Teresa of Avila vs. Madeleine Sophie Barat

Welcome to the Faithful Four! From an initial field of 32 saints, we are down to a holy four: Teresa of Avila, Madeleine Sophie Barat, Thomas of Villanova, and José Hernández.

Throughout Lent Madness, our saintly heroes have battled via basic bios, quirks and quotes, and even kitsch. In this round, we let our remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question “Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?” In other words, they’ve been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. We have also invited them to share their two favorite images of their saints.

The Faithful Four continues today and tomorrow and then, on Spy Wednesday, 24 hours of voting begins to determine the winner of the 2022 Golden Halo.

Teresa of Avila

Like many, I knew that St. Teresa of Avila was a radiant star in the galaxy of saints, but her extensive contributions to the church, to spirituality, and to relationships with Our Lord surpassed my knowledge.

What I didn’t know about, and rapidly learned, is Teresa’s ubiquitous impact on society – yesterday and today, and no doubt tