“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” – St. Teresa of Ávila
St. Teresa of Ávila feast day is Oct. 15.
“Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”
This short and simple passage written by one of the most influential saints of the 16th century has been a helpful scaffold for many a weary soul. Its author is renowned among Catholic faithful as a powerful companion saint. She is a Doctor of the Church and a fascinating figure to study. She portrays a buoyant and positive personality. She is St. Teresa of Ávila.
St. Teresa is a source of many witty and insightful quotes. She was gifted with an ability to provide sensible and direct context to various situations with words that have a timeless application to our lives as Christians. I find her wisdom effective in cutting through the complex and vexing parts of our daily lives. And she is an antidote to gloominess.
If I let my guard down, the news can tempt me to despair. At times when I’m worrying about my kids or preoccupied with the onslaught of bad stuff happening in the world, I appeal to St. Teresa for help in realigning my focus on prayer to thwart the doom and gloom. After all, she is well-known for saying, “May God protect me from gloomy saints.”
When Teresa first entered religious life, she wasn’t serious about her spirituality. She admits in her biography that for 20 years, she was the “gadabout” nun who enjoyed comfortable and spiritually lax living in her convent. It wasn’t until a series of visions and powerful encounters with Christ that her life changed course in miraculous ways.
With a deep and profound love for the Lord, she went on to help others with their spiritual life. She wrote extensively on prayer with her books, The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection. Life during the Protestant Reformation presented many challenges. But with a cheerful and determined spirit, Teresa boldly formed several new convents, reforming the Carmelite order back to its principles of simplicity and poverty.
While she had fierce convictions on matters of faith, she was also very practical and as “real” as it gets. Whether it be in conversation with our Lord or with her fellow sisters, she was no stranger to speaking her mind.
Once, a friend who visited her at the convent questioned Teresa for feasting on a fine dish of roasted partridge. She responded, “There is a time for penance, and a time for partridge.”
That pithy response illustrates how God calls on us to seek a penitential spirit, while also delighting in our enjoyment of his creation. How blessed we are to have Catholic saints whose prayerful, mystical insights can give us such context and direction in our daily lives!
I researched some of the cuisine from the region of Ávila for an appropriate dish to celebrate her feast day, which is Oct. 15. I would imagine St. Teresa would have enjoyed the following comfort food with her roasted partridge. And if prepared and served lovingly, I believe your family or guests will find it worthy. For as St. Teresa herself once said, “It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”
(Spanish Mashed Potatoes)
2 pounds Yukon Gold or baking potatoes
2-3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 bay leaf
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cumin
2 pieces thick-cut bacon (diced)
Peel and cut potatoes into quarters. Place them into a large pot with bay leaf and a generous amount of salt. Add enough water to cover potatoes by 2 inches. Boil the potatoes until fork tender (about 25-30 minutes). Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid on the side. Discard the bay leaf. Set aside pot of potatoes.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the diced bacon until crisp and dark golden brown. Transfer the bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate.
Using the same pan (with the remaining oil and bacon fat), add the minced garlic, smoked paprika and cumin. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat, constantly stirring, so garlic doesn’t burn.
Using a rubber spatula, transfer the garlic spice mixture into the pot of cooked potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes while gradually adding some of the reserved cooking liquid. Continue to mash and blend all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a serving dish and top off with the cooked bacon pieces.
Michelle DiFranco is a designer and the busy mom of three children.