Today is the feast day of St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila. She is my patron saint and the foundress of my order, the Order of Discalced Carmelites.
Before I became Catholic, I was researching to write a book about contemplative prayer. I read several books by and about famous contemplatives during that time, but the story that struck me the most was that of St. Teresa of Avila. Although she had spent her life as a nun, she did not have a "spiritual awakening," or what could be called a "spiritual conversion experience," until she was in her forties. I approached reading St. Teresa as a woman also in my forties who was disillusioned with life, directionless and wanting something more.
In popular spirituality, which some refer to as "new age," much is often said about "union with God." Union with God can give unlimited power, bliss and wisdom, they say. Seems everyone has a path to get there, for the right price. Yes, I bought in to it. It's sad to me now that I once believed that good feelings, money and status and power could contribute at all to quality of life. They really don't.
St. Teresa had a similar realization, and wrote:
"I spent nearly 20 years on that stormy sea, often falling in this way and each time rising again, but to little purpose, as I would only fall once more... I can testify that this is one of the most grievous kinds of life which I think can be imagined, for I had neither any joy in God nor any pleasure in the world. When I was in the midst of worldly pleasures, I was distressed by the remembrance of what I owed to God; when I was with God, I grew restless because of worldly affections."
The confirmation saint I chose, when I became Catholic, was St. Teresa of Avila. This is before I even knew there was a Secular order of Discalced Carmelites. My sponsor had given me a book with the lives of the saints in it, and I had considered choosing another one. In the process, I read and became impressed with the lives of many saints, but still my main affection went to St. Teresa.
Only a month or two after my conversion, I met Terry Ianora, director of 1st Way in Eugene, Oregon, who is a Secular Carmelite. Immediately, I wanted to find out more about the order. I spent a year as an aspirant before being accepted into the order's formation program early last summer.
Thank you, St. Teresa, for showing me what life is really all about. It's all about Him. He is all that gives life breath and power and meaning. He gives all purpose and following His will provides all that is satisfying and worth living for.
St. Teresa of Jesus, pray for us.