The end of March this year marked 500 years since the birth of one of our great female saints, St Teresa of Avila. She was born into a fairly rigid society compared to today, a woman at that time could marry and stay at home or enter a convent.
Teresa learned to read at home and loved to study the heroic lives of the saints and martyrs. She was idealistic and wanted to imitate them.
As she grew older her interests turned to more worldly activities.
She was fairly boisterous and a worry to her father.
She was sent away to a boarding school where she calmed down a good deal.
Here she discovered a love for God which was blossoming but needed guidance.
On returning home she wanted to enter the local convent in her hometown of Avila in Spain. Her father refused but she ran away to join.
The convent she joined followed the Carmelite rule.
Here Teresa was challenged to use all the gifts she had been given in the service of God and others rather than for her own amusement. Teresa was naturally out-going and sociable, determined and full of energy, whole-hearted in what she was doing.
At the same time she did not like being corrected and was always looking for praise from others. This was a conflict within her which lasted many years.
She struggled to pray all those years. But eventually she matured as a Christian and her relationship with God deepened. It led her to reform the convent which had grown lax. Teresa’s reform spread to other convents and was also an inspiration to many people living in the world who looked for a deeper life of prayer and service of God. In our area the Carmelite sisters live at Thicket Priory, Thorganby, and continue the life which St Teresa inspired.
The struggle Teresa experienced is an example to us all. We have high ideals but are often worn down by the malice of others or the awareness of our own weaknesses.
Teresa above all persevered believing that whatever our individual flaws we are made by God to be happy and fulfilled as human beings in his service.
To end here are a few words of encouragement written by St Teresa:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Those who have God find they lack nothing.
God alone suffices.