Happy Birthday St. Teresa of Avila!

teresa of avila francois gerardToday is the 500th birthday of St. Teresa of Avila (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582).

She is a great saint, reformer and Doctor of the Church.

Perhaps you readers could contribute your own favorite quotes of the quotable St. Teresa.

One of my favorite tidbits is how her feast day wound up where it did in October.

Teresa died in 1582 on the night that the Gregorian Calendar took over from the previous Julian Calender, which was off several days. With the implementation of the Gregorian calendar 5–14 October were skipped. So, Teresa died either on 4 October (if she died before midnight) or on 15 October (if she died after). Very often saints’ feasts are the day they died and were “born” into heaven. Teresa’s feast, in any event, is on 15 October… her other birthday.

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  1. oldconvert says:

    St Teresa has always reminded me of certain Ward Sisters (Americans call them Charge Nurses, I think) I encountered during my working life. I am sure she would have made an excellent one, a terror to her students but a rock for her patients. As to quotes, how about “May God preserve us from stupid nuns!”

  2. mysticalrose says:

    “Dear Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!”

  3. ejcmartin says:

    “Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
    no hands but yours,
    no feet but yours,
    Yours are the eyes through which to look out
    Christ’s compassion to the world
    Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
    doing good;
    Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
    My favourite saint.

  4. jmoran says:

    To other saints, our Lord seems to have given grace to succour men in some special necessity; but to this glorious Saint [Joseph], I know by experience to help us in all.

  5. DebbieInCT says:

    “Remember that you have only one soul;
    that you have only one death to die;
    that you have only one life,
    which is short and has to be lived by you alone;
    and there is only one glory, which is eternal.
    If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.”

    “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.”

  6. AlexandraNW says:

    Let nothing disturb thee,
    Let nothing affront thee,.
    All things are passing;
    God only is changeless.
    Patience gains all things.
    Who hath God wanteth nothing —
    God alone sufficeth.
    “St. Teresa’s book mark”

  7. Elizabeth D says:

    Some favorite St Teresa quotes, paraphrased.

    But where was I? I have gotten away from the point I was making. (surely her most characteristic saying)

    When I was quite young we were told what a great thing it is to become a martyr, so my brother and I discussed how to accomplish this. We decided to run away to the Moors and there beg them, for the love of God, to cut our heads off. We did not succeed very well; having parents was the greatest obstacle.

    You cannot imagine the great beauty and dignity of the soul (because made in the image of God)… the soul in a state of grace is nothing but a heaven for God to dwell in.

    Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends, it means taking time frequently to be alone with him whom we know loves us.”

    The person who prays must do so with a very determined determination.

    Do not be womanish, my sisters. In this house you must be like strong men.

    You should always think that you came to the monastery for no other reason than that everyone may try you and get on your nerves. (or this may have been St John of the Cross, can’t remember)

    God walks among the pots and pans.

    All (of the sisters) must be friends, all must be loved, all must he held dear, all must be helped.

    Each time you read this work, I ask that you praise His Majesty fervently, ask for an increase of the Church, and light for the Lutherans.

  8. louishacker says:

    “God save us from sour-faced saints!”

  9. acardnal says:

    Her birth name is Teresa Sanchez Cepeda y Ahumada

  10. Benedict Joseph says:

    It is said to be apocryphal, but there is that favorite from her journey to Burgos, with the collapse of the covered wagon into the river during a fierce storm, “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.”
    Then there is, “All the way to Heaven is Heaven.”
    “Prayer is a simple conversation with God, as between friends.”
    Pardon inaccuracies.
    Oh dear Holy Mother, Saint Teresa of Jesus, how I wish you were here right now with your common sense and firm determination to offer a word of counsel to a Church beset by a fierce storm indeed.

  11. tonyfernandez says:

    One of my favorite quotes:

    “A prayer in which a person is not aware of whom he is speaking to, what he is asking, I do not call prayer however much the lips move. Sometimes it will be so without this reflection, provided that the soul has these reflections at other times. Nonetheless, anyone who has the habit of speaking before God’s majesty as though he were speaking to a slave, without being careful to see how he is speaking, but saying whatever comes to his head and whatever he has learned from saying at other times, in my opinion is not praying. Please God, may no Christian pray in this way.”

    Fear of the Lord.

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    Benedict Joseph wrote: “It is said to be apocryphal, but there is that favorite from her journey to Burgos, with the collapse of the covered wagon into the river during a fierce storm, “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.””

    I tried pretty hard one time to find any source for that quote either in her writings or early biographical sources and did not find any source for it. I continue to wonder where it started but I would agree it may be apocryphal even though its effectiveness is in capturing so much about St Teresa’s adventurous life and personality. However there is an obvious connection with a well known authentic quote: “God has so few friends, let us be good ones.” I THINK that is from The Way of Perfection. In light of that genuine quote, the joke about “no wonder you have so few of them” takes on another shade of amusing, and seems obviously inspired by that.

  13. APX says:

    “Do not be womanish, my sisters. In this house you must be like strong men.”

    I never did understand what this actually means.

  14. shin says:

    ‘We are preparing ourselves for the time, which will come very soon, when we shall find ourselves at the end of our journey and shall be drinking of living water from the fountain I have described. Unless we make a total surrender of our will to the Lord, and put ourselves in His hands so that He may do in all things what is best for us in accordance with His will, He will never allow us to drink of it.’

