Oct 15 – Memorial for St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor
Also known as Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582) was born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at ‘hermit’ in the garden.
Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well-educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St. Joseph. Her mother died when she was 12, and Teresa prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry into religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.
Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including St. Francis Borgia, who pronounced her visions to be holy and true.
She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of St. John of Avila. She founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. She was a mystical writer, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is known for ‘holy wit’.
“God, deliver me from sullen saints.” – St. Teresa of Avila
- Patron Saint Index
I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith – Jews first, but Greeks as well – since this is what reveals the justice of God to us: it shows how faith leads to faith, or as scripture says: The upright man finds life through faith.
The anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all the impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness. For what can be known about God is perfectly plain to them since God himself has made it plain. Ever since God created the world his everlasting power and deity – however invisible – have been there for the mind to see in the things he has made. That is why such people are without excuse: they knew God and yet refused to honour him as God or to thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened. The more they called themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew, until they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation, for the image of mortal man, of birds, of quadrupeds and reptiles. That is why God left them to their filthy enjoyments and the practices with which they dishonour their own bodies, since they have given up divine truth for a lie and have worshipped and served creatures instead of the creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen!
Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’
Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you
I admit — I am not the most delicate of eaters. I tend to rush my meals because of an irrational fear that someone in a bear suit will appear out of nowhere, grab my lunch and run away leaving me hungry. Thus my on-going therapy, and the unnecessary gobbling down of my meals, all of which results in me habitually leaving unfortunate food stains on my shirt. (Ewww!)
Some time ago, while praying through the Office of Readings, I came across something interesting St. Francis of Assisi wrote. He said, “Give alms because they purify our souls from the stain of sin.” I found the expression ‘stain of sin’ to be provoking. Obviously, St. Francis did not mean that forgiveness of sin is earned by doing good works such as almsgiving. Forgiveness comes through grace by the cross, made accessible by the sacrament of reconciliation. However, the ‘stain’ that is left by the sin is another matter.
What are stains? Well, a stain is basically a discoloration that can be seen in contrast to the surface it is on. Stains are caused by a physical or chemical interaction between two dissimilar materials, or in my case, dropping the overly-oily pork belly on my clean white shirt. Despite my frantic removal of the pork belly, a stain ensues, a mark is left — damming evidence of my general motor-skills and paranoia towards imaginary pouncing sports mascots.
I find that to be true in my spiritual life. Sins that I have committed leave stains, a lingering after-effect. The effects of sin are not confined to a singular event; they leave impressions on our souls in ways that leaves us susceptible to future temptations. There seems to be a spiritual-chemical reaction that leaves a discoloration on our moral fabric. Most of the time, even having removed the pork belly of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I find myself returning back to my old patterns. Even though the sin and the guilt of sin is removed, there is often still a lingering blemish on my soul.
Enter the Francis Stain-Removal System® — Alms-giving. The good Saint Francis advises sinners like myself to rub a little almsgiving on the stain of sin and letting it sit overnight before washing.
Why? What is it about the practice of Almsgiving that dissolves the stains of sin? There are at least 4 reasons I discern:
- Almsgiving strikes at the root of most sins — self-centeredness.
- Almsgiving helps turn our eyes and align our hearts to what is important to God’s heart — the poor.
- Almsgiving helps us to appreciate what we have received from God and so share with others out of gratitude.
- Almsgiving opens our hearts to experience the fulfilling joy that comes from generosity, at the expanse of the fleeting happiness that comes from sin as well as our selfishness that leaves us empty.
Essentially what Almsgiving does, if done sincerely, is to incline our wills to love — loving God, loving others and loving ourselves. Generosity, spiritual poverty, fulfilling joy and gratefulness are all very effective solvents on our moral fabric and strengthens our conscience against sin by inclining it towards good. The outward act of Almsgiving strengthens our inner will to choose good over evil, generosity over selfishness, others over ourselves, joy over emptiness. This removes the stain of sin and helps restore the true hues of our souls, made in the image of God.
So the next time you face temptations or have given in to it, take the advice of the guy wearing the hooded brown lab coat and rub some Almsgiving on the stain of sin. And please, do yourself a favor and keep your pork on your fork.
(Today’s Oxygen by Leonard Koh)
Prayer: Lord, incline my heart and strengthen my will to choose love over selfishness. May my practice of meeting the needs of the poor align my heart with yours.
Thanksgiving: That my victory against sin comes from my confidence in the superior happiness in what You promise to be for me in Christ.