DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     October 15-17, 1999     vol. 10, no. 197


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    "Getting to the Heart of the Matter" is what Sister Mary Lucy Astuto pinpoints in every issue when she takes a common sense approach to living our faith with her practical columns.

    This weekend Sister shares with us who Saint Teresa of Avila was in simple phrases as the saint would want, for she did not want to complicate the faith but make it more accessible for all and to instill in the people, especially her fellow religious that prayer was giving of the heart and one didn't need to be intelligent to converse with God. Sister shows how this dynamic Doctor of the Church had a great sense of humor and appreciation for the simple things, but would tolerate no atrocities against the Faith or the rule and constitution of her Order which she reformed to bring her fellow religious more in line with the spirit of the rule. From the spirit would follow the letter of the law Teresa rationed. Even though she was a humble nun, she wasn't timid. In fact some consider her downright feisty for she wasn't afraid to take on bishops or priests who were in violation of God's laws and His Holy Church's teachings. That is the essence of Sister Lucy's short take this week on St. Teresa as we can see in her column entitled, The Essence of Saint Teresa of Avila.

    Her column provides effective, vital insights into our faith and ways of fulfilling God's Will every day in every way. You can visit Sr. Lucy at her web site for Heart of Mary Ministry at http://www .heartofmaryministry. com or you can reach her at Srmarylucy @aol.com by e-mail.


        On October 14th, we celebrate the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, sometimes called St. Teresa of Jesus. She was born in Spain on March 28, 1515 (one of 12 children) and died in Spain on October 14, 1582.

        There are about 33 canonized saints that have been named "Doctor of the Church." Only three of those are women: St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena and very recently, St. Therese, the Little Flower of Lisieux, France, also a Carmelite. Saints are proclaimed "Doctor of the Church" when their writings or preachings have been outstanding for guiding people in the spiritual life and their walk to God.

        From childhood, Teresa loved to read the lives of saints. They inspired her to the point that one day she left home with an elder brother to go to Moorish lands, hoping to die for their faith there. They were met on the way by an uncle who made sure that they were sent home to their parents.

        At the age of 20, Teresa did enter a Carmelite order, but after a few years, she became very ill (perhaps malaria) and was given up for dead. Her grave was even dug. The ailment left her an invalid for three years and she endured the effects of paralysis for about 12 years.

        Convent life in those days was very lax. Teresa preferred to spend much time visiting with people in the parlor rather than pray. It wasn't until she was 42 that she came to realize the danger of neglecting her prayer life and so she returned to the regular practice of private prayer. At this time she read the Confessions of St. Augustine and thereby experienced a powerful conversion.

        From that time on, her vocation was very strong and she began to have visions and other mystical experiences, such as the amazing mystical piercing of her heart by a spear of divine love and levitating.

        Contemporary canonized saints of her day include St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits; St. Peter of Alcantara, who became her spiritual director in 1557; St. Luis Beltran, who was also her spiritual director for a while; and St. John of the Cross, for whom she served as spiritual director.

        Teresa established 17 Carmelite convents in Spain and France. She was a very able administrator, while at the same time being very kind and warm. She had a tremendous sense of humor, was very witty, and used to pray that God would spare her from "sad saints."

        The convents which she established, however, were quite austere. The nuns hardly spoke (a good way to keep peace in a household), wore coarse habits, and sandals instead of shoes. This is what the term "discalced" means: "without shoes."

        Among the books Teresa wrote were: "Interior Castle" and the "Way of Perfection," in which she writes of prayer as "loving" rather than "thinking."

        Though quite short in stature, Teresa became a big saint. She is even referred to as the "big St. Teresa" as opposed to the "Little Flower."

        If you can, purchase one of her books and let it seep into the soil of your soul like gentle rain on dry earth. You will assuredly be enriched.

        God bless you!

October 15-17, 1999       volume 10, no. 197


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