When we think of people who influence us–as public figures, mentors, or private friends–sometimes we forget those who are not in our geographic region….or our lifetime. One such person to me is a woman named Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada. I “met” her 25 years ago in one of a few books she wrote titled: Life. I learned much about this humbly holy, dynamic woman who lived in Avila, Spain in the 1500’s.
Recently, in another book, I renewed this friendship. Yes, we can become fast friends with those who no longer walk this earth; and these friends can influence us for the better, more directly, because we don’t have the emotional bugaboos that often tangle our temporal, human relationships. Each time we learn something new about a physically dead friend, the resonance of the bond actually makes a current, profound impact.
Thus, I’ve learned a new tidbit about Teresa of Avila. She wanted to make, with her life, an impact. She desired and prayed for a life with good, holy purpose. How many of us want to do the very same with our lives–our God-given, earthly lives that we live but once?
Teresa had to face the realities. She was a woman in 16th century Avila, Spain, whose mother died when Teresa was young. Teresa had a desire to serve God in a time in which women had only two vocation paths: marriage or religious life. She chose the latter but found that convents in her day were quite worldly. Teresa herself flirted with this worldliness–only to face a personal reality that life lived like that seemed pointless. She told God she wanted to make a difference, to have an impact–but what, how?
I didn’t suspect this great woman felt limited by her environment and era! How many of us have felt the same way? We, too, must face our realities. The economy is limiting, let alone our varying ages, health, education, work and relationship considerations! Despite similar issues, Teresa of Avila determined to make a difference. At the time she did not realize what a difference she would make upon her world– or upon me here, tucked away on this cold, winter, 21st-century day.
Teresa decided that she would do God’s will and live life to a holy ideal in ways she could: as a woman in her time period and culture, with whatever education and economic circumstance, among the people around her, in sickness or health, good times and bad.
Again, the fact that this renowned woman felt herself restricted–but determined to do what little she could to make a difference, impacts and inspires me these 500 years hence!
A young mother called me the other day. She has a little girl and is expecting another baby soon. She told me of receiving emails highlighting the lack of concern by some in our society for the many babies conceived–only to be unwanted and aborted. This young woman wanted to do something active about this problem, now, but what to do?
The simple wisdom of the wise and holy woman of Spain came to mind. I shared Teresa of Avila’s approach of doing what she could in her circumstances. The question: “Why not do what you can in your own circumstances within your home?”
This young woman knits darling baby hats. Each hat takes three hours to complete, and she knits while her little girl naps or at night when her husband is away on business. The idea came up in conversation: Why not knit each baby hat for some infant who is born into poor conditions? Why not knit each stitch as a prayer for some unknown-to-her conceived infant whose mother and father are considering ending their baby’s life?
So it is that my friend Teresa of Avila helped me realize that anything we do can have great impact simply if we look around us and do what we can do with whom and what God gives us, here and now. Teresa, long dead and mostly known to me by books–truly is a dear soul-friend. She also inspires and advised the young mother, here, now, in time and space.
Maybe Teresa of Avila’s wise and holy approach and encouragement will help you, too?