The quotable St Teresa
Today is the feast of St Teresa of Ávila, one of the Church’s greatest theologians and greatest mystics.
Teresa is also unusual, I think, for her eminent common sense, which really isn’t common at all. I quote her often in the confessional and in spiritual direction, and occasionally in my preaching too. I think her insights might be helpful to others only because I find them so helpful myself.
For example, when Teresa was afflicted with one too many crosses, she lamented to God:
“If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.”
This demonstrates not only a supernatural attitude to suffering, but also a good sense of humour, and an easy familiarity with God. That’s three characteristics, right there, that I aspire to in my own spiritual life.
On another occasion, Teresa was very impressed by one of her sisters’ heroic penances, and wished to do something similar. Her spiritual director, however, forbade her from doing so. Teresa complained to the Lord, and apologised. His reply, which she not only recorded but also interiorised, is one worth remembering and repeating:
“I prefer your obedience to her penances.
Teresa was a great ascetic, but she was also a person of attractive and contagious joy. So she also showed in deed what she expresses here in words:
“God save us from gloomy saints!”
(This is the sort of thing I can easily imagine Pope Francis saying.)
Long before I was in the seminary, but perhaps when I was discerning my vocation (I forget the precise context), my spiritual director, whose patience was probably tested, exclaimed:
“The closer you get to God, the simpler you become.”
I remembered this and prayed on it often. (I still do.) Much later I learnt that it came from St Teresa.
I’ll finish with one of my all-time favourite quotes, which speaks for itself:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”