On this day - 28th Mar 1515: St Teresa of Avila was born

500 years ago, in Spain, a girl was born and named Teresa. Now, 433 years after her death, we know her by a different name, St Teresa of Avila: a Carmelite nun, Spanish mystic, writer and theologian. It was during her lifetime that Protestantism started making waves across Catholic Europe, and sending out harsh criticisms of corruption and greed within the Catholic Church. Teresa of Avila was one of those who fought this battle from within, attempting to resolve laxity, and advocating true poverty and piety. She was certainly a force to be reckoned with and was widely revered and respected, an achievement in itself given the strong gender imbalance present in 16th century Europe. 

SantaTeresa

St Teresa of Avila
http://www.flg.es/HTML/Listado_de_obras/Listado_de_obras_30.htm Unknown Author

St Teresa of Avila was a deep thinker and prolific writer, who spent her first five years in the new, stricter cloister she founded, in pious seclusion. She prayed, contemplated and wrote diligently, completing several works including her autobiography. In this she describes the famous ‘Ecstasy’  which has become the subject of several statues of her. She describes an angel who thrusts a spear into her heart, transporting her and filling her with the love of God. Her intense belief in this and numerous other thoughts and experiences has inspired generations of Catholics since. However, it is her belief in herself which inspires me. She was a woman who was totally unafraid of arguing her beliefs in a man’s world. She successfully defied her father to follow her heart into the cloister and once there defeated opposition after opposition to reform it and alter it forever. (alter, nun, get it?) She challenged the accepted system in her little corner of the world and won. 

Teresabernini

Ecstasy of St Teresa of Avila
By Napoleon Vier (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

There will be people reading this with all sorts of beliefs or none but, regardless of personal belief, I felt it worthwhile applauding a woman whose actions went far and above what was expected of women at the time. Women were expected to be meek, obedient and dutiful. This women was unafraid of speaking out and fighting for what she believed was right. She fought no wars but verbal, she shed no blood but her own and she was greedy for nothing but thought. There are battles being fought every day today in ways that rip apart families, tear open wounds, cause unimaginable hurt and all in the name of what someone believes is right. I hope that St Teresa can inspire you that whatever battle you are fighting today be peaceful. Fight with words not swords, cause no hurt to others and above all do not be afraid to speak your mind. Do not let the system beat you down. If you feel something is wrong stand up and speak. Lift your voice. Yes, maybe you will only change your little corner of the world, but if everyone stood up and changed their little corner of the world, well, the world would be a far lovelier place. 

And if St Teresa can’t help you with any of that, remember that she is also the Patron Saint of Headaches so give her a thought if you feel a twinge. You never know…  

Wien Peterskirche Figur Theresia

St Teresa of Avila
Andreas Praefcke (Own work (own photograph)) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


© Isla Robertson 2017