Our Celebration of the 5th Centenary of the Birth of St. Teresa
The birthday of distinguished people who have made an impact on the world by their life, teaching or writing has been recognized and honored throughout history. Our own Country calls attention to the birthday of such extraordinary citizens as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, etc. It is a reminder of their particular devoted contributions to the up-building of society and of the land in which they lived, as well as the continuing inspiration of their example.
Saint Teresa (born in Avila, Spain in 1515) is universally acknowledged (even by secular historians and non-Christians) as among the outstanding women of history, especially the history of Western European and Church or religious history. Recognizing the universal appeal of her life and prolific writings, Pope Paul VI declared her the first woman Doctor of the Church, joining her to such distinguished teachers as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. John of the Cross . . . Her charming, vivacious personality, the depth of her holiness and communion with God, her work as foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Order, her inspired teaching expressed through prolific writing, all continue to communicate an extraordinary influence on those who study her. She was the inspiration of St. Therese of Lisieux (the Little Flower) who was also declared a Doctor of the Church because of the spiritual guidance contained in her Autobiography and letters, etc.
St. Teresa gave the Church clear and complete directions for coming to the greatest human achievement—union with God in love through prayer. (Because God created us to know and love Him, people hunger for communion with Him, but unfortunately today, many often search for it in wrong ways.) She taught the way of prayer from its beginning stage of meditation to the summit of mystical union with God. Her clear explanations are both elevated and practical.
When St. Teresa began her reform of the Carmelite Nuns, she revolutionized the concept of enclosed contemplative religious life. She instilled in those whom God called to join her a distinctive apostolic spirit. The “life of perfection”—of prayer and penance—was to be at the service of the Church. It is offered for priests and theologians, for those who serve the Church as pastors, teachers, missionaries—for both the shepherds and the sheep—including the physical and spiritual needs of all God’s People. In her time, separation from the world by cloister was an entirely new way of experiencing consecrated religious life. Her obedience to God’s inspiration and the depth of her love for the Church and for all in the service of the Church sets her and the Carmelite Order, a totally enclosed life, in the heart of the Church and close to the Heart of God.