Teresa of Avila models the living balance between action and contemplation, serving others and developing an interior life, engaging in passionate human relationships and surrendering to the divine mystery. She was an ecstatic mystic and skillful administrator, a fool of God and an insightful psychotherapist, a penitent when she needed to be and an epicurean when she could be.
Teresa of Avila was fully, deeply, unapologetically herself. If she had written a letter to which her correspondent had not replied, she did not hesitate to write again, demanding, “Why haven’t you answered my letter? Don’t you love me? Do you have any idea of the pain your silence is causing me?”
Nor was she reluctant to talk back to God. In the midst of harrowing external trials, Teresa’s first response was to withdraw to a quiet place and go within. There, she would confront her Beloved: “What’s going on here, Lord?” One day, the divine voice answered, “This is how I treat my friends.” To which Teresa responded, “Well, then, no wonder you have so few!”
She was keenly discriminating about spiritual phenomena. When her nuns prayed so fervently they gave themselves nosebleeds, she would send them to bed with a sweet cup of tea and a soft blanket and forbid them from entering the chapel for a few days.
“God save us from sour-faced saints!” she would say about the self-important clerics who felt it was their job to uphold orthodoxy while never having held the Holy One in their arms and rocked him all through the night, as she regularly did.
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