Thursday, February 22 2024

I arrived in Avila on the last evening train. It was summer and the heat
was unbearable. I left my little bags at an inn on the Paseo del Rastro and went for a walk along the twelfth century
walls, retracing the footsteps of Saint Teresa of Avila. She was proclaimed
the first female Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970, but
during her lifetime she was considered a rebellious soul and was criticized
for it.

There, I began to adore her even more. As I walked, found myself repeating
over and over her famous line: ” Have a holy audacity, for God helps the strong“, and that has been
the theme of my life.

It’s likely due to my upbringing. I was raised in a family of seven
siblings with parents who, with a rare combination of authoritarian
tenderness, would say every time they got the chance: “Do it,” “Go for it,” “You can do it,” “Come on,” “ What you don’t do, someone else will

… maybe not like you’d have done it, but he will have done it himself,
no less,

” ”

Come on, don’t keep to the back with the faint of heart… push your way
to the front, and there, trust in God and fight


Still barefoot, sandals in hand, I walked along the wall to St. Vincent’s
Gate and thought: “Daring and audacity must be cousins….”

That word audacity, which for many is synonymous with inopportune
boldness, derives from the Vulgar Latin ausare, which we get from
the verb audere, meaning “to dare” – that is, to do or endure
something terrible or difficult.

This is what the saint herself did: “With the desire to serve the Church,
and confronted by the serious problems of her time, she did not limit
herself to being a spectator of the reality that surrounded her. As a woman
with health problems, she decided — she says — “to do the little which lay
in my power, viz. to follow the evangelical counsels with all the
perfection I could, and to induce the few nuns who are here to do the same”
(The Way of Perfection, 1, 2). Thus began the Teresian reform, in
which she asked her sisters not to waste time praying to God about “things
of little importance” while “the world is on fire” (ibid., 1, 5)”
. (Vatican, March 28, 2015 – Pope Francis)

By midnight, the streets of San Segundo were emptying and the bars were
closing down. I found myself thirsty and tired, so I found a place with a
few tables along the sidewalk to have some wine and tapas while I read from
the lightest book I’d brought along on this trip. I opened it up, looking
for something I had read a while back that fit that moment: ”

What has to be done, is done… without hesitation, without more
worrying. Otherwise, Teresa of Avila would not have been Saint Teresa:
nor Iñigo of Loyola, Saint Ignatius. God and daring! ‘We want Christ to

” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 11)

I downed the rest of my wine, as the tables were already being put away for
the night. When I paid my bill, the waiter apologized for interrupting my
reading. To make him complicit in my delay, I said: “Excuse me, I was so
caught up in my reading that I didn’t notice the hour. But I am going to
tell you the reason for my delay….”

Along with my tip, I left him the bookmark I had brought with me, with a
quote from St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer that said: “ God owns the world, but he rents it out to the brave.

But it’s not just the saints who have written about this much-discussed
virtue. Among others, Winston Churchill lectured his soldiers saying: ” The first quality that is needed is audacity,” and Virgil
affirmed: “Fortune favors the bold.

I walked back slowly, barefoot and ecstatic, humming a Castilian lullaby. I
wished that night would never end.

When I arrived at the inn, the night watchman opened the door and told me:

– “You’ve taken quite a long walk! I see by your sandals in hand that you
walked it all…”

And I answered him:

– “It’s because I daringly walked to have tapas with your saint…!”


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