the Strength 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.
-St. Teresa of Avila´s bookmark

The Ecstasy of Teresa of Avila by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Church of Sta Maria della Vittoria in Rome

Every year on October 15th I like to recount the story of why I was named Theresa. My mother named me after St. Teresa of Avila because she was furious at God when I was born with a cleft palate and hare lip. The horror and the shock she felt upon seeing me ushered forth a deep anger within Mommy, and she lost all control over her emotions and questioned everything she knew and believed in. The nun at the hospital tried to counsel my mother, and began with a story about Teresa of Avila: 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 pretty much sums up what my mother did as well.

Growing up in Mexico in the 1970s meant a greater importance was given to the feast day rather than the birthday of a person. The saint you are named after will more or less determine your characteristics we were told. Nomen ist omen, as the saying goes. My parents were all too happy to adopt this tradition, especially Mommy, so October 15th 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.

Each day since the beginning of the pandemic restrictions that began in March, I read the news with horror and frustration, wondering where all this will lead to, what it means to us as individuals, and what the outcome will be on societies as a whole and nations. I sound like a broken record, even to myself, when I say that leadership at all levels is being tested beyond any textbook, families ties are being put to the test, our ability to be responsible citizens and good neighbours is also being put to the greatest test of all.

We began this bizarre journey of uncertainty and transition in spring, a season of hope and renewal, the eternal covenant of nature with life, an affirmation of the cycle of life. Where are we now? In autumn, in yet another transition, in a situation far worse than anyone could have ever predicted or imagined, and facing the second wave of the pandemic. What lies ahead? The bareness and naked truth of winter, an exposition of the core, and the true test of inner strength.

It is days like these, when my FrogDiva core slips and stumbles due to numerous circumstances, that I turn once again to St. Teresa of Avila and her wisdom.

All things are passing.

I look around my surroundings, watching as the leaves fall to the ground and expose the branches and trunks of the trees. In the same manner, all our trappings have fallen wayward, and our core strengths revealed. For some of us it is the first time we come face to face with the naked stranger of the authentic self, and we have every reason to be concerned.

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