Monday, October 14, 2013

Saint Teresa of Avila

My kids were once playing with an electric keyboard in our house, and it sounded to me like they were making "spooky music." "We must be in a haunted house," I said. "Oh Daddy," came the reply, "it’s not a haunted house. It’s church!"

This reminded me that some people think of Christianity as a somber, glum affair. For some people it is a somber, glum affair. It’s not without reason that popular songwriters say that they’d "rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints!"

But the saint we celebrate today would have none of that. St. Theresa of Avila, the sixteenth century Spanish nun, was a woman who radiated joy, and who had a good sense of humor to boot. There were certainly plenty of things in her life that might have caused her to become somber or glum. "Oh, my Lord!," she once cried, "How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles!" She suffered a lot of physical pain. She was reported to the Spanish Inquisition. She met with stiff resistance to her reform plans, both inside and outside the Church. At times, she found prayer to be extremely difficult. And she sometimes found herself surrounded by pious but gloomy individuals. But none of this could dampen her joy in being a child of God.

St. Theresa can certainly teach us about many things. She is, after all, a Doctor of the Church! She had much to say and write about the life of prayer and friendship with God. It’s for good reason that she’s called the "Doctor of Prayer." But perhaps today we can allow her to remind us that joy should be at the heart of our life as Christians. As St. Teresa herself once said, "From sour-faced saints, Good Lord, deliver us!"

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