I'm sorry to report that Theresa of Avila suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of George Herbert in the Final Four of Lent Madness. Who knew such a humble country parson was such a fierce competitor? My last-minute plea for the good Doctor came too late. Or maybe it was inevitable. Mr. Herbert did go on to defeat Julian of Norwich for the coveted Golden Halo.
And I like George Herbert. Truly I do. But Theresa is my hero as well as the person I'd like to be when I grow up.
I read The Interior Castle for the first time kind of on a whim as a Lenten discipline almost 20 years ago now. I thought to myself, "Won't it be nice to read a sweet little book written by a sweet little nun from the sweet little Middle Ages?" and she proceeded to kick my spiritual ass. I encountered a ferocious intelligence whose perception of the ways of heart and soul laid me bare. I've gone back to IC time and again just to get my head on straight. (I need to read more of her writings, actually.)
I also adore Theresa because of her administrative and organizational skills. You don't establish a ton of monasteries without some political and organizational savvy. Too often there seems to be a divide between the spiritual types and the practical types, but Theresa was certainly both spiritual and practical. Much like George Herbert, it seems to me.
There's one line of Theresa's that is a cornerstone for me, as follows: "The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so, do that which best stirs you to love." Not that she's not a thinker, but she understands at a fundamental level, as she says, “It is love alone that gives worth to all things." That's why I love Theresa.