    St. Teresa of Jesus

    Inspirational Quotes from the Saints

  15. Father G says:

    “I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and he will see by experience what great advantages come from his commending himself to this glorious patriarch [Saint Joseph] and having devotion to him. ”

    The above quote is what I call “Saint Teresa’s challenge”. I took her up on her challenge 15 years ago and prayed to Saint Joseph for a very important intention, which was answered in a memorable way. It would take too long to write it here, but I share my testimony with people every year in the days leading up Saint Joseph’s feast day on March 19th.

    If you have an important intention, then go to Joseph.

  16. lmgilbert says:

    “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.”

    Thank you for this reminder, Debbie in CT. The quote you put up reminds me of a book title I saw decades ago: “Your God is Too Small.” Never, or almost never in the prayers of the faithful, have I heard anyone pray for, say, “The Conversion of Portland,” or “The Conversion of the United States to the Catholic Faith.” We pray, very typically, for “an increase in vocations.” Yet, it would take a very small number of vocations to answer that prayer. If the bishop ordained three men last year and four this year, that is “an incease in vocations.” I have never heard anyone pray, nor have I, for that matter, ” that the Lord will fill up our convents and schools with teaching sisters, that He will fill up our rectories with holy priests.” Heads would turn, would they not? Somehow, it is “too much.” Yet, we ought to consider the possibility that our prayers are not ambitious enough even to warrant an answer. In fact, following out the logic of St. Teresa’s remark, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him,” then it may be that our “prudent” and “sensible” prayers by which we ask too little Him are really almost a slap in the face. Is He not Almighty God, for whom nothing is impossible?

  17. Rachel Pineda says:

    Benedict Joseph “Oh dear Holy Mother, Saint Teresa of Jesus, how I wish you were here right now with your common sense and firm determination to offer a word of counsel to a Church beset by a fierce storm indeed.” She is here! More present them she was while on earth! I pray you find consolation and strength through her intercession! Me too :)

  18. Grumpy Beggar says:

    “Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”

    “One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer. “

    “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.”

    St Theresa of Avila

    The following text relating St. Theresa’s devotion to St. Joseph is taken from her autobiography and it leads directly up to the “challenge” she issues which Father G posted just above:

    “I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble [a temporary paralysis] and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succors us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth.”

    Saint Teresa of Avila

  19. StWinefride says:

    “To have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that”.

  20. DanielG says:

    “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.”

    This is quite often true.

  21. Elizabeth D says:

    APX wrote: ““Do not be womanish, my sisters. In this house you must be like strong men.” I never did understand what this actually means.”

    This is my paraphrase of something she said. Her meaning in context had to do with the asceticism of the Discalced Carmelite rule, she and probably others associated such “muscular” asceticism with men and specifically hermits. Her rule had the sisters fasting every day except Sunday from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Sept 14) to Easter Sunday, practicing silence throughout the day except during recreation, perpetual abstinence from flesh meat, strict poverty, strict cloister, etc. By “womanish” she meant an unfavorable stereotype of women loving comforts, making excuses, social diversion and cliques, etc. By “strong men” she meant firmness of will in asceticism in the service of their life of prayer and union with God.

    But mainly I just find it funny, and an antidote to feminist attempts to appropriate St Teresa as an “uppity woman” like they think they are.

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: “Christ has no hands” —

    It’s almost certainly not by St. Teresa. Americans usually attribute it either to St. Teresa or a German/English cathedral after WWII (urban legend, derived from something done in the 1980’s in San Diego). Spanish speakers usually attribute it to a 14th century German “Prayer of the Apostle”.

    Personally, I think it sounds modern as heck, and I’d be surprised if it weren’t circa 1981.

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Ha! It’s an old evangelical Gospel song, translated into Spanish and then translated back into non-rhyming English! Oh, this is rich! (I wondered why there were all those phrases about being the World’s Bible and the last Message, at least in Spanish versions.)

    The author is Annie Johnson Flint, 1866-1932. She wrote it as a poem, and it was turned into a song. All the other song versions are ripping her off without paying her heirs.


    Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;
    He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way;
    He has no tongue but our tongues to tell men how He died;
    He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.

    We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
    We are the sinner’s gospel, we are the scoffer’s creed;
    We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word;
    What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?

    What if our hands are busy with other work than His?
    What if our feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
    What if our tongues are speaking of things His lips would spurn?
    How can we hope to help Him and hasten His return?

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Actually, there are two popular versions of the quote. One is based on the Flint song, one is an older version based on statements by Mark Guy Pearse, Sarah Eliza Rowntree, and similar Quaker and Evangelical folks in the UK (which Flint apparently drew from, unless she got it from Lyman Abbott in the US). And then there are some wild and wacky social justice versions which still have the chutzpah to claim to be medieval.

    But none of them are St. Teresa de Avila.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Suburbanbanshee,

    I know of a Carmelite friar who has been trying to track down the source of this quote for a while. He checked the entire corpus of St. Teresa’s writing, but could find no sign of it. Kudos for finding the likely source. I shall pass on your information to him.

    The Chicken

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