Recently in Teresa of Avila Category

October Begins

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You all know by now that I love October. I really love October. A Lot.

Today St. Thèr&ecute;se, tomorrow Guardian Angels, October 7, Our Lady of the Rosary, and St Teresa of Avila on October 15th. I know, I know, there are others, but this is just a sampling.

In addition, we get peak color in the Northern states, and in my home states, all of those birds that have migrated north, return to roost in the trees so that you see thousands and thousands of egrets, herons, and other birds. The trees look like they're decorated already for Christmas. This month really makes my heart sing.

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Lest We Forget


The Feast Day of La Madre

"The Flaming Heart or the Life of the Glorious S. Teresa"
Richaard Crashaw

The flaming Heart. Upon the booke and picture of Teresa. As she is usually expressed with a Seraphim beside her

Well meaning Readers! you that come as Friends,
And catch the pretious name this piece pretends,
Make not so much hast to admire
That faire cheek't fallacie of fire.
That is a Seraphim they say,
And this the great Teresia.
Readers, be rul'd by me, and make,
Here a well plac't, and wise mistake.
You must transpose the picture quite,
And spell it wrong to reade it right;
Read Him for Her, and Her for Him,
And call the Saint, the Seraphim.
Painter, what dids't thou understand
To put her dart into his Hand?
See, even the yeares, and size of Him,
Shew this the Mother Seraphim.
This is the Mistresse Flame; and duteous hee
Her happier fire-works, here, comes down to see.
O most poore spirited of men!
Had thy cold Pencill kist her Pen
Thou coulds't not so unkindly err
To shew us this faint shade of Her.
Why man, this speakes pure mortall frame,
And mocks with Femall Frost Love's manly flame.
One would suspect thou mean'st to paint,
Some weake, inferior, Woman Saint.
But had thy pale-fac't purple tooke
Fire from the burning Cheekes of that bright booke,
Thou would'st on her have heap't up all
That could be form'd Seraphicall.
What e're this youth of fire wore faire,
Rosie Fingers, Radiant Haire,
Glowing cheekes, and glistring wings,
All those, faire and flagrant things,
But before All, that fierie Dart,
Had fill'd the Hand of this great Heart.
Do then as equall Right requires,
Since his the blushes be, and hers the fires,
Resume and rectifie they rude designe,
Undresse thy Seraphim into mine.
Redeeme this injury of thy art,
Give him the veyle, give her the Dart.
Give him the veyle, that he may cover,
The red cheekes of a rivall'd Lover;
Asham'd that our world now can show
Nests of new Seraphims here below.
Give her the dart, for it is she
(Faire youth) shoot's both thy shafts and thee.
Say, all ye wise and well pierc't Hearts
That live, and dye amids't Her darts,
What is't your tast-full spirits doe prove
In that rare Life of her, and Love?
Say and beare witnesse. Sends she not,
A Seraphim at every shot?
What Magazins of imortall armes there shine!
Heav'ns great Artillery in each Love-spun-line.
Give then the Dart to Her, who gives the Flame;
Give Him the veyle, who kindly takes the shame.
But if it be the frequent Fate
Of worst faults to be Fortunate;
If all's prescription; and proud wrong,
Hearkens not to an humble song;
For all the Gallantry of Him,
Give me the suff'ring Seraphim.
His be the bravery of all those Bright things,
The glowing cheekes, the glittering wings,
The Rosie hand, the Radiant Deart,
Leave her alone the flaming-Heart.
Leave her that, and thou shalt leave her,
Not one loose shaft, but loves whole quiver.
For in Love's field was never found,
A nobler Weapon than a wound.
Love's Passives, are the activ'st part,
The wounded is the wounding-heart.
O heart! the equall Poise, of Love's both Parts,
Big alike with wounds and Darts,
Live in thes conquering leaves; live all the same,
And walke through all tongues one triumphant flame.
Live here great heart; and Love, and dye, and kill,
And bleed, and wound, and yield, and conquer still.
Let this imortall Life, where e'er it comes,
Walke in a crowd of Loves, and Martyrdomes.
Let Mystick Deaths waite on't; and wise soules bee,
The love-slaine-witnesses, of the life of Thee.
O sweet incendiary! shew here thy art,
Upon this carcasse of a heard, cold, hart,
Let all thy scatter'd shafts of light, that play
Among the leaves of thy larg Books of day,
Combin'd against this Brest at once break in
And take away from me my self & sin,
This gratious Robbery shall thy bounty be;
And my best fortunes such fair spoiles of me.
O thou undanted daughter of desires!
By all thy dowr of Lights & Fires;
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove;
By all thy lives & deaths of love;
By thy larg draughts of intellectuall day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large then they;
By all thy brim-fill-d Bowles of feirce desire
By thy last Morning's draught of liquid fire;
By the full kingdome of that finall kisse
That seiz'd thy parting Soul, & seal'd thee his;
By all the heav'ns thou hast in him
(Fair sister of the Seraphim!)
By all of Him we have in Thee;
Leave nothing of my Self in me.
Let me so read thy life, that I
Untall all life of mine may dy.

