Awed by a saint - Catholic Courier

Awed by a saint

I remember the wonder I felt in college, as my classmates and I gathered around a relic of St. Teresa of Ávila at a convent built on her birthplace in Ávila, Spain.

The relic was one of her fingers; though leathery looking, it was still recognizable as a finger, despite being more than 400 years old. Ever since then, I have been fascinated with St. Teresa of Ávila, whose feast day is Oct. 15.

As a child, St. Teresa yearned to go to heaven and briefly ran away from home to become a martyr. When her mother died when she was 12, she adopted the Virgin Mary as her mother figure. She lived for a while in an Augustinian monastery and entered a Carmelite monastery at 20, taking the name St. Teresa of Jesus. Later, seeking asceticism, she founded the Discalced (barefoot) Carmelites, of which there is a convent located in Pittsford.

Her mystical visions inspired her writings, including the autobiographical The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle and Way of Perfection.

St. Teresa of Ávila died in 1582 and was canonized in 1622. In 1970, she was the first woman named a doctor of the Catholic Church.

"She teaches us truly to feel this thirst for God that exists in the depths of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with him and to be his friends," Pope Benedict XVI said of the saint in 2011.

If you sample St. Teresa’s spiritually rich writings, you also may want to try out yemas, which are the traditional pastry of Ávila. They weren’t my favorite Spanish confections, since they tasted exactly like their ingredients, egg yolks and sugar, but when in Ávila, it’s a treat to eat as los abulenses do.

(left) This statue of St. Teresa is located in Ávila. (right) On the day I visited Ávila, there was a religious procession which featured St. Teresa’s statue. You can see the medieval stone walls that surround Avila in the background.

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