The month of October brings with it crisp, cool air, falling leaves, and football. For Catholics, it also brings the feast days of two special Carmelite saints: St. Thérèse of Lisieux on October 1 and St. Teresa of Ávila on October 15. These two Teresas hold a special place in the hearts of devotees worldwide and are powerful intercessors in time of need. Although they were both cloistered nuns who lived years ago, their lives and writings can serve as guides for us in our family lives, even in modern times. We can look to their teachings for wisdom in attaining holiness and apply it to our own lives and to the way we form and raise our children.
Pope Paul VI said, “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children.” (Lumen Gentium #11) We are obligated to create and maintain a spirit of love and communion within the walls of our homes and to foster spiritual growth and love for God in our children.
Just as St. Thérèse and St. Teresa lived out their religious vocations in their respective Carmelite communities, we are called to live out our vocations as wives and mothers in the “domestic churches” of our homes. What can we learn from the lives of these two saints about Christian motherhood?
- Bearing patiently with the faults of others. Members of religious communities live in close proximity with each other and must exercise charity and patience. Similarly, in a family, we must love one another and bear with each other’s faults and shortcomings. Within the pages of St. Thérèse’s diary are many examples of her heroic dealings with the slights she encountered from her fellow sisters, along with her kind and gentle responses to their faults. She refrained from complaining when splashed repeatedly with dirty water at the wash pool. She smiled as she assisted an older nun who found fault with the saint’s every action. Her example of charity and virtue is an example to us all as we strive to live in harmony within our families.
- Finding God in all things. “Everything is grace,” St. Thérèse remarked. In our daily lives, do we see God’s hand in the events that unfold, both good and bad? We don’t need to go in search of profound spiritual experiences to do God’s will. St. Teresa of Ávila was a very practical woman and once said, “God walks among the pots and pans.” What a comforting reminder these words are! We can be assured that by performing the mundane tasks of motherhood, we are, indeed, fulfilling our mission and our vocation and God is present as we go about our day.
- Prayer is key. St. Teresa of Ávila is known for her mastery of the art of prayer. She emphasizes the need for all the faithful to practice daily prayer, which she describes simply as a friendly conversation with Jesus, who loves us. Though we may be busy during the day, we can set aside a time for prayer to reconnect with the Lord.
- Trusting and depending on God. A hallmark of the lives of both of the Teresas was complete trust and dependence on God. They credited their spiritual success on his grace and power and took no credit for themselves. Like little children, they depended on God for everything and they were not disappointed.
- Loving God above all else. St. Thérèse declared that her vocation was to LOVE, and to love God above all else. In a letter to her sister Celine, she eloquently exclaimed, “There is one ONLY THING to do here below: to love Jesus, to win souls for Him so that He may be loved. Let us seize with jealous care every least opportunity of self-sacrifice. Let us refuse Him nothing – He does so want our love!” In the vocation of motherhood, we can feel pulled in many directions. Like Thérèse, we can remember that if we seek God first, everything will fall into place and we will have peace in all our daily activities.
Copyright 2019 Christina Mayeux