Oct 15 – Memorial for St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor
Also known as Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582) was born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at ‘hermit’ in the garden.
Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St. Joseph. Her mother died when she was 12, and Teresa prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry into religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.
Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions, and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including St. Francis Borgia, who pronounced her visions to be holy and true.
She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of St. John of Avila. She founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. She was a mystical writer, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is known for ‘holy wit’.
“God, deliver me from sullen saints.” – St. Teresa of Avila
Patron Saint Index
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.
Recently, I hosted a dinner party. The conversations were free flowing, we were catching up and trading stories on what’s been going on. What I love about our friendship is the openness to each other – about our lives, struggles, challenges, as well as the successes and wins! No pretence, no masks, all real and vulnerable.
My friends shared about how they had gone through a bit of a rough time early this year but how our loving and generous God saw them through just in the nick of time! I really marvelled and am so encouraged by their sharing. However, there was an instance when my friend’s wife declared with much conviction “The Lord always provides!”. To my surprise, for just a split second, I found myself getting irritated by that phrase. My immediate reaction thereafter was shock, followed by guilt. I pondered about why I felt that way. Is my faith so weak that I do not trust our Lord to provide?
Am I still clinging on to my old ways of thinking? When I was in my late teens, I was told ‘If you want something, you have to do it yourself’. Recently, my brother also shared something our earthly father told him when he was young — ‘Never bring your sxxx home. Sort it out yourself.’ So we grew up believing that we had to rely on our own abilities and strengths to get what we need or to solve life’s challenges. In adulthood, I have always been the provider in the family. Do I really trust that the Lord will provide for my needs? No, not really. Yup, so I come in a neat little package of wounds. Just like everyone else.
In today’s first reading, Paul starts with praise to God for everything that he has given to those of us who are in Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
Paul speaks about spiritual blessings. When we think about this, many of us may feel that these blessings are intangible. Somewhere out there. What Paul means are blessings from the Spirit––blessings from the work of God in the lives of believers. And being blessed in the heavenly realms doesn’t mean that these are merely waiting on us for when we get to heaven. These blessings are realities of our life now in Christ.
We ask what these ‘spiritual blessings’ mean? Some spiritual blessings? A bare minimum of blessings? Just enough blessings for us to get by?
I remember this image of Jesus imploring this little girl to give up her small teddy bear to Him. But the little girl is unwilling to give up what she has in hand for something that she cannot see. What Jesus actually had in store for this girl was a much larger, better teddy bear. Aren’t we all like this? We don’t trust what we cannot see. And find it hard to believe that we have to give up something, so that God can fill that space with something far better than we can perceive.
This week, I learnt the term ‘food insecurity’ — the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources; not knowing when your next meal is. In this day and age, in a first world country like ours, I was shocked to learn that there are several families who have no access to proper and regular food. As I compare my life to them, I am truly blessed. And yet I remain insecure. But as I reflect deeper, I see that God’s hand has been in every part of my life. He has indeed blessed me with every spiritual gift in the heavens. Like the little girl, I too struggled to give up the little I had. I clung onto these things for security.
The journey to freedom (and security) is without doubt a painful one. But I stand here today and proclaim that the trade-offs are worth it. God didn’t give me blessings to help me with my pursuits and my lofty ideas of what life should be. God has a purpose for giving us these blessings. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. God gives us all the blessings so that we would be holy and blameless in his sight. So that I could be holy as He is holy.
I have spent so much time worrying and agonizing about God’s will for my life. My future — do I have enough resources to live through old age? What will I do with my life? Am I purposeful and fruitful etc. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s the wrong place to start. It’s putting the cart before the horse, as the saying goes. I need to better understand God’s larger work in the world, and once I understand that, then it’s so much easier to see what I should be doing day-to-day.
Therefore my friends, we may not see or understand things now, but it does not mean that the Lord is not working, not blessing and not providing. God’s does not withhold ANYTHING. We have every blessing! The picture isn’t one of stinginess, but one of God lavishing blessings on his people.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life….” Peter 1:3
Today, as we celebrate the memorial of Saint Teresa of Avila, let us reflect on a poem she wrote:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Father, teach us to be faithful. Teach us to trust in your providence. Help us to grow in You and to let you take over and lead us.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for every heaven blessing bestowed upon us. Let us never forget that you withhold nothing. Thank you for being so generous with your love.
Gerry, what a beautiful reflection – several things to think about. I love the Teresa of Avila quote. Thank you.