On the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Jesus, I wish, together with the whole Church, to give thanks to the great family of Discalced Carmelites—religious men and women and secular members—for the charism of this remarkable woman.
Pope Francis wrote in a letter to the Carmelites on the 500 anniversary of St Teresa of Avila:
"I consider it a providential grace that this anniversary coincides with the Year of Consecrated Life, in which the saint of Avila shines as a sure and attractive model of total self-giving to God. It is one more reason to look to the past with gratitude and to rediscover "the inspiring spark" that gave impetus to the founders and to the first communities (cf. Letter to all consecrated people, 21 November 2014).
How much goodness does the testimony of her consecration—born directly from the encounter with Christ, her experience of prayer as continuous dialogue with God, and her community life, rooted in the motherhood of the Church—do for us!
1. St Teresa is primarily a teacher of prayer. The discovery of Christ's humanity was central to her experience. Moved by the desire to share this personal experience with others, she describes it in a vivid and simple way, accessible to everyone, because it consists simply in "a relationship of friendship ... with he who we know loves us" (Life, 8, 5 ). Many times this same narrative becomes prayer, as if she had wanted to introduce the reader into her interior dialogue with Christ. Teresa’s prayer was not reserved only to one space or to one time of day; it arose spontaneously in the most diverse occasions: "It would be extremely difficult if you could only pray in secluded places" (Foundations, 5, 16). She was convinced of the value of continuous prayer, even if it was not always perfect. The saint asks us to be steadfast, faithful, even in times of dryness, personal difficulties or urgent needs that call us.
Teresa left us a great treasure to renew consecrated life today, full of concrete proposals, ways and methods to pray, that, far from closing us in on ourselves or leading us only to inner balance, always make us start again from Jesus and constitute a genuine school to grow in love for God and neighbour.