This month, on October 15, the Church will begin a yearlong celebration of St. Teresa of Ávila’s five-hundredth birthday, and we want to join in the celebration.
I’ve always considered Teresa to be one of our greatest saints. Along with a few other figures—John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, and Jeanne de Chantal, for instance—Teresa’s life and teachings showed everyday Catholics that they can experience God in deep, life-changing ways. She was convinced that a personal relationship with the Lord was not the privilege of a chosen few; it was available to everyone!
Experiencing God personally was instrumental in my own conversion forty-three years ago. Up to that point, I was focused on becoming a professional golfer. I would practice every day after school, and I would be on the golf course for as many as twelve hours each day during the summer.
But all that changed when I had a powerful experience of God’s presence. I saw who he was. I felt his love and power filling my heart. I realized that he was my Savior. And my life changed overnight. Now, so many years later, I still look at this experience as the best thing that ever happened to me.
That’s why I enjoy reading Teresa’s books. I see that what happened to me is similar to what happened to her and to other spiritual pioneers like her. They continue to help me understand what God is doing in my heart, and I know they will help you as well.
Watering Your Garden. A common theme in Teresa’s writings is her teaching that our lives are like a garden. The more the garden is watered by the grace of God, the more we will grow and bear fruit. Teresa used different watering methods—a bucket, an aqueduct, a river, and rain—to describe the different phases in prayer that we can experience. As you move from one phase to the next, you find that you are doing less and less work; you are learning how to receive God’s grace simply, and with an open heart.
Of course, we have to practice our faith. But as our relationship with Jesus grows, we learn how to step into his river of grace. We discover that his grace is constantly raining down on us. And that discovery fills us with confidence and sends us out to tell people about how much God can do in their lives.
We are fortunate to have Fr. Leopold Glueckert, O.Carm., as our guest writer this month. Fr. Leo is a lifelong teacher who is well versed in the stories of Carmelites like Teresa and John of the Cross. I hope his articles help you get to know Teresa of Ávila better. I hope they help you slay the “dragons” that seek to undermine your relationship with the Lord. Finally, I hope that Fr. Leo’s insights into Teresa—and Teresa’s insights into the spiritual life—will help all of us draw closer to the Lord so that he can water our gardens more and more fully.
Joe Difato, Publisher | Email the Publisher at [email protected]