Yesterday was a BIG DEAL in the Palanza household. Mama Palanza, OCDS of over 25 years, suspended the painfully low carb diet that my ever pudgy, Italian family agreed to follow. It only took a couple of deliciously glutenous, thin crust pizzas from Bertucci’s to make our celebration feel like one of the most important, joyful days we’ve ever had. Yesterday, an important member of our family had a birthday – a milestone birthday that most families never get to celebrate – a Quincentenary birthday!
Yesterday was the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila). That’s not actually a member of our family, you might say. Well, I suppose that’s technically true. Yet, thanks to my mother’s charism, Teresa really is the source of the way my siblings and I pray, she’s the one who gave us our spiritual goals, she taught us how important humility is, and she challenges us to become closer and closer to Christ – despite and especially when we think we are close enough. How many “members” of our family have that kind of influence on us? And if that isn’t proof enough that she’s part of the family, then just do a count of who has the most pictures up in the house!
You can find all kinds of information on Teresa from a simple Google search so I’ll just highlight two things here. First, Teresa was named the first female Doctor of the Church by Paul 6th in 1970 (yeah, it took that long). When you start reading Teresa, be sure you do so with that fact in mind. You are about to read something written by a DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH (something of the same level as Augustine or Thomas Aquinas). You are not about to read a short devotional book of comforting advice and pretty poetry written by a sweet, old nun. You will be incredibly disappointed, frustrated, and perplexed if you expect to pick up the Interior Castle and get it the first time! Second, Teresa is well know for her reform movement in the Carmelite order. She had no intention of starting a separate group, she just wanted to live closer to what the original Carmelite rule laid out: live simply, pray a lot. Not everyone was okay with Teresa’s reform, so separate groups eventually formed. O. Carm. is the shorthand of the original group (Order of Carmelites), O.C.D. is the shorthand for the group that Teresa spearheaded (Order of Carmelites Discalced, “discalced” means “shoeless”). O.C.D.S. is the shorthand for Mama Palanza’s group, which is the secular part of Teresa’s group (Order of Carmelites, Discalced, Secular – lay people with families who live out Teresa’s lifestyle as their situation in life allows).
To finish, here’s a passage from the Office of Readings for Teresa’s Memorial. FELIZ CUMPLEANOS TERESA!
If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.
Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.
What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.
Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favours, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.