TERESA OF AVILA: LAUGHING WITH GOD
St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), also called Teresa of Jesus, is one of our greatest saints. Her feast day is October 15. She was a fascinating person, described as courageous, enthusiastic, impossible, affectionate and intelligent. She was practical, hard working and an energetic reformer, but she was also a mystic, experiencing visions and direct conversations with God. She believed joy was essential to holiness and banished other’s low spirits with impromptu dancing, lively conversation, singing and jokes.
Perhaps the best joke involving Teresa came some 400 years after her death. During her lifetime, Teresa had the terrifying experience of being examined by the Inquisition. An angry Papal Nuncio cried, “She is ambitious and teaches theology as though she were a Doctor of the Church!” In 1970, Teresa was declared a Doctor of the Church.
A story for children: Teresa’s story is so rich and complicated, it may be best to introduce her to children by two traits for which she was famous: her good humor and joy, truly gifts from God.
LAUGHING WITH GOD
Little Teresa and her brother Rodrigo read about people who lived in stone huts in the desert so they could pray all day. Wanting to love God like this, Teresa and Rodrigo went outside to build their own huts. But they couldn’t find enough stones, so they had to live in their house! Teresa would find other ways of doing God’s work in the world when she got older.
Teresa grew into a friendly, loving and beautiful young woman, full of energy and fun. She could dance, sing and tell jokes. She no longer thought about praying so much. Instead, she went to parties in pretty dresses. Everybody loved Teresa!
And so did God.
As she got older, Teresa realized how much she loved God. One day, looking at a picture of Jesus, she suddenly felt sad that she did not love God more than she did. She decided to live her life showing God her love. She prayed often and God gave her the gift of hearing God’s voice!
She also wanted to be God’s eyes, hands and feet in the world. She became a nun and traveled all over to set up good convents. She traveled in cold, heat and floods. Sometimes she ran out of food, most often she was uncomfortable. Still, she solved many problems, spoke with important people, and also wrote books and letters.
Yet she was still the same Teresa, full of laughter and fun. If the other sisters were gloomy or crabby, she started to dance and sing. Soon everyone felt better.
Teresa made great jokes too. At least once, she even joked with God! Teresa was traveling in a donkey cart. It turned over and Teresa fell out—into the mud. She was frustrated, but she heard God say, “That is how I treat all my friends.” Teresa answered, “No wonder you have so few friends!”
Oh, how God must love Teresa!
MAKE ST. TERESA’S “INTO THE MUD” COOKIES:
You will need:
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
- ¼ cup softened cream cheese.
- Nuts if desired.
- Tray or plate
Mix all the ingredients by squeezing together with clean hands. Shape into patties. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
THEN DECORATE AND DANCE:
Recognize both Teresa’s joyful actions and her serious reason for work as seen in her prayer below. Do this by eating cookies that celebrate her joke with God and decorating the table with this centerpiece: have children draw around each other’s hands and feet onto colorful paper and cut them out. Glue these into a circle, with hands ‘reaching’ outward and the feet facing outward, as if they are going out into the world. After feasting, use your hands and feet and eyes to celebrate Teresa by dancing to lively music.
This prayer was written by St. Teresa. Read it to the children and discuss what it means. Then have them read it with you.
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
FOR MORE SAINTLY CELEBRATIONS SEE: https://anneneuberger.com/product/a-circle-of-saints-stories-and-activities-for-children/