St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast day is Oct. 15, is a saint I haven’t known very well, despite my Carmelite education. As a mother of four, I live a beautifully blessed but completely hectic life. My days feel like a constant game of whack-a-mole, hopping from one minor crisis to the next. How was I to relate to a doctor of the church, a mystic, a contemplative?
But then, I met her.
Here are 10 reasons why this nun is actually a great saint to reflect upon and ask for the intercession of while living out the vocation of family life.
- She reminds us how important the example of married life we give our children is.
St. Teresa was the daughter of a noble family who chose her vocation as a safe path after seeing how a difficult marriage weighed on her mother. Stronger marriages lead to stronger vocations — whether our children are called to married life, consecrated life or the single life. Even when we provide our children with a strong example of how to practice the faith, we must be ever mindful of showing them that how we love one another matters.
- She explains that prayer is an act of love — words are not needed, and that anguish offered to God is prayer.
Like most mothers, the days I get through my prayers uninterrupted are few and far between. I remember more than once when I felt jealous of a priest talking about his prayer life. Oh, how glorious it must be to have entire swaths of time where you can focus on Jesus. But that isn’t my life. I am spending my day with God and ministering to the children he entrusted to me. And while my current prayer life will inevitably look different than someone who isn’t the parent of young children, joyfully offering up the work of my day, in all its chaotic glory, is prayer.
- She understood that the most potent and acceptable prayer is that which leads us to action.
Prayer is meant to change us. We pray to be strengthened to bring about the Kingdom of God in whatever small way we can.
- She pushed through the feelings of unworthiness that got in the way of her prayer life and showed us it is never too late to return to God.
St. Teresa stopped praying for years, feeling as though she was undeserving of the graces of God: “I don’t know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer.”
Of course, we are all unworthy. We all fall short. But that is where grace comes in. Our Lord desires a relationship with us not despite our brokenness but in the very midst of it.
If you have not spoken to God recently, take St. Teresa’s words to heart: “Whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord not to go without so great a good. There is nothing here to fear but only something to desire.”
- She is a powerhouse.
St. Teresa is an example of a strong, powerful woman who loved God with her whole self. She placed her faith in our Lord and united her sufferings with his. Unsurprisingly, she became the first woman to be named a doctor of the Church. Her writings, which include her autobiography, “The Interior Castle,” and “The Way of Perfection,” are pivotal works for Christian mysticism and meditation, and her desire to reform her convent resulted in the formation of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. She accomplished all this despite being seriously ill for most of her adult life.
“The devil put before me that I could not endure the trials of the religious life, because of my delicate nurture. I defended myself against him by alleging the trials which Christ endured, and that it was not much for me to suffer something for his sake; besides, he would help me to bear it.”
- She reminds us not to get caught up in the trappings of this world.
I’m not telling you to go into complete asceticism as St. Teresa did. I’m pretty sure my children would lose their minds without Pokémon cards, unicorns and Elmo. St. Teresa recognized how her possessions and relationships got in the way of her relationship with God. We should follow her example in determining what parts of our lives keep us from properly orienting ourselves toward God.
- She reminds us how to keep faith in the face of difficulties.
“God knows how to draw good from evil. And the good is all the greater in the measure that we diligently strive that he not be offended in anything.”
God, in his mercy and glory, can bring about blessings even in the darkest times.
- She reminds us to have courage.
“To have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that.”
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. We must always be ready for whatever comes.
- She reminds us to pray for those who frustrate us and not to assume we know the intentions of others.
“Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s, if we are always criticizing trivial actions — which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives.”
Sometimes I cannot begin to conceive what my children were thinking, and I’m ready to blow my top, but I realize that assuming they meant to upset me is never a good place to start because they didn’t. Children love so purely, and they want to please us. Presuming otherwise will only frustrate me and discourage them.
- She is the patron saint of headache sufferers. Need I say more?