Thursday, October 15, 2009

Homily – October 15, 2009 – St. Theresa of Avila

+ Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was the founder of the Discalced Carmelites and one of the first two women to be named a Doctor of the Church (with Catherine of Siena). She was born into an aristocratic family is Spain. She was familiar with illness early on in her religious life. It was while praying in front of a very realistic looking crucifix that she had a deep spiritual conversion. Not many were sympathetic to her claim of having mystical experiences and she was misunderstood and ridiculed by members of her order. After twenty-five years of dealing with this, Theresa founded her own community of unreformed Carmelite life – and introduced a Rule that would be strictly observed. She established such a house in 1562, and subsequently many other houses, in many other countries – though she remained physically infirm for most of her life. Her most famous writing is "The Interior Castle," a disguised autobiography written in the third person. She died on October 4, 1582, and nuns present at her death testified that a luscious paradisiacle scent emanated from her body, and later when her grave was opened, her body was still intact and redolent of lilies. Theresa was beatified in 1614 and canonized in 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier and Philip Neri and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI in recognition of her outstanding contribution to mystical theology and Christian spirituality.

The first reading today speaks of the true labor that is involved in doing things God's way: how important it is to live always in hope while we await the fullness of redemption that is to come, and to pray with all our might for his will to be done, and to count on the Spirit of God to help us pray fully and trustingly when we feel our own attempts are less than perfect. Theresa trusted in the Spirit of God to lead her all the way through her spiritual life!

And of course the gospel passage speaks of the disciple's relationship to its Lord and Master's – the vine and the branches. This takes constant and dedicated work as well: daily choosing to be connected to the vine and not insistence on going off on one's own to become a separate and lesser growth! If we remain in God and he in us, we can ask for what we want (according to the will of God) and we shall get it!

Remain in my love, says the Lord; whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.

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