01 October 2005

That Other Theresa

Today, as mentioned by many in the blogosphere, is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. When I was 15, I developed a slight grudge against the Little Flower. Before you start filling the comment box with reasons why she is wonderful, let me explain myself.

When I was about 13, I read a biography of St. Teresa of Avila. I fell in love. Not quite to the extent that I had fallen in love with St. Dominic when reading his biography three years earlier, but that's another story. St. Teresa was an amazing person. She reformed her order, she wrote fanstastic books that I only barely comprehend, and yet, by most accounts, was a pretty down-to-earth person. My heroine. Two years later, I decided that my confirmation name would be Teresa.

Everyone to whom I announced that my confirmation name was to be Teresa asked, "Oh, after Therese of Lisieux?" or said, "The Little Flower is so wonderful!" No, no, I shook my head. Not Therese of Lisieux. Teresa of Avila! Some replied, "Oh, well, that's nice." Others asked who Teresa of Avila was. Therese of Lisieux is a very popular saint in these times. Her message is easy to grasp, she lived not so long ago, and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997, just three years before I was confirmed. Teresa of Avila, on the other hand, lived more than 500 years ago, and was made a Doctor of the Church in 1970. Her books are difficult to read (I've never finished reading the Interior Castle, and I'm generally considered to be smart), and less acessible than Therese's.

Still, the assumption by everyone that I was taking Therese of Lisieux as my patroness, and even more the total ignorance of some of the existence of Teresa of Avila, annoyed and upset me. ("I took French! If I'd wanted to name myself after a French saint, I would have used the French form of the name!") And so, I came to bear a little grudge against Therese, for overshadowing my beloved Teresa. But I am older now, and like to think myself wiser and above such petty things. So, I offer my apology to St. Therese. Though you did not touch my heart in the same way as your older sister in Carmel, I love you in my own way.

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