Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Every saint is born a sinner. When Teresa of Avila joined the Carmelites, she was not a particularly pious or prayerful girl, but did what was common of young women in her time for social and economic reasons. You would never know to look at young Sister Teresa that she would one day have ecstatic union with God in prayer. She was vain, she gossiped, and when she did pray, there was little depth. Even a near-death experience did not shake her at first–in fact, for a while she prayed even less after that. But eventually, a priest convinced her to renew her commitment to the spiritual life, and God took her commitment and made her into one of the most profound spiritual writers Christianity has ever known.
In the readings for St. Teresa’s feast, St. Paul speaks of creation “groaning in labor pains” awaiting salvation, while Jesus speaks of the disciples being pruned by the Father. Both of these images speak of something gradual. Moreover, the beginning stages of these processes are a lot less pretty than the end. I remember praying with the passage from John when I was at the end of my teaching assignment in Tampa–the very morning of the last graduation I went to as a teacher there–and compared how I finished with how I began. Sure enough, without even realizing it (and sometimes against my will), God had pruned me through my time and experiences there, and continues to do so. In committing ourselves to God and the situations we find ourselves in, we allow ourselves to be pruned by God. None of us were born as holy as St. Teresa–but then again, neither was St. Teresa.