Thursday, October 15, 2009

O My God! Source Of All Mercy! Give Me Your Grace, Now And In The Future!

On March 28, 1515 a daughter was born to the wife of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada; she was baptized Teresa. After the death of her mother, when Teresa was 14 years old, and the marriage of her oldest sister, Teresa was sent to the convent school of the Augustinian nuns at Avila, but due to an illness which partially crippled her, she was forced to leave after a year and a half, and remained at home. At 17, she expressed the desire to enter the convent, but her father opposed her decision, and she left the family manor in November 1535 to enter the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila. Seeing the depth of her commitment, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became seriously ill, and her condition was worsened by inadequate medical treatment, and her health remained permanently impaired. During the years of suffering, she began the practice of mental prayer, but fearing that her conversations with worldly relatives, who often visited the convent, Teresa discontinued the practice until she came under the influence of Dominican and later Jesuit spiritual directors.

Meanwhile, God had begun to inspire her with “intellectual visions and locutions”, to use the words of her autobiography, manifestations in which the five exterior senses were not involved, but the words heard and the images seen were impressed directly on her mind. Feeling unworthy of such graces because of her shortcomings, which her delicate conscience considered to be terrible faults, she stopped praying almost completely for years, under the guise of humility, considering herself a wicked sinner who did not deserve to receive favors from God. When she was 41 years old, a priest persuaded her to go back to prayer, but she continued to find it difficult. “I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to end, than I was to remain there. I don’t know what great penance I would rather have undertaken than to practice prayer." But the more steadfastly she tried to resist, the more powerfully did God work within her soul. Eventually, it would be the task of Jesuit Father Francis Borgia and Franciscan Friar Peter of Alcantara, both of whom became canonized saints, and a number of other priests whose names are not recorded in history, to discern the work of God, and guide Teresa on the path to her own sainthood.

Teresa became determine to found a new convent that went back to the fundamental spirit of a contemplative order: a life of simplicity, poverty, and prayer. After much difficulty, Teresa founded the Convent of Saint Joseph at Avila, on August 24, 1562. It was the first foundation of the “Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule”; six months later, she received permission to take up residence there. After four years, she welcomed the visit of the General of the Carmelites, Father Giambattista Rossi, who not only approved of what she had done, but gave her permission for the foundation of other convents of nuns, and also of friars. With the assistance of Antonio de Heridia, prior of Medina, and Juan de la Cruz de Yepes y Heredia (Saint John of the Cross), she established the reform of the Carmelite friars.

In 1582, Teresa was invited by an Archbishop to found a convent in his diocese, but when she arrived in the midst of a raging rainstorm, he ordered her to leave. “And the weather was wonderful too”, was her only comment. Although she was ill, she was asked to attend to a noblewoman giving birth. But by the time she got there, the baby had already been born. Teresa commented, “The saint won’t be needed after all!” Too ill to leave, she died on October 4, 1582 at Alba de Tormes in Castile. Her incorrupt body remains at Alba. Teresa de Jesús, also known as Teresa of Avila, was beatified by Pope Paul V on April 24, 1614, and canonized on March 12, 1622, by Pope Gregory XV. In 1970, she was awarded a title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church.

Prayer to Redeem Lost Time
O my God! Source of all mercy! I acknowledge Your sovereign power. While recalling the wasted years that are past, I believe that You, Lord, can in an instant turn this loss to gain. Miserable as I am, yet I firmly believe that You can do all things. Please restore to me the time lost, giving me Your grace, both now and in the future, that I may appear before You in "wedding garments." Amen.

Saint Teresa of Avila

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