Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of one of my favorites among the Christian mystics, St. Teresa of Avila, also known as Teresa of Jesus. She was a woman who displayed an amazing independence of spirit at a time when the Catholic Church was not particularly tolerant of independence of thought or spirit and when no one was tolerant of such a characteristic in a woman. She annoyed many with her efforts to reform the male and female Carmelite orders and was a target of the Spanish Inquisition.
Teresa has many characteristics worthy of emulation. Perhaps more than anything else, she was a woman of great determination. When she knew God wanted something, she was completely committed to doing it.
Many obstacles put in her way both because she was a woman and because the reforms of the Carmelites she pushed for were not uniformly appreciated. Yet she persevered in the face of whatever obstacles were put in her path and she accomplished a tremendous amount.
In The Way of Perfection, she talks about people setting out on a serious prayer life. She writes: “It is most important, all-important, that they should begin by making an earnest and most determined resolve not to halt until they reach their goal, whatever may come, whatever may happen to them.”
Determination means more than sitting back and wishing something to happen, but never making up one’s mind to do what it it takes to get it done. “Gee wouldn’t it be nice if…” is pretty easy. Teresa understood that the key is being committed to getting it done. Determination. In the words of one of her commentators, “We all have sufficient grace from God to become saints, but we may not all have the determination to do it.”