St Theresa of Avila

(central Spain) Virgin, Foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, Doctor of the Church (entered heaven this day in 1582)

Dear Abigail,

Trepidation does not become you.  It is the devil’s ploy.  Between the lines of your notes I can read the eagerness and excitement you feel at the prospect of giving yourself entirely to our Lord.  In my humble opinion, those indications should influence you much more than the petty fears about what your dad will say, what your friends will say, and what may happen to your “career” if you try the consecrated life and discover that it’s not your vocation.  My dear niece, no life choices are free from risks, but risking everything out of love for God (and out of a deep and long-standing conviction that he loves you in a special way) is the surest bet of all.  Do not fear the advances of God’s love; relish them.

St Theresa did.  Her remarkable life sprang from God’s determined love; all she had to do was follow along.  She was the most normal of children, exhibiting a love for the faith (quite natural considering the prominent role of the Church in sixteenth-century Spain), but also a fascination with fashions and romance and the sparkle of high society.  When she began to listen to her conscience and felt the tug of her religious vocation, it was hard for her to accept it.  She had to battle against contradictory desires in her own heart, and opposition from her beloved and devoted father.  When she finally did enter the convent, she fell into the widespread spiritual mediocrity that plagued Spanish religious life, and for years enjoyed all the dissipation of the nuns’ peculiar social life (the convent was one of the busiest of Avila’s social parlors).  But God’s love wouldn’t leave her alone.  A good priest here, a saintly layman there – bits and pieces of sound spiritual advice combined with special favors in her prayer (and with plenty of trials – especially long illnesses) connived to lead her down a path of ravishing intimacy with the Lord.  Levitations, visions, interior locutions, trances, angelic visitations – God showered her with extraordinary signs of his love, because he had an extraordinary mission for her to carry out.  At the suggestion of a young nun, she discovered it: reform the lax Carmelite lifestyle, and begin a new foundation in which the nuns dedicated themselves seriously to prayer, simplicity, work, and the love of God.  This she did, having to overcome a whole range of mountainous obstacles (from her sisters, from the clergy, from lay people, from townspeople, from her own followers…) in order to lay the foundations of thirteen new Discalced (“unshod” – they wore sandals instead of shoes as part of their rigorous poverty) Carmelite convents for nuns and two for monks.  Admittedly, Theresa was endowed with uncommon natural qualities of good humor, charm, wit, intelligence, and prudence, but it was because she generously put those talents (plus her burning, passionate heart) at the service of God’s call that she achieved her personal fulfillment and a renewal in the Church that continues even today.

So, I repeat, don’t be afraid if our Lord is showing you a special love.  He knows what he’s doing.  Don’t resist him; give yourself to him.  That’s the only way to discover the great mission he has in store for you.


Uncle Eddy

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