Monday, October 15, 2007

TERESA OF AVILA: The Progress of a Soul by Cathleen Medwick

The Book: Cathleen Medwick, TERESA OF AVILA: The Story of a Soul. Knopf, 1999 (unsigned first edition). Fine book in very good dust jacket.
First read: 1999
Owned since: 1999

Today is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), founder of the Discalced (Barefoot) Carmelite order of nuns and author of several classics of Catholic mysticism, including Interior Castle and her autobiography. This book is a wonderful introduction to a woman I consider one of the first modern female saints.

Teresa is my own patron, chosen at confirmation some 30 years ago. She was a brilliant, stubborn, independent woman who had to learn humility, obedience and charity. Theoretically cloistered, she was a great traveler at a time when travel was unimaginably miserable. She was sharp and funny, impatient with fools but selfless, longing for intimacy with God but aware of her own absurdity and unworthiness. I liked her when I was a teenager, and I like her even more as I get older.

Her most famous prayer is as comforting now as it must have been 400 years ago.

Let nothing disturb you,
Nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patient endurance attains to all things.
Who possesses God wants for nothing.
God alone suffices.


Linda Brown said...

Take 2 -- typos the first time around.

Clair, someone sent me this prayer a while back. Is it the same saint?

St. Theresa Prayer

May today there be peace within
May you trust your highest power that you
are exactly where you are meant to be....
May you not forget the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith
May you use those gifts that you have
received, and pass on the love that has been
given to you....
May you be content knowing you are a child of
Let this presence settle into our bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance,
It is there for each and every one of you....

p.s. Protestants get so ripped off -- we don't have saints.

AnswerGirl said...

I don't recognize that one, but it is in the same spirit as much of her other writing. She was a mystic and a contemplative, and INTERIOR CASTLE is a guide to meditation.

Protestants' rejection of saints makes no sense to me. Don't you even get to keep the pre-Reformation ones?

Linda Brown said...

We don't have saints, period. It's not forbidden these days -- it's just... not there. Somebody -- Luther? Calvin? -- sure had a hate on for the saints and any vehicle of intercession.

Wikipedia sums it up: "Church beliefs and practices under attack by Protestant reformers included purgatory, particular judgment, devotion to Mary, the intercession of the saints, most of the sacraments, and the authority of the Pope."

Sigh. They probably would not approve of my affection for the Hindu god, Ganesh, either...