St Teresa of Avila – 15 October

Discussions about the pros and cons of the ordination of women often start in the wrong place. The whole debate is constructed in terms of rights and power. It might be better if both sides thought about the call that Christians have to serve each other. The woman whose feast we celebrate today was, of course, never ordained but she had and has tremendous power over the Church.

Teresa of Avila is one of the towering giants of Christian spirituality. Against an atmosphere of almost lax indifference she travelled up and down Spain in the sixteenth century founding convent after convent dedicated to perfection of the Christian life. Her nuns were renowned for a way of life that was austere yet sensible, single minded and yet open. In her own life she combined the qualities of the ‘eagle and the dove’.

Teresa has left us masterpieces of spiritual writing which are still devoured today. She was part of that wonderful, positive tide of reform that swept the church in the wake of Luther’s challenge. And at the centre of all her writings is the solid conviction that God’s love will triumph. Christians are called not to exercise power or demand their rights but rather to serve and in that lays our true authority.

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