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For Love Alone - St. Teresa of Avila
"It is love alone that gives worth to all things." (St. Teresa of Avila)
St. Teresa of Avila, Mystic and Doctor of the Church was a Carmelite nun in the 16th-century who called for reform in her order when she realized that the Sisters were no longer living a life giving all to the Lord. Their hearts no longer burned brightly with a zeal for Christ as they failed to authentically live out the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
It was with another beautiful saint, St. John of the Cross, that St. Teresa was able to begin the reform. She was confronted with great suffering as the devil will fight hard to destroy any vocation, but St. Teresa was borne fruits for her labor, and ultimately she was able to establish seventeen convents. With zealous hearts the Carmelite nuns in these communities lived out their vows faithfully, and St. Teresa of Jesus, forty years after her death, was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. (1)
The Divine romance that she shared with her Beloved Spouse, ignited her desire to completely empty her heart of self and fill it whole and entirely with God alone. We are all called to a life of holiness, to be united in heart, mind, and soul, with the Bridegroom who waits for His Bride as she prepares herself to become spotless and without blemish.
Our vocation to love means that we surrender more and more of ourselves each day by letting go of the things that prevent us from becoming closer with the Triune God. We should not solely focus on the vices that create a barrier between us and Christ, but rather keep our eyes fixed in a Heavenly gaze on the virtues that we hope to attain as to one day be able to see the Lord face to face.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” (St. Catherine of Sienna)
With the aim of perfection it is by a life of prayer that we deepen our relationship with the Lord. The more time alone we spend with Him in the silence of our own hearts, the more we allow Christ to open the door to our hearts, and change us. We can only make room for Christ in our hearts if we allow ourselves to accept the gift of grace that He offers us, which helps to purge us of the things that are not of God. He wants us to become who He meant us to be in this world. God accompanies us on our journey always, but it is by a deep prayer life that we become aware of His Presence, and grow in our desire to love Him. We need to hunger for perfection, so that we can present ourselves to Him with a sincere and pure heart.
"A beginner must look on himself as one setting out to make a garden for his Lord’s pleasure, on most unfruitful soil which abounds in weeds. His Majesty roots up the weeds and will put in good plants instead. Let us reckon that this is already done when the soul decides to practice prayer and has begun to do so." (St. Teresa of Avila)
The universal call to holiness is for everyone in every state of life as all vocations are called to a life of love. "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity."(2) We want to become perfect because Christ desires for us to grow in intimate union with our Heavenly Father, and it is by union with the Father that our hearts will be ready to enter the Kingdom of God. As Christians our goal is to spend eternity with God in Heaven, and the path of holiness and perfection is the road that will lead us to Paradise.
St. Teresa of Avila shares with us in her work, The Interior Castle, her spiritual journey towards a complete life of holiness and perfection. (1) A life enraptured by the Love of God is attainable, and possible by delving into the contemplative life. It is only by prayer that God reveals to us our true selves, and by getting to know ourselves; the very depths of our own souls, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable interiorly for God to see us in all of our weakness and littleness. With humility we courageously offer to the Father all that we are and all that we hope to become as His sons and daughters. God shows us His infinite love through the exchange of love between Heaven and Earth; the intimate dialogue between the human person and the Divine, that takes place in contemplative prayer.
It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves. (St. Teresa of Avila)
On the Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila let us reflect on love, and offer all that we are and all that we will become to our Heavenly Father. We need to continue on the path towards holiness and perfection by striving to live our lives in imitation of Christ and as St. Teresa of Jesus, unite our suffering to the suffering of Christ on the Cross. By dying with Him, we live with Him. Let us give ourselves, wounded; broken and bruised with all of the the battle scars of our lives, to Him for love alone, and allow our Heavenly Father to refashion and recreate us into His image and likeness as to which we were created before the Fall.
(1) "St. Teresa of Avila." Catholics Online. Your Catholic Voice Foundation, 2022. Web. October 8, 2022.
(2) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., (1997), n. 2013.