My dear sisters,

Since the past five centuries, the legacy of St. Teresa of Avila has been passed on to generation after generation. The fragrance of the spirituality of St. Teresa has attracted millions to the Garden of Carmel. Her deep interiority has made her a unique personality in spiritual life in the East as well as in the West. She was contemplatively active and actively contemplative. Her undaunted courage, far-sighted vision, deep sense of mission, love and loyalty to the Catholic Church, consciousness of the social reformation, Eucharist-centered life, and above all her prophetic action through experience of the Paschal Mystery, made St. Teresa an incomparable saint for the contemporary world. Her voluminous writings were the overflow of her deep experiences of God. Charged with the divine power, she opened her arms to the world outside, in love and compassion. Her experience of God was manifested as expressions of her deep life of faith which in turn made a pathway for those striving for perfection.

In the month of October we celebrate the feast of two admirable, inspiring, and most lovable Carmelite saints – namely, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila. In the Apostolic Carmel they are taken as the patroness of the Junior Sisters and patroness of the Professed Sisters respectively. What do they have in common? Both are women, both are in the class of the few women Doctors of the Church, both were great contemplatives, both were Carmelite nuns, but most importantly, both were and are and will be for all eternity great lovers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ in the context of the Sermon on the Mount exhorts us: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.” (Mt. 5:48) Being holy, arriving at sanctity of life, is not conditional, wishful thinking nor something that only a select group is called to, but all of us. Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata challenges us with these stirring words: “Holiness is not the privilege of a few, but the duty of all.” As we celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila let us reflect on the great contributions she has made to the Catholic Church and to each one of us, and try to emulate her life of holiness in our day today life.

Prayer: One of the key hallmarks of the spiritual heights of Saint Teresa of Avila is the importance she gave to prayer. Even though she struggled for many years she teaches us this basic but indispensable spiritual truth “We must have a determined determination never to give up prayer.” St. Teresa insists that we must never give up our prayer. She rightly said, “What air is to the lungs so is prayer to the soul.” Healthy lungs need constant and pure air; healthy soul must be constantly breathing in through prayer - the oxygen of the soul! According to St. Teresa, the renewal of both religious life and the life of the Church, will be possible only through each individual religious’ fidelity to spiritual life and personal prayer – a type of prayer that favours individual to personal relationship with Christ in loyalty and fidelity. So renewal in us and among us will be possible through a revival in personal prayer. How can we take help to become persons of prayer from the directives of St. Teresa of Avila? Teresa teaches us how to practise the Prayer of Recollection and asks us to be faithful to it as a preparatory step in attaining mystical contemplation. She explains – think of Jesus present within, relate with the Indwelling Presence and meditate on the Gospel events making use of the imagination. All are called to attain the mystical contemplation, for it is the flowering of the baptismal grace. If one does not attain the prayer of spiritual marriage the fault lies not with God but with us. The practice of three basic virtues – Humility, Detachment and Charity are the fundamental requirements to receive the gift of prayer. St. Teresa says that the community is the place where these virtues of charity, detachment and humility will be practised.

Definition of Prayer: St. Teresa of Avila gives us one of the classical definitions of prayer in the history of Catholicism. “Prayer is nothing more than spending a long time alone with the One I know loves me.” Two friends loving each other! Jesus Himself called the Apostles friends—so I am called to be a friend with Jesus!
Love for Jesus and His suffering: St. Teresa found many graces by meditating upon the Humanity of Jesus. By spending time with Jesus, the Son of God made man and entering into colloquy with Him she grew in prayer. St. Teresa once had a mystical experience of the “Ecce Homo”; she saw Jesus with His crowned Head and this moved her to a greater love for Jesus and through this she had a total conversion, a total transformation of her life.

Holy Spirit - The Divine Teacher of Prayer: On one occasion St. Teresa was really struggling with prayer and she talked to a Jesuit priest for advice on overcoming her struggle. His advice was simple and to the point, but changed her life! The priest

insisted on praying to the Holy Spirit. From that point on, she followed his great advice to rely on the Holy Spirit and her prayer life improved remarkably! Let us be led by the best of all teachers, the Interior Master of prayer - The Holy Spirit. He will guide us and take us closer to God.

Spiritual Direction: According to St. Teresa, to attain constant growth in the spiritual life, we must have some form of spiritual direction. During the course of her life, Saint Teresa of Avila had recourse to several spiritual directors and some of these are now canonized saints. They were St. John of the Cross (Carmelite), Saint Francis Borgia (Jesuit), Saint Peter of Alcantara (Franciscan), and finally, Jerome Gracian - a well known Dominican scholar and theologian. It is true that all of us cannot have three canonized saints or a brilliant theologian to guide us, but we must find some form of periodic spiritual direction.

Conversion and Reform: A major highlight in the life of St. Teresa of Avila was the concept of conversion and reform. With Saint John of the Cross, she was instrumental to reform the Carmelite Order. However, Teresa was keenly aware of this truth: to convert others we must start with ourselves - this she worked on during the whole course of her life on earth! May we constantly strive for a deeper conversion of heart through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila.
Spiritual Masterpieces - Her Writings: One of the major contributions to the Church as well as to the entire world are her writings. Anybody who takes her prayer life seriously should know of Teresa’s writings and spend some time in reading some of her writings. They are: “Her life”, “The Way of Perfection”, “The Interior Castle”, and “The Foundations”. In addition to these, she also wrote many inspiring letters. Let us read and drink from the writings of the saints and strive for holiness of life.

The Cross as the Bridge to Heaven: Jesus said: “Anyone who wants to be my follower must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Another common denominator in the lives of the saints is the reality of the cross. St. Teresa of Avila lived always with the cross of Jesus. Her health was always very fragile; she almost died while very young. Furthermore, St. Teresa of Avila suffered much to carry out the Reform of the Carmelites. She suffered constant attacks and persecutions from many nuns in the convent who preferred a more comfortable lifestyle, from priests (Carmelites) and from other ecclesiastics. Instead of becoming discouraged and losing heart, she joyfully trusted in the Lord all the more. Let us always remember to embrace the crosses the Lord sends our way and accept them with resignation to God’s Holy Will.

Our Lady and St. Joseph: During the whole course of her religious life, St. Teresa of Avila loved the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her devotion was to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As an external sign of consecration to Mary, let us remember to wear her Scapular everyday. Furthermore, St. Teresa of Avila cultivated a tender and filial love to Saint Joseph. She attributed her recovery from her sickness to the powerful intercession of Saint Joseph. As a gesture of gratitude she gave every new convent that she established the name of Saint Joseph!

May this great woman Doctor of the Church, the Doctor of prayer, St. Teresa of Avila, be a constant inspiration to us in our own spiritual pilgrimage to heaven. May she encourage us to pray more and with greater depth, arrive at a deeper conversion of heart, and finally love Jesus as the very center and well-spring of our life!
I take this opportunity to wish each one of you, dear sisters, a very happy feast of our patron saint, St. Teresa of Avila. All the sisters at the Provincial House join me in greeting each one of you on this occasion. May our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Avila intercede for each one of us that the Lord may grant us the gift of prayer, union with Him and draw us into His embrace.

Yours affectionately

(Sister M. Carmel Rita A.C.)
Provincial Superior

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