Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why St. Teresa of Avila is Patroness of Toads.

You never knew that?

Once when Teresa was little, she and her brother ran away to be martyrs, or was it hermits?  Well they are kind of the same, so I think it was hermits.  Anyway, they gathered all the Christmas trees in the neighborhood, for it was right after New Year's, and they proceeded to build their hermitage where they could live as little hermits.  They piled the trees together in the back yard, forming the walls of the enclosure, then knelt inside to say their prayers.  It was cold and they didn't know how to make a proper roof, nor did they know what to do after their prayers, so they returned home for supper.

"Hey wait!  That's my story, not Teresa's!"  I interrupted. 

"Oh very well," the narrator responded. 

St. Teresa and the Toad.

Once upon a time there was a pretty little girl named Teresa who became a nun in a Carmelite monastery.  As she tells it, she was so pretty that she had to force herself to enter because she thought she'd go to hell otherwise.  She was naturally devout, despite her propensity to vanity.  For some reason, she liked to commission artists to paint her portrait, only to insult their talent, scolding them for making her so ugly.

"Whatsa wrong with thata nun!  She makea my lifea misery!"  Said one the young artists who later became a friar named Juan de la Misery.

Eventually Teresa got the hang of things at the monastery and made herself the center of attention, for, as we said, and by her own admission, she was very vain.  At first she wanted to write romance novels and put on dance shows for the other nuns, but she suddenly became very ill.  A fortuitous turn of events it turns out, since that is how she learned to pray and had a couple of visions along with it. 

One day she woke up and shouted, "I'm a mystic!  I see dead people!"  And all the nuns came running to hear her speak.  (Actually, they thought she was dead, but she woke up and looked in a mirror - which explains why she said "I see dead people!"  That's one variation of the story at least.) 

Anyway - this time Teresa became so popular, she was sought out by people even outside the monastery.  She was soon telling everyone how to have visions and locutions and stuff - so they wouldn't have to rely on passing notes through cracks in the walls of their cells.  The visions might help the less talented nuns come up with less gaudy designs when it came to embellishing their habits too.

Almost immediately Teresa gathered a little clique around herself and they pretty much hung out in the parlour of the monastery, gossiping and eating figs, while sipping Sangria.  Our Lord wasn't very happy and appeared to her once and gave her a dirty look and told she was on the way to perdition.  Naturally she was frightened and felt really guilty and humiliated, but she put on a happy face and decided to put on a dramatic play instead of a dance routine for recreation that night. 

You got it right - it was a huge hit!  Teresa became more popular than ever and that gossipy nun Our Lord didn't want her to hang out with, started stalking Teresa.  Eventually the saint convinced herself it was all right just to meet for drinks once in awhile - in a public place.

Then one day, while sipping Sangria in the parlour and gossiping about the new Swarovski crystal beads Mother Electrolux ordered from HSN - which she added to the lace around her wimple, a gigantically-huge ugly toad suddenly appeared, frightening everyone in the parlour.  Teresa took it as a sign to break off her friendship with the stalker nun - which she did rather dramatically BTW.  Throwing her Sangria in the air, Teresa ordered one of the postulants, "That's it!  I've had it!  Hand me my cloak Isabel!  We're leaving!" 

Teresa then left the convent and founded the Discalced Carmelites....

What became of the toad, you ask?  He was featured in one her best selling books, Interior Castle - you can still see him and his grizzly friends in the creepy moat which surrounds the Castle - but I wouldn't spend much time there, if I were you.  Best to get deeply into the castle interior as quickly as one can, and stay there.

The End

 Ed. Note:  For more information on the Life of St. Teresa of Avila, go here.  Oh.  Yes.  This is the the "other" version of the story of the toad:
She tells us that having recovered her health she began to forget the practices of her earlier days. She had to frequent the parlors of the monastery, and in many ways had as much freedom allowed her as the older nuns—but she confesses that she never abused it. She had many friends, and was so winning in her ways that people eagerly sought her. One day while with a friend—it was at the beginning of her acquaintance with her—Our Lord stood before her "stern and grave," and made her see that her conduct displeased Him. "I saw Him," she says, "with the eyes of the soul more distinctly than I could have seen Him with the eyes of the body," and she resolved never to meet that person again. Satan, however, prevailed; she was made to think it was an imagination, yielded to the temptation, and returned to her new friend. She was told there was no harm in seeing her, and that she gained instead of losing reputation by so doing. On another occasion in the parlor with that person, a great toad crawled towards them in their sight and in the sight of others who were there. She recognized this to be another warning, but no one told her she was in the wrong except one of the nuns, then old, and a relative of the Saint. But even this did not restrain her—she frequented the parlor as before.


  1. I don't understand what is so bad about seeing a friend. This kind of stuff is why I am always thinking everything I do that is enjoyable is wrong, or having friends that are not perfect Catholics is wrong.

  2. Maybe she was being made aware that she was spending waay too much time socializing, kind of like wasting time on Facebook or on a phone. Humans are easily distracted creatures, and we postpone work, whether difficult or just tedious, as long as we can. Teresa was given the privilege of spending extra time in the parlors, resting and socializing, to aid in regaining her strength. Seems as though heaven may have been saying, you're well enough, back to work.
    As for a big toad showing up, maybe he just wanted to get out of the Spanish heat, and join the conversation. Now if a toad showed up in my apartment, that would be weird. Would he have taken the stairs or the elevator?

  3. Merc - get back to what you were doing. Don't let my foolish Jansenistic tendencies keep you from all that is beautiful and true! Haha!

    Anyway - she had a higher calling as they say.

  4. Thanks, Terry. I know all that, it's just that when you read about the kinds of things Jesus gets very, very angry with the saints for, it all seems "trivial" - quite venial, usually. For me it always leads to "oh no did I spend too long in the phone, etc." I guess I just need to make sure I can perform my own duties well, and rest in God's Mercy for the rest of it.

    Still, it makes me wonder if He is pleased with me, to say nothing of all the people I know and pray for that do not know Him - I just get this idea that he is full of rage at them always. Stupid, I know.

    Things are going really well with everything we've been talking about by the way. I'll let you know via e-mail soon.

  5. "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth."
    Sirach 6:14-15

    Cherish your friends, but always put God first. And if you have a toad for a friend, or a leper, be sure to kiss them.

  6. +JMJ+

    How do you not have a Pulitzer, Terry?

    Thanks for the stories! =) The "Even this did not restrain her . . ." cliffhanger you've left us with will make me look up the rest of it on my own, as I probably should have done earlier. But had I done so, we wouldn't have this great post!

  7. That Carmelite illustrating the story looks mighty familiar. I think I've had drinks with her before . . .

  8. Digi - in the parlour no doubt.


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