I’ve found another “wing man” for my journey.
Big Tess is going with me. Big Tess, whom my DF calls “Big Theresa,” and is otherwise known as St. Teresa of Avila.
If you read about my man with superpowers, you may have an idea of the type of person I’m looking for and Big Tess fits the bill
She was born in Avila, Spain on March 28, 1515. When she was a child, she convinced her older brother to run off with her to the “land of the Moors” where they could sacrifice themselves for God. Their uncle found them before they even got out of town and sent them home. Some people see this as an indicator of her early devotion to God. However, I agree with those who think it shows her ability to get into trouble.
She was a typical teenager who loved to read romance novels just like her mother. Her teenage focus was not on God but on boys, clothes, and flirting. Her Dad, who was pretty strict with the ten kids and with his own wife, got fed up and sent her to the local nunnery. At first, Teresa didn’t like it, but soon realized that the convent wasn’t as strict as her Dad had been!
She got very sick with what appears to have been malaria and spent years recovering. She stopped praying! Can you imagine a saint who stops praying? She got stuck and just couldn’t do it. She said she often died a thousand deaths waiting for prayer time to end so she could get back to better things.
Sorry, but that’s no way for a saint to talk. But, it does make her rather interesting.
She says she finally got back into praying but it was “definitely not easy.” And she decided that the life in the convent, which sounds more like a 1950’s sorority house than a convent, was way off course for her. In those days, the more you could bring to the convent, in the form of riches and influence, the more you were liked at the convent. Men came by, nuns wore jewelry, etc.
Can you spell Reformation?
She decided to bring an end to all that. And, boy, did that make the townspeople mad! They threatened her, denounced her. And this was going on during the Spanish Inquisition, so don’t think she didn’t have a run-in or two with those guys. “A restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as if she was a professor” is how one adversary described her.
“May God protect me from gloomy saints,” was her answer to those who felt her proposed way of living – based on poverty and prayer – was too far out for a religious life. But she also realized that this brush up was good publicity for her new religious order, the new and improved Carmelites. People read her writing and heard about her and soon she had women lining up at the door to join her.
She wrote alot and some of her greatest books includes her autobiography (The Life of Teresa of Jesus), El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle), and the Camino de Perfection (The Way of Perfection) http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/way.titlepage.html.
The story goes that she was once riding a donkey to a town where she was starting a new convent and the donkey threw her off, getting her clothing all dirty and giving her some lumps and bumps. She got up, dusting off the dirt and complained to God. God jokingly answered, ‘That’s how I treat my friends.” “No wonder you have so few,” she responded.
One of the convents she started is in Burgos, a large city in northern Spain. I will be passing right through Burgos on the Camino and had intended to stay there an extra night because it has one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Spain. I wonder if I can track down Tess’ convent?
After starting the convent in Burgos, she continued her journey to Alba de Tormes, where she got sick and died on October 4, 1582. She was canonized soon after her death but was not made a Doctor of the Church until 1970, along with St Catherine of Siena – I believe they are the only two women Doctors of the Church.
I think Big Tess will be good to have along. She isn’t a barrel of laughs, but she seems practical and confident. She believed that, if you did something wrong, don’t punish yourself – change! She wrote that the best prayer is prayer which leads to action. She knows it can be difficult to pray and will have my back.
What would she look like on the road with me? Maybe something like this:
I can use someone like that.