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Today is the feast of Teresa of Avila. Because it is Sunday, always a “first class feast,” we don’t hear about Teresa this year. I find it difficult to let it go by, however, without some mention of this woman who is one of only four women thus far in the history of the Roman Catholic Church to achieve the title of “Doctor of the Church.” Sister Teresa was a mystic, but also very active, tireless in her work of reforming the Carmelite order of nuns in the 1500’s in the most rigorous – some thought too extreme – way. Her writings were extensive and her spiritual practice was constant, although for many years she suffered many physical illnesses and a deprivation of any spiritual consolation. She never despaired, even in the face of investigation by the Inquisition, and her writings are considered one of the great treasures of Christian mysticism.
My personal experience of the gift of Teresa’s influence is twofold. When I was 16 years old and considering entering the convent, I received a “holy card” inscribed with a piece of advice written by Teresa. For over 50 years I have held it close and shared it with people I thought would benefit from hearing it. I say it gratefully again today in the translation in which I received it:
Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. All things are passing; God never changes. Patient endurance attains all things. The one who possesses God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.
Many years later, I heard a song by John Michael Talbot whose lyrics are attributed to Teresa, but not found in her writings. I offer it often when speaking to people who work in religious education or other ministries – and lately use it in any situation where I want to emphasize to people how important we are in bringing the love of God to others. Please take a moment to consider it as a word to you today.
Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes. You are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.