November 1 the The Feast of all Saints: What’s In a Name?

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.” St. Teresa of Avila

Anne Rice is best known for her novel and movie, Interview with a Vampire, but I first got my hands on the novel, The Feast of All Saints, back in 1981 or ’82 as my introduction to Anne Rice. Set in New Orleans in the mid 1800’s and centering on Creoles and Free People of Color, I fell in love with the rich history she depicts of my people, Creole people. My mom once had breakfast in Anne Rice’s kitchen in the Garden District of New Orleans as part of a tour. I went out clubbing the night before and was walking in at 6AM just as my mom was walking out to go jogging before her tour. I wish I had gone on that tour, but my priorities were different when I was a twenty-something. But I digress.

The Feast of All Saints or All Saints Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church in which saints are celebrated for their passage into heaven. Halloween is actually a sacred holiday as well. Since I was named after a saint, I decided to look her up today. My mother is very deeply Catholic, so of course, she named me after a saint (my middle name) but I never bothered to find out why this woman had achieved sainthood. My First today was to learn about Saint Teresa. And she was a colorful character! St. Teresa of Avila was a bit of a trouble maker as a child and when she was sent to the convent at the age of sixteen by her father, she found that the nuns wore jewelry and wore their veils attractively, even had male visitors. What? She was charming and beautiful and flirted with the male suitors at the convent. She became very worldly, that’s a nice way to put it, isn’t it? Teresa got more involved with flattery, gossip and vanity than spiritual life. Sounds more like a sorority house than a convent!

When she was about twenty, Teresa came down with malaria and didn’t wake up for four days at which time she realized that a grave had already been dug for her. Now, that is sobering. She was never quite well after the malaria and used her sickness to get farther and farther away from spiritual teaching. Her greatest downfall was probably her friends. She listened to God when he told her to rid herself of them but the friends believed she was being spoken to by the devil and sent a Jesuit priest to intercede. She left her original convent and founded a new one of her own taking a vow of poverty and leading a life of prayer. At this time she was denounced by the pulpit and told that she should return to her original convent and raise money for them instead of her own convent. She was rejected everywhere she went and sometimes riots broke out. She continued to pray and open more convents against all odds. She is the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Discalced is a term referring to congregations of men and women, of which the members go unshod (barefoot). Her symbols are a heart, an arrow and a book. The things you learn when you do a little research. I wonder if  my mom realizes she named me after such a controversial saint. Can’t wait to tell her!


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