HOW I DISCOVERED TERESA OF AVILA, LINDA MARY MONTANO, 2012
My own Catholic journey began 70 years ago, 1942, in this small village, Saugerties NY, where I was raised traditionally in an Italian-Irish home.The training included Catholic grammar school, Catholic college and a catechetical grade school life inspired by women saints:
Joan of Arc,
Therese of Lisieux,
Claire of Assisi
and Rita among many others with the Blessed Mother Mary as the penultimate Everything .
Although invitations even back then to be a saint were held out as a vocationally smart choice, I remember now, especially during Mass at St Mary's Church, one minute from here, that I somewhat foolishly wondered why I could not be a priest, regretting that I was not born a man.
Teresa of Avila, I'm so glad that I eventually discovered that you were a multi-faceted saint/ mentor/teacher/reformer/architect/feminist/musician/comedienne/poet/traveler/author/mystic/Doctor of the Church and model for all women; inviting us to pass through the glass ceiling of the Catholic Church's politics and institutional anacronisms; showing us how to travel toward an authentic and genderless path to prayer and bliss, devoid of and actually not needing external position or power; showing us how to travel to the altar of our inner heart.
At the age of 19, I thought that the only way for me to fulfill my desire for deep spiritual connection was to enter the convent and so I joined The MARYKNOLL SISTERS, staying for 2 years but leaving with a need for not only therapeutized emotional maturity but also desiring a life of service, having learned so many beautiful lessons from these women of joy and generosity.
Teresa of Avila, you provide us with many visual maps for our inner journey, using simple metaphors . You taught your nuns that praying is like watering a garden using 4 levels of effort: the first is pulling water up from the well ,the second is using a water wheel, the third is taking water from a stream and the last method is letting go and allowing the garden to receive water from the rain.
I left the formal practice of Catholicism for a number of years and studied with many teachers from various Eastern traditions who taught and demonstrated their theologies of transcending the vagaries of material mind via silence. My gratitude to them will be forever. My art also began to reflect a new level of introspection, stillness but was often spiced with a humor that cut through aesthetic seriousness.
Teresa of Avila, the general consensus or at least my early thinking was that the spiritual life had to be a dour training in severe penances but in reading your books and manuals for nuns, I am astonished by your ability to cheerlead others via dance, song, joy and a hilarious humor. Teresa of Avila, woman of balance.
In the mid 90's, I returned to the church and now consider myself a practicing Catholic and still a performance artist, a somewhat oxymoronic combination. This time, after having left 40 years ago, my head is not in the sand of secrets, my heart is not avoiding the human challenges of the Catholic Church, and I am inspired by Teresa of Avila's ferocious loyalty to reform and making things better but in my own unique way.
Teresa of Avila, you are such a meticulous and masterful technician of the sacred and I trust that in time, if I keep practicing your teachings, I will begin to understand your inner language of prayer with its: consolations, unions, raptures, ecstacies, mystical betrothals and ultimate marriage with divine love.
Teresa of Avila, please lead me into the 7th Mansion. Right now. I hold your hand.
Linda Mary Montano, 2012 Saugerties NY