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St. Teresa of Avila and Holy Reform

October 15, 2014


“At that time, the news reached me of harm being done to the Church, and that the works of her opponents were flourishing. This news distressed me greatly, and I wondered if I could do anything. I cried to the Lord and begged him that I might be his instrument to help remedy such evils…”

“As a result, I resolved that there was little that I could accomplish through my own limited power… So I discerned that I should follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could, and invite others to do the same. It was was my desire that since the Lord has many enemies, and so few friends, that his few friends should be good ones…”

These are the words of St. Teresa of Avila, doctor of the Church, one of our greatest saints and reformers.

St. Teresa lived in Spain during the period known as the Reformation. A member of the Carmelite Order, she initiated with St. John of The Cross, a reform of her community, seeking that its members would live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with greater zeal and vigor. In doing so, they would stand as a witness against the corruptions of the Church, and inspire others to see the radical witness of holiness of life. 

She faced a daunting task and edured terrifying opposition. Her health failed and she was labeled a dangerous radical. At one particularly low point of her life, she is said to have remarked to the Lord that if this is the way Jesus treats his friends, it’s no wonder that he has so few!

Her writitngs, which describe her relationship with Jesus Christ with such passion and intimacy, revolutionized the Church’s understanding of the spiritual life.

Eventually her efforts at reform had a great impact and became a model of how the Church can be changed for the better by a radical application of the truths of the Gospel.

St. Paul reminds us that in Christ we have been chosen. That should console us, but it should also inspire us to live in accord with his way, even if that means enduring, as St. Teresa did, trials and difficulties.

May St. Teresa’s example and intercession help us in troubled times. May her radical witness of poverty, chastity and obedience compel us to see that the Church is not changed by ideology and games of power, but by our willingness to give ourselves over to Jesus Christ and truly live as his friends.