Tag Archives: Spain

St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin, Religious, Doctor of the Church

October 9, 2020


St. Teresa of Jesus was born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515, one of twelve children in a faith-filled home. At age seven she read the lives of the saints and was so inspired by the martyrs that she and her brother Rodrigo began walking south toward the Moors hoping to gain instant access to heaven. They were intercepted on their way by their uncle and returned home.

Young Teresa’s religious fervor cooled during her adolescence. She read racy novels, became preoccupied with her appearance, and used perfume. She later admitted that she was more interested in boys than religion.

St. Teresa of Jesus

“St. Teresa of Jesus.” Museum Teresa de Jesus en Alba. Alba de Tormes, Spain.

Her spiritual life got back on course when she read the letters of St. Jerome and shortly thereafter experienced the call to be a religious sister. She entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in Avila in 1535 and made her first profession of vows in 1537. The next year she came down with a serious illness that persisted for two years followed by partial paralysis for another. The doctors had given up on her. She turned to prayer and recovered.

The convent in Avila was affluent and the nuns enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. It was close to town, the sisters received many guests, and they were caught up in the ways of the world. St. Teresa was a good nun during her initial years in the convent, but when she was older, she described the period as spiritually mediocre.

She went through a dramatic conversion which began in 1554. She prayed before a crucifix and later wrote, “When I looked at Christ hanging poor and naked on the Cross, I felt I could never bear to be rich.” The next year she read the Confessions of St. Augustine and resolved to dedicate the rest of her life to prayer. The same year her mystical experiences began. There were divine revelations from God. She received visions from St. Mary Magdalene and St. Augustine, both who showed her the miserable place in hell that was reserved for her. She had other moments of rapture and ecstasy. The mystical experiences went for six years until 1560.

Fearing hell for herself, she set out to save her soul, as well as the souls of her fellow Carmelites. She returned to the full observance of the Carmelite rule, a strict cloister, more prayer and contemplation, penitential practices, and rigorous austerity. There were 140 nuns in the convent. Many doubted her visions and ridiculed her. Most were content with their pleasant life and bitterly opposed her reform movement. It caused a deep rift and two divergent branches emerged within the community, the non-reformed, relaxed, or Calced Carmelites, those with shoes, and the “the Strict Observance,” the Discalced Carmelites, those without shoes.

St. Teresa founded a new convent in 1562. Thirteen other nuns joined her. She founded sixteen other convents from 1562 to 1576. In 1568 she helped St. John of the Cross found a community of Discalced Carmelites for men. She wrote three spiritual masterpieces: The Life her autobiography and a treatise on mystical prayer, The Way of Perfection on mystical theology, and The Interior Castle, a metaphorical description of the seven stages of spiritual growth.

St. Teresa died on October 4, 1582 in Alba de Tormes, Spain, at the age of 67. She was canonized a saint in 1622 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. She is the patron saint of Spain and Croatia and headache sufferers. Her symbols are a book and a quill pen because of her writings and a flaming arrow in a heart because she said, “God’s love is like a lance driven into the heart.”

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A period piece you’ll relish reading

August 20, 2014

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The Time In BetweenDo you savor good writing?

The slow-moving action of “The Time In Between” perfectly fits this lengthy, detail-filled novel. It lets you soak up the lovely writing and the exquisite translation from the original Spanish into beautiful English.

It lets you absorb the tenor of the times and the emotions of characters into whose lives you’ve been dropped for 600-plus pages.

Hemingway and others have written about the Spanish civil war, of course, but Maria Duenas decorates with ornamentation, flavor and the style of the period in contrast to the straightforward, unadorned sentences of Hemingway.

Fashionistas will appreciate the detail Duenas shares as she portrays the life of the seamstress turned spy in the chaotic 1930s as Spaniards moved from their own tragic war into observers of World War II all around them.

There’s drama, mystery, romance and unexpected turns of events — all the pieces that drive readers to keep turning pages. People even pray and go to church, something rare for modern literature.

Hats off to Daniel Hahn for bringing this 2009 novel to readers of the English language. Only once did I feel as though he’d missed the mark.

Just as I was admiring the beauty of the translation, he has an old Moroccan woman threatening the suitor of the main seamstress character sounding like a thug straight from the streets of south Philadelphia. Just had to laugh.

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Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez made a great movie in ‘The Way’

September 14, 2011

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Catholics won’t want to miss this very spiritual film

Martin Sheen fans will have yet another reason to value this actor who happens to be Catholic when they see “The Way.”

The premier is set for Oct. 7 in New York City — ironically — because Emilio Estevez, the writer/director, is quick to say that the movie is for people who live between Manhattan and Glendale, California. He said that, as he pitched this movie about a pilgrimage to movie industry execs in both New York and Hollywood, he could see their eyes glaze over. They’re not interested in making movies for thinking people, preferring films with nudity and things blowing up.

“They call this fly-over country,” Estevez said during a promotional stop in the Twin Cities. “I call it the United States.”

“The Way” is terrific, a great story superbly told and acted, with great scenery, with touching drama, with verbal and visual humor, with clever casting, with crisp, believable, thought-provoking dialogue, perfect soundtrack, characters you want to know better — the whole enchilada of what makes a satisfying evening before the big screen. Catch the trailer.

Here’s the gist of it: Sheen plays a curmudgeon of a California country club ophthalmologist who doesn’t approve of his adult son going off to see the world. There’s a poignant scene at the start when Sheen is driving his son to the airport and Sheen’s character, Tom Avery, is defending the life he’s chosen. Son Daniel, played by Estevez (Sheen’s real-life son), responds, “You don’t choose a life, dad. You live it.” That’s what this movie is about, although of course it’s much more complex and fulfilling than that.

The way of the film’s title is the Camino de Santiago, the thousand-year-old pilgrimage route from southern France through the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Blessings are said to come to those who complete the journey to where tradition holds the remains of the Apostle James (Santiago in Spanish) are preserved in the Cathedral of Santiago. Daniel Avery sets out to walk the 480 miles but dies in a storm shortly after starting. When father Tom comes to claim his body, he decides to complete the journey his estranged son started.

Journey as metaphor

What Tom Avery learns along the way about himself and the difference between a life you choose and a life you live, makes for great movie watching. The reasons one walks the Camino — as played out by a wonderful cast — have a lot to say to everyone about our own journey through life and the approach we take on our journey: Do we walk it alone or do we jump in with others and accept both the rich rewards and the potential hurts?

Along with “The Help,” this new Sheen-Estevez vehicle could help Hollywood see that people are tired of the crap, to use Estevez’ word, that is on today’s movie screens. That there was something religious and spiritual about the movie he was pitching scared away agents and producers alike.

The reaction “The Way” is receiving as Sheen and Estevez make a 35-city bus tour to screen the movie before live audiences is telling them — and hopefully film executives — that this type of movie plays well to the majority of the country who don’t sit in filmdom’s isolated offices on the East or West Coast.

“The Way” will be in theaters around North America October 7. You won’t want to miss it.

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