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St. Teresa of Avila and the fearful Catholic

Fear is antithetical to the Catholic heart, as is retreating into seclusion out of fear. Ours is a boldly incarnational faith with an attitude of universal togetherness, and the secular agenda at large is one of fearful de-incarnation and isolation. Say what you will about COVID-19, much of this dehumanizing fear and politicized separation is anti-Catholic and undermining our freedom in a palpable, even perverse, way. But in October—the very month in which Americans “celebrate” fear—Catholics celebrate the life of a saint that showed us how to be fearless in togetherness with Christ and His Mystical Body.

Though many Catholics struggle with anxiety—whether COVID induced or otherwise—Catholicism should be a cure for anxiety. If Christ taught us anything, it was that we should not be afraid, and that those plights which we fear, are actually occasions for beatitude. Holiness is a kind of happiness, therefore, and good cheer is the strongest sign of saintliness. As one of the merriest and wittiest saints in the calendar used to say, “God defend me from gloomy saints,” and we might paraphrase, “God defend us from fearful Catholics.” For all her heavenly humor, even Saint Teresa of Ávila had to conquer the gloom of fear.

Teresa was a cheeky girl born in Ávila, Spain in 1515 to a romantic mother and a rigid father. When her mother died, fourteen-year-old Teresa was sent to an Augustinian convent, where she became very ill. With her recovery came a new sickness, however: the sickness of fear—fear for life’s wasted opportunities, fear in her folly and weakness, fear of everlasting damnation. Consumed with fear, Teresa vowed to live a life of strict penance, and though the prospect distressed her sorely, she ran away from home to join the Carmelites.

The Carmelite Order was founded upon poverty and austerity, but in 16th century Spain it had become more like a club for single ladies, complete with a social life, fashionable pursuits, and pleasure trips. Teresa, with her quick wit, became popular among the sisters and, with easy living, effectively distracted herself from her anxiety.

Read more at Catholic World Report

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