“Let nothing disturb you”

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.
-St. Teresa of Avila´s bookmark

My mother named me after St. Teresa of Avila (whose feast day we celebrate today) primarily because she was angry at God when I was born with so many defects. The nun at the hospital told my mother that after getting stuck in the mud after the wheel of her carriage fell off, St. Teresa shouted up to God “If this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so many enemies!” and that is pretty much what my mother did as well.

Back in the days when I was a little girl growing up in Mexico in the 1970s, greater importance was given to the feast day rather than the birthday. The saint you are named after will more or less determine your characteristics. Nomen ist omen, as the saying goes. My parents were all too happy to adopt this tradition, especially Mommy, so October 15 became a tradition in my family and I was not about to complain about celebrating a birthday AND a feast day! Those days are long gone and nobody in my family remembers this anymore, as if the tradition died with Mommy.

Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila

Nevertheless, I remember it and am proud to have said a prayer in Rome at the foot of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa statue by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  For this I have my beloved daughter to thank, since Champagne and I got to tag along with her art history class! (See the Rome Diaries 1,2, and 3 in this blog). A prolific writer, contemplative, lover of silent prayer, St. Teresa is my patron saint in more ways than one. I share more than just a name with this extraordinary woman, and my mother must have had the foresight back then when she insisted on naming me after her. St. Teresa of Avila espoused contemplative prayer, fighting her way out of trouble and depression through silent devotion. There is also a very strong link between her spirituality and that of Ignatius of Loyola, a conjunction that only made sense when I immersed my soul in Ignatian spirituality during college.

This is a woman who understood first hand all about pain, suffering, and isolation, but was able to turn it all around with silence, prayer, and unwavering strength. In my pain and darkness I lost my way and wavered in my faith. St. Teresa reminded me that all these tests were meant to test me, make a stronger woman out my earthly shell, but never break me. Although I am stuck in the mud, I see the shore and know now what must be done.

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