This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15 -- Saint Teresa of Avila (again)

I don't repeat every saint, but some folks are worth two or more hits.  Teresa, about whom I wrote briefly last year, also gets a special feast for the Transverberation of Her Heart.  It coincides with the Feast of Blessed Roger Cadwallador, so I gave it scant attention in August, but today affords me another opportunity. 

Copy of a portrait in 1576 (age 61)
But first, a consideration of levels of sainthood.  In these posts, I have often referred to Doctors of the Church, folks who have been recognized as superior contributors to the development of the faith.  Among the various Christian churches that formally canonize saints, the lists of Doctors of the Church are not uniform.  The Eastern Orthodox Church might use the term, but it is informal, and no official list of Doctors exists.  The Assyrian Church of the East has four Doctors, but the Armenian Church has nineteen.  The Anglicans use "Teacher of the Faith" instead, and list thirty-one of them, including Teresa of Avila.  [You thought I'd forgotten about her, didn't you?]  The Lutherans don't use the term in the same sense, but as Martin Luther had a doctorate, they sometimes call him the Doctor of the Church.

Anyway, the Roman Catholic Church has thirty-three of them, though soon it will be thirty-four.  Of those, ten were proclaimed in the twentieth century, and none have been proclaimed in the twenty-first, though on August 20, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI  pre-announced John of Avila (no date set for the formal proclamation).  Of the thirty-three Doctors, three are women, viz. Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Therese of Lisieux.  [Wow!  As I looked for the links back, I realize that I missed Catherine of Siena last year.  That needs to be corrected.  If there are only three female Doctors in the RC, and only two in the C.of E., they need to be acknowledged.] 

Bernini's version of her Transverberation
Teresa found life in a convent to be a little too much like an early retirement home for wealthy widows; it lacked a sufficient amount of Sufferin' for Salvation.  She launched a whole new order, the Discalced  (shoeless) Carmelites.   There's way more reform to talk about,  but I'm eager to get to the Transverberation. 

A question had arisen about her mortifications of the flesh, including flagellation.  She was pretty hard on herself; some folks guessed this was demonically inspired.  She consulted her confessor, Saint Francis Borgia, who reassured her that the self-inflicted punishments were divine.  This was confirmed for her by a visit from a seraph who drove the golden point of a fiery lance repeatedly into her heart.  She described it this way: 

portrait by Francois Gerard
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it...

I think that anything I wrote here would be superfluous.  

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