Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 12, 2012

A Little Daily Wisdom

I think I was in my forties when I first encountered St. Teresa of Avila, Carmelite reformer, foundress of a gazillion monasteries in Spain, great mystic, Doctor of the Church, altogether intimidating person.  I had heard of her, of course.  She — and a few dozen others like The Blessed Mother, St. Monica, St. Helen, St. Hildegard, The Blessed Mother, St. Edith Stein, Dorothy Day, The Blessed Mother  — always came to mind when I read or hear about some secular ignoramus going on about the denigration or neglect of women in the church.  I had heard of her, but I had been afraid to get close.  I’d been told she was tough.  Well…

The lady who introduced us was a nun herself, may she rest in peace.  She may be even now sharing a cup of tea and a few words with the “formidable” Lady of Spain.  I was at a little meeting in a nearby town in a little place called Joseph House, a quiet place in the middle of the city, a huge highway full of cars just a few blocks away rumbling in the distance, and it was lunch time.  “Do you know her,” she asked holding a book in front of her.  “Whom,” I answered politely, curious and a little afraid and cautious.  Sister had a way of suggesting one might like a little light reading of this or that spiritual master.  One would agree, take her suggestion home and sometimes find that “light reading” to Sister was the equivalent of a barefoot hike across the desert with a sandwich and one glass of water — a small glass of water.  Tough?  Nah, a piece of cake.

She smiled her dangerously benign smile and said, “Teresa of Avila, a lovely woman.”  The book in her hand was “ The Interior Castle”, a famous work about the life of the soul based on St. Teresa’s own experiences.  She suggested I take it home and read it.  Having had enough years of Catholic School to draw a pension I was more than conditioned to reply, “Thank you, Sister.” As I reached for and took the book from her hand I think I must have given a little involuntary shiver because Sister smiled a gentle smile and patted my shoulder before walking nonchalantly away.

I did not finish the book.  I don’t think I got more than a few chapters into it, because frankly I was a little bit frightened by it all.  But, I WAS curious.  And not too long after I returned her book to her, Sister suggested that I read “Big Teresa’s” autobiography.  There I met the person I simply think of now as my spiritual grandmother.  She reminds me so much of Nanny, my mother’s mother, who, crippled by arthritis, would sit all day in her chair and pray, whose simple “That’ll do!” froze rambunctious seven years olds in their tracks and would have done the same to cardinals or heads of state, I am sure.

“A Little Daily Wisdom: Through the Year With St. Teresa of Avila”  is the kind of book this Doctor of the Church would probably urge on us all in place of her own autobiography or the intricate magnificence of The Interior Castle.  She was at heart, I truly believe, a quite simple and uncomplicated saint whose approach to the spiritual life is best summed up in her own words by the short and wonderfully simple poem she may best be known for, the one that begins “Let nothing disturb you…”

Let “Big Teresa” walk with you through the year in the pages of “A Little Daily Wisdom” and you find that you have gained a companion whose humor and plain but deeply penetrating wisdom promote healing and growth in the soul.  Let her love you whole throughout the year and from time to time tell you simply and directly, “That’ll do.”  At The Christian Book Corner we travel through every year in the company of such as St. Teresa and frequently urge these joyful companions upon our fellow travelers along the way — all of them “Chosen with care; chosen with Prayer” and offered at our always available discounts.

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