Teresa of Avila

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Saturday, August 30, 2014


NEXT year the Catholic Church is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, the founder of the Discalced Order of the Carmelite Nuns. Teresa is a well-known mystic in the Church. She experienced in her life periods of ecstasy and visions through which she got a deep insight in spiritual life.

The church authorities at that time looked at these as diabolic. She describes this in her book “The interior castle.” Teresa was declared a saint in 1622 and in 1970 the Church declared her a doctor of the Church. Her feast day is on October 15.

Teresa was born in Avila, Spain in 1536. She started a reform movement within the Order of the Carmelite Nuns, first within her own monastery in Avila and then she traveled all over Spain and visited the different monasteries of the Carmelite Nuns in order to bring about the reform.

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The Order of the Carmelites doesn’t have a founder. The Order was started by a group of pilgrims who came from Europe and settled down on Mount Horeb in the north of Palestine and founded a hermitage on that mountain. The Prophet Elijah preached on that mountain, which is called in the Book of Kings Mount Carmel. The hermits lived a life of contemplation in the spirit of Elijah and they gave witness of Yahweh as the true God of Israel.

Teresa of Avila as a mystic gave witness to the fact that God is present in our deepest inside where we can encounter Him as our heavenly Father but also encounter his Son, who became man in Jesus of Nazareth and his mother Mary who became the Mother of God.

To live and proclaim this mystery is the charism and mission of the Carmelite Order. Teresa of Avila is called the founder of the Order of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. She herself never intended to become a founder. She was extremely humble and wanted to remain unknown despite her hard work for the reform of the Order.

Her contemporaries later caused a split within the Order of the Carmelites and separated themselves from the main branch of the Order. They elected their own superior general and thus became the Order of the Discalced Carmelites (OCD) and the main branch was called Calced Carmelites (O. Carm).

Teresa had a close friend among the friars of the Carmelites, John of the Cross. He, too was a mystic and a reformer in the monasteries of the Carmelite friars. He also never wanted to separate from the original branch.

There is a beautiful prayer that came from the hands of Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing make you afraid.

All things are passing.

God alone never changes.

Patience gains all things.

If you have God you will want for nothing.

God alone suffices.

Another prayer says:

Christ has no body but yours,

no hands, no feet on earth but yours.

You are the eyes with which He looks

with compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.

Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are His body.

Christ has no body now but yours.

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

You are the eyes with which He looks

With compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

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[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 30, 2014.

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