minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Theresa of Avila

One of the great Catholic Mystics was Theresa of Avila or Theresa of Jesus. Born in Spain in the year 1515, she was born into a time of great change. 28 years before her birth the New World was discovered by Christopher Columbus, two years after her birth, Martin Luther would post his 95 Theses which would begin the Reformation and 28 years after her birth, Copernicus would publish his work on the Heliocentric model of the Solar System.

With so much going on in the world it’s probably not so strange that the interior life and contemplation would take a stand. While Theresa was not the only Mystic during this time, it may be fair to say that she is the most popular. Her work The Interior Castle is considered a classic of the Spanish Renaissance as well as an essential read for those interested in the contemplative and mystical experience.

What may have been the very first consideration for re-thinking the Catholic Church in my life was the discovery of the Catholic Mystics. Their experience with Christ, went far beyond the concept of a mere personal relationship. It stood, and even expected the times of darkness, suffering and spiritual dryness; seeing these as essential to the developement of the spiritual life which sought union with God.

It is noteworthy that we have another example of a woman in the church who makes a difference. Contrary to popular opinion about the Middle Ages or religion being patriarchal, Theresa takes her place along with many great Catholic women through the ages. She is a reformer, a doctor of the church, a mystic and writer of several books including an autobiography. She was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory the XV and is the patron of bodily ills; headaches; chess; lacemakers; laceworkers; loss of parents; people in need of grace; people in religious orders; people ridiculed for their piety; Pozega, Croatia; sick people; sickness and Spain.

“One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that
is prayer. ”

St. Theresa of Avila

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