“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.”
For many, the word MYSTIC can conjure up images of stained-glass saints and ragged ascetics, or some VIP class of Christian who claims to have exclusive spiritual experiences of God, Christ, or Mary. We may even have some discomfort and skepticism around mystical experiences, particularly if they happen to someone we disagree with.
The theologian Karl Rahner once said that the Christians of the 21st Century would either be a mystics or they wouldn’t be Christians at all, meaning that without a lived experience of God’s presence, many people would fall away from the faith as Christendom collapsed and secularism took hold. And as the 21st century unfolds, that insight is proving to be prophetic.
Today, October 15th, we celebrate the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th Century Spanish Mystic and Doctor of the Church. In her late 30s, St. Teresa’s mystical experiences sprung from a conversion experience she had while gazing at a statute of Christ being scourged. As she looked at Christ suffering, she realized she was going through the motions of religious life and not living it in her heart. She fell to her knees and wept, promising to deepen her interior life of prayer and asking Christ to never again allow her to fail so miserably as a person of faith. And she kept that promise.
She is most famous for her writings and the staunch opposition she encountered when she tried to reform the growingly lax Carmelite order to which she belonged. What she lacked in theological training (woman were forbidden from theological education or writing), she made up for in spiritual genius. She wrote Story of My Life and Interior Castle when ordered by the Inquisition and her superiors to describe her supernatural experiences, including levitations and ecstasies, which she often found embarrassing and annoying. One papal representative described her as a: “restless wanderer, disobedient, and stubborn woman who, under the title of devotion, invented bad doctrines, moving outside the cloister against the rules of the Council of Trent and her prelates; teaching as a master against Saint Paul’s orders that women should not teach.”
Nevertheless, in the face of opposition and persecution, she worked tirelessly to reform her order, founding seventeen new convents before she died. She often said that once we gaze upon the glory and peace of heaven, this life will seem like a bad night at an uncomfortable inn.
One day as Teresa was walking through the convent she encountered a beautiful, luminous child. He asked her, “Who are you?” to which she responded “ I am Teresa of Jesus. And who are you?” The child replied, “I am Jesus of Teresa.”
St. Teresa was canonized soon after a death, and Pope St. Paul VI proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church in 1970, along with St. Catherine of Siena.
Explore further: Review the Seven Mansions of the Interior Castle here: https://wedaretosay.com/what-are-the-mansions-of-the-interior-castle/
Even further: Read the fantastic Story of My Life, her autobiography: https://www.amazon.com/Teresa-Avila-Book-MyLife/dp/1590305736/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=