St. Teresa of Avila, whose Feast we celebrate today, was named the first woman Doctor of the Church. This simply means that her writings and spiritual theology are so significant, they must become a part of the church’s living tradition. In short, she is a great theologian.
Like Jesus in the gospel, Teresa challenged those in authority who erroneously believed her theology about prayer was heretical and incompatible with the Catholic faith. They were seeing our faith through the eyes of their limited perspective as celibate men rooted in a narrow understanding of women and their place in culture and church. The church taught that only male clerics were called to the contemplative life, a life of deep spirituality. Teresa and her beautiful “prayer of the heart” became a threat to the established order.
Teresa challenged external structures and traditions that were suffocating the spiritual lives of the nuns entrusted to her care. She was deeply catholic and traditional, but was expanding and deepening our understanding of prayer and deepening one’s relationship with Christ.
Teresa was only following the lead of the Holy Spirit, calling her to look deep WITHIN her heart to encounter the living Christ. The externals of what we wear, how we celebrate, where we sit, rituals of purification and “seats of honor,” are not what the spiritual life is all about. Neither should religion be reduced to blindly following the way things have been done.
I love Teresa of Avila. She is my most important guide and mentor in my spiritual life. She was a reformer who pushed many envelopes, but she did so within the church and kept herself anchored in the institution. She was very traditional in many ways. Somehow, I can relate with her spirituality relationship with the Church, which is why I love her so much.
She had guided our parish for over 130 and her spirit lives in our mission as a catholic community, rooted deeply in our Church, while progressing down un- chartered routes. Thank you Teresa, for being such an inspiration to us as a parish, as we keep moving forward, filled with the same trust in Christ that guided you to your place in the Kingdom.
Peace, Happy Feast Day to All!!!!