Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila (1515 - 1582)
Perhaps St. Teresa of Avila is a popular saint is because she comes across as a very real person. Try as some biographers might to paint too holy of a picture of her, they simply cannot.
It is not that she was not holy. Of course, she was, but being holy and being real are not separate things.
Instead, St. Teresa is candid about her own life when she admits that the first twenty years of her religious life she was quite the gadabout who enjoyed the comfortable, spiritually lax lifestyle of her Carmelite convent.
Even after her conversion to follow a holier life, St. Teresa did not stop being herself. She believed in common sense and she taught her nuns that it was essential for the spiritual life.
Her tongue was not afraid to make use of sharing her common sense. Once a visitor to one of her convents was dismayed to find the St. Teresa enjoying a roasted patridge because they did not think it became an ascetic. St. Teresa replied, "That there is a time for partridge and a time for penance."
She also was known for her gentle teasing. To one priest, who was known for not being a good rider, she wrote in a letter to him that perhaps someone should tie him to his saddle in order that he might not fall off his mule.
Her work of renewing the Carmelites began with an offhand comment from her niece in the midst of a conversation decrying the spiritual laziness of the convent. Her niece suggest that perhaps those who were dissatisfied should start a new convent.
St. Teresa took the words as coming from the Lord and began to plan for a new convent which would adhere to the Carmelite rule.
When wind of this plan reached the people of Avila, they were furious because they thought they could not possibly support a second monastary. St. Teresa suffered as people protested and even priests railed from the pulpit about how nuns should stay where they were.
Meanwhile, in what appeared to others, as the building of a home for her married sister Juana, St. Teresa was having the first of what would be many new convents built. Money came in for the building as God provided what St. Teresa needed.
Then tragedy struck. On the construction site of the house, a wall collapsed and fell on Juana's young son Gonzalez. The mother of the child frantically helped as others cleared away the debris to uncover her son. The child appeared dead, but the father of the child took action and carried him to St. Teresa.
Putting her veil over her head and over her nephew as she held him in her arms, she prayed. The child began to move and reached out his small hands to play with his aunt's face. St. Teresa gave the child back to her relieved and grateful parents. Everyone rejoiced in the miracle that God had performed.
Gonzalez seems to have shared his aunt's sense of humor. When he was older, he was tell St. Teresa that she had better say many prayers for him because after all, if were not for her, he would already be in Heaven.
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