Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos marketing copywriter.
As we proceed through the Doctors of the Church on their respective feast days, we reach St. Teresa of Avila, who is as striking a contrast to our other Doctors as any can be. Born in Avila, Spain, just two years after Martin Luther began his Reformation movement, Teresa knew only a world of religious chaos and reconstruction. And despite all of this, her devoted relationship with God is one from which we can all learn.
Teresa of Avila was a woman of austere conscience and dramatic spiritual life. Her simple shortcomings troubled her as deeply as grievous sins, leaving her confessors to wonder if she was troubled by an evil spirit. Throughout her life, she frequently suffered physical health issues, leaving her frail and often sick. Further, her visions (including a vision of hell) shook her up, leaving her confused about whether they were from God or from evil spirits.
Under the counsel of Dominicans, Jesuits, and her priests, Teresa was able to depend on God throughout her spiritual turmoil. Upon discovering contemplative prayer, she retreated to a private, personal place of rest in her mind to restore her hope. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes her in its explanation of contemplative prayer:
“Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” (CCC 2709)
Her writings have had a profound impact on Catholic thought and spirituality. The Interior Castle is a biography of vulnerable honesty and spiritual depth to which only Augustine’s Confessions can compare. Against opposition and strife, she founded an order of nuns in Spain known as the Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph. In spite of oppression, her order quickly spread, reviving and restoring Catholic spirituality in Spain while the Protestant Reformation spread through Austria and Germany.
Her poor health caught up to her in her late 60s. As she was travelling through western Spain, she was bedridden by illness, and she died in the convent she founded only a decade prior. Her last words were “After all I die a child of the Church.”
Today we honor the past and present contributions of St. Teresa of Avila, officially the first woman to be honored as a Doctor of the Church. She provided astounding teachings on prayer and meditation, reforming her order of nuns and writing several books, including The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle. Many other writings of hers are cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. May her words help comfort the hurting and ease the suffering of the persecuted and the sick.
Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes / God never changes
Patience / Obtains all
Whoever has God / Wants for nothing
God alone is enough (CCC 227)