Saint Teresa of Avila's Humanity
I am known to have the worst memory, and to be honest, I don’t exactly remember who my confirmation saint is. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to adopt St. Teresa of Avila. I heard of her story and I was so impressed with how real she was. She was a person who I can relate a lot to, and somehow, she still achieved sainthood.
In her teenage years, she became invested in worldly matters. She cared about what she wore and the jewelry she had. She was naturally a people person, so she would gossip and loved the attention it brought to her. She said, “In everything that gave them pleasure, I kept the conversation alive --- listened to the stories of their affections and childish follies, good for nothing.”
After listening to her early life, I thought maybe she was too harsh on herself. This may be bad of me to say, but isn’t it normal to do those things, especially when you’re a teenager? In middle school and high school, I didn’t have the best relationship with God. I knew he had died for us, but I didn’t have the deep understanding of him that I do now. I thought it was normal to want to have nice clothes and to wear the certain shoes that everyone else was wearing. I wanted to fit in, and I wanted to have as many friends as possible. This again may be sad to say, but I liked the attention as a child similar to St. Teresa. I liked being social. I still was confused about why she thought having lots of friends and enjoying their company was a bad thing. Later, St. Teresa revealed that she “became a reflection of her [friend] and of another who was given to the same kind of amusements.”
She realized that her friends weren’t helping her live a virtuous life. I’ve been in the same spot she’s been in. Sometimes you know that your friends’ actions aren’t the best, but you’ve grown up with them and they are all you know. It’s hard to tell those friends that you can’t be their friends anymore. Am I supposed to be there for my friends and help them get closer to God? Is it being selfish if I leave them?
Even though those St. Teresa’s friendships and amusements never caused her to commit a mortal sin, they still became a hindrance to holiness, tempting her and causing great distress to her soul.
The venial sins St. Teresa committed are now considered ‘innocent’ in the modern world. There have been moments in my head where I justify my actions because I see others doing the same things. The things that society makes you want to have and the things they tell you that you need to have in order to make you happy is almost always against what God tells you. The world tells us that we need money, power, and a certain look to be happy, when often, those things can leave us feeling empty.
St. Teresa was always worried about what others thought about her. She said, “I was so vain – I knew how to procure respect for myself by doing those things which in the world are usually regarded with respect.” I’ve found myself doing the same thing. Being raised in a Latino household meant I was always told to put my best foot forward. I grew up like this, and I became very independent. Not until about a year ago did I realize I needed to bring these walls down. I learned that vulnerability is good, and it can help create so many beautiful friendships. Part of me was scared that when I revealed certain things to people about myself, that they would think of me differently. I’ve learned to be okay with it. As long as I know I belong to God, then I shouldn’t care about what people around me think about me.
St. Teresa was a normal girl with struggles like you and me. She was drawn to a secular lifestyle in the beginning of her life, but somehow became a great saint. Above everything, she prioritized her relationship with God. One time as she had fallen into the mud, she screamed out to God saying, “If this is how you treat your friends… it’s no wonder you have so few of them!”
She struggled so many years with prayer that once she had found him, she didn’t waste time with a surface level relationship with him. She poured out her heart to God, trusting him in all things. She was honest with him and didn’t beat around the bush. This is one of the many things St. Teresa wants us to know about the true intimacy with God. We need to be willing to not only pour our sorrows and petitions to him, but also be willing to laugh with him. She brought her humanity to God, and He filled her with His love.
Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us!
Concha Campa is a freshman studying microbiology and mass media and communications at K-State. She enjoys making her friends laugh, a good cold brew and late night drives.