I quote this a lot. Perhaps someday, I should turn my own ability (or lack thereof) to the subject and try to create something appropriate (and shorter).

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Sta. Teresa de Avila

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The Carmelite Saints have it a little rough this month, but as I said of St. Therese, I am sure that it is with the greatest possible pleasure that Sta. Teresa de Avila cedes her place in the calendar to our most Precious Lord and His feast--for without His, she would have no place at all.

Nevertheless, her family and friends all remember her, and plead for her intercession today--some for headaches, some for help in their prayer lives, some for needs unknown. Freed of presiding over a Feast Day for her family (you all know how Thanksgiving can get) she has more leisure time to intercede for those of us most needy.

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St Teresa and Middlemarch

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Yesterday, being a Sunday, one of the great Carmelite Saints rightfully surrendered her place at the table to her big Brother and Lord and so got mere mention within the Eucharistic Prayer. And I'm certain she was delighted at the honor of being able to surrender place to the One Whom she loved more than all else.

But one other great Teresa is celebrated this month, and I've long meant to comment upon this introductory passage to Middlemarch. I am reminded because I chose Middlemarch as my Daily LIt selection. Thanks to MamaT and TSO for bring it to my attention and then reinforcing the marvelous idea. To sink for five or ten minute a day into a classic--everyone can do it, and, in the case of lengthy books, it may be the only way to get completely through them.

from Middlemarch "Introduction"
George Eliot

Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious
mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt,
at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some
gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning
hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom
in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila,
wide-eyed and helpless-looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already
beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape
of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That
child-pilgrimage was a fit beginning.

Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were
many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant
girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed
from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which
would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with
the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in
the reform of a religious order.

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"Friends of Christ"

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from The Way of Perfection, 1.3
St. Teresa of Avila

O my redeemer, my heart cannot bear these thoughts without becoming terribly grieved. What is the matter with Christians nowadays? Must it always be those who owe you the most who afflict you? Those for whom you performed the greatest works, those you have chosen for your friends, with whom you walk and commune by means of your sacraments? Aren't they satisfied with the torments you have suffered for them?

Who knew she could see so far into the future and see my life and my conduct? But praise God that she did and she could raise for me the warning flag--look how I treat Him! Look at what I do each day and ask, "How does that give Him honor?" And the truth is, it does not. Day by day I find my ways to avoid being a friend to Him here below and in his heavenly home.

But He doesn't care. I come straggling along, and He is leaping with joy to see me. He leaves the party of the Saints to bring me in. Every time. Every single time. I am transformed, I am broken and renewed. Every time. What grace--words fail, so St. Teresa may speak for me. And while I grieve for my sins and for my treatment of Him, I rejoice in knowing how He loves me nevertheless.

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from At the Fountain of Elijah
Wilfrid McGreal

She [St. Teresa of Avila] is aware from her own conversion experience of the need to grow from a solid human basis. Prayer comes from a life of practical love, from detachment and humility. We cannot talk to God if we do not speak lovingly to our neighbour and we need realism, and a grounding of our lives.

What may surprised many, coming from a cloistered nun, is the revelation that prayer comes from a life of practical love. Sometimes we have an unrealistic vision of the cloistered life as one of ethereal and fantastical encounters with God while floating through a day of prayer. And while the life of the cloister is completely imbued with and dedicated to prayer, it has some hard realities. And in St. Teresa of Avila's time, those realities were probably a good deal harder.

What is practical love? What forms does it take? What do our lives look like grounded in practical love? It would depend upon one's state in life, one's means, one's personality and inclination. But regardless of these three it will always show in a willingness to share what God has given us with those less fortunate, less knowledgeable, or less aware of God and His Mercies. A life of practical love will always be a life of sacrifice. We will give ourselves up and surrender to the ones we love much of our energy, time, talent, and the goods of the world that have been bestowed upon us. As parents in means serving our children and bringing them up in a way that will foster their service to God, neighbor, and country. It often means long hours of what seems thankless work and doing things we don't particularly care for in correcting and instilling discipline in our children. Yes, there are great rewards and joys in this service, and that is the consolation of many acts of practical love. But practical love is based on these consolations, but on the purest love of God that makes a person constantly hunger and thirst for ways to show that he or she loves God. Practical love stems from the desire to make manifest to God, to ourselves, and to the world the overflowing love with which God fills us as His own unmerited gift of grace.

Practical love is substantially grounded and completely devoted to "other." And practical love is, well, practical and commonsense. You don't hand a starving many a worn coat. You don't give to the naked a can of baked beans. This should go without saying, but often, we are trapped in our own sense of what needs might be and we don't see far beyond our own borders.

Practical love is simply the natural outpouring of the love God pours into us as we come to know Him better. It overflows, it cannot be contained, and so it spills out in the light of the world in small acts and in large, but all of them flow from a deep and abiding love God has for us. We become Him as we pour out His love on all the Earth, seeking to return some little for the vast fortune He has bestowed upon us.

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La Madre's Way of the Cross


It should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with St. Teresa of Avila that her vision of the Cross is completely interpenetrated with love; not the Love of God for humanity, which she acknowledges and exalts, but the love of the person for Christ and His Cross. This is an interesting perspective and one that may help shed some light on the question of "taking up our crosses."

The Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints St. Teresa of Avila

They are too attached to their honor. . . . These souls, for the most part, grieve over anything said against them. They do not embrace the cross but drag it along, and so it hurts and wearies them and breaks them to pieces. However, if the cross is loved, it is easy to bear, this is certain.

For St. Teresa of Avila, love is the measure of all things. Everything that a person does is measured by the love lavished on it. When someone loves to do carpentry, the shelves, cabinets, and woodwork of his (or her) house shows the attention given to detail. When a person loves to cook, the meals prepared show the investment of time and love.

Most people's embrace of the cross is summed up in the word endurance. The cross is not to be loved, or even to be examined, and only just barely is it to be borne, and then, often, only with ill grace. What the Saint says here is that whatever makes up the cross for a person needs not merely be borne and dragged along--in this there is mere destruction. But it must be loved, loved as the present it is from the God who gives it. While wearing braces, a person does not love them, but afterwards, for years of straight teeth and good service, the love of them grows. Leg braces are nothing great to wear, causing the owner pain and humiliation, but without them there is no motion of one's own.

The cross is a gift from God. The crosses a person is called upon to bear are to right the irregularities in that person's spirit, to repair the flaws of original sin, and to make that person a perfect vessel of grace. It's hard to love what hurts, but when what hurts leads to perfection, a person can do it. It often hurts to lift weights, to jog, or to engage in other such activities--but because of the benefits that accrue to these activities many people do them, and many people "love" them. If so for things that help make better the life of this world, then how much more so for things that help make better life now and in the world beyond?

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Gifts of the Season

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My Carmelite prayer partner brought me a Christmas gift yesterday--and miraculously, if you can imagine this, she managed to find two books I did not already own. One of these is the subject of today's blog.

from Sermon in a Sentence: Volume 4--St. Teresa of Avila

Our most sacred King has still much to give. He would never want to do anything else than give if He could find receivers. And as I have said often-I want you never to forget daughters--the Lord is never content with giving us as little as we desire.

This quotation followed so beautifully on some things I had written last week that it leapt off the page at me.

God is never content to give us as little as we desire. So we needn't desire all and everything all at once to attain to the store of riches He has for us. Rather we grow into desire. We desire a little, and God rewards us richly, He is the Father of the prodigal, ready at a moment to welcome us home, to invite us in, to ask us to stay.

Of course, we often refuse His hospitality, not realizing our own poverty, our own selfishness. We may say a courteous thank you and back out of the throneroom and return to our own business. Nevertheless, God is not a God who sits on His magnificent throne and waits for us. He is the God of Glory who races after us--not content to give as He has gotten, but ready to shower us in all good things.

Desire is the key. Human desire is the faulty arrow that points home. It is a compass in a shaky hand and all too often, the Devil brings a lodestone near--so the needle is not always reliable. But once our heart is set on the Desire of the Ages, that needle in rock solid--it point home, and only to home. The measure of our desire is infintesimal compared with God's desire for us. Time and again--the prodigal son, the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine for the one, the Father who gave us Incarnate Love--we are reminded of His love for us. We are "the apple of his eye." He is our beloved and we are His.

But God is not content to love as we love. Even a slight motion will bring us into his enduring embrace. He will not force Himself on us, but given the slightest opening, He will overwhelm us with grace.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Teresa of Avila category.

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