraid of those who are terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself." The devil was not to be feared but fought by talking more about God.

Although she proclaimed poverty, she believed in work, not in begging. She believed in obedience to God more than penance. If you do something wrong, don't punish yourself -- change. When someone felt depressed, her advice was that she go some place where she could see the sky and take a walk. When someone was shocked that she was going to eat well, she answered, "There's a time for partridge and a time for penance." To her brother's wish to meditate on hell, she answered, "Don't."
Her most famous quip - "no wonder you have so few friends Lord!" - is apparently not in any of books but was said during the last year of her life:
On her journeys through Spain where she established many Carmelite convents, she constantly called upon God. Even those who know little about St. Teresa of Avila may have heard her famous quip to God. In 1582 while on her way to make her last Carmelite foundation, where in fact she died, she and her companions encountered life-threatening flood conditions. Standing in a river torrent, she complained: “Lord, amid so many ills this comes on top of all the rest.” A Voice answered her, “Teresa, that is how I treat my friends.” She retorted, “Ah, my God! That is why you have so few of them!”

This banter between friends suggests much more than Teresa's familiarity with God; it reveals the depth of their relationship. Only someone in very close friendship with God could speak with such familiarity!
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"My love of, and trust in, our Lord, after I had seen Him in a vision, began to grow, for my converse with Him was so continual. I saw that, though He was God, He was man also; that He is not surprised at the frailties of men, that He understands our miserable nature, liable to fall continually, because of the first sin, for the reparation of which He had come."

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