I began reading a book in the Adoration Chapel which Karen lent to me – Volume 1 of the Collected Works of Teresa of Avila. Although I am still reading in the Introduction, I have found some interesting words that helped me reflect on my own life. It was written: “it was at about the time of this latter incident (Charles V of Spain sacked Rome) that the piety of the now adolescent Teresa began to grow cold. She became over eager to read romantic tales of chivalry, began to cultivate her feminine charms, and to plan a possible marriage.” How interesting that my life had a similar turn of events.
I remember as a small child, especially around the second grade when I received First Holy Communion, how in love with Christ I was. It was due, in part, by the wise teaching of the nuns at St. Aloysius Catholic School in Pittsburgh. My family visited every year with the nuns who had raised my mom in the orphanage, and I was quite certain then that I wanted to have a religious vocation. I also often read the Maryknoll magazines that Aunt Rose received in the mail and thought that the life of the missionary would also be a good choice. My dad was determined that his daughters would not join a convent and was quite adamant in that, although if indeed any of us had a vocation to religious life, I don’t think he would have stopped us.
After my family left Pittsburgh and I started to attend public school, I first noticed that those desires to enter religious life went away. At this time I would have been fourteen years old. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but the thought of a religious life never again entered my mind. When those thoughts of a religious life went away, I am not sure. But I had also stopped going to visit the nuns who raised mom in Charleston, so my relationship and interest in them waned as well.
Just a few paragraphs later, the writer notes “Teresa was later to look back with much distaste upon this whole period in which she lost the fervor of her early years.” I, too, look back in horror at not only my loss of the fervor of my early years, but at the experiences I had during those teenage years. Such a confusing time – first high school and then college – that time of exploring new ideas and new behaviors. It is a period in which I have no pride in either my accomplishments or my behavior. I was struggling to find my place, not sure of myself or what life would bring.
Just a few years ago I had an opportunity to attend a meeting of the lay Carmelite study group at my church. I went to one meeting. It was an opportunity for the group to get to know me and for me to become acquainted with the group. An offhand remark by one of the group – not meant to be hurtful because the woman is very kind – left me feeling uneasy. That and the presence of a woman with whom I have a strained relationship caused me to not go again to their meetings. Was it a mistake? I may never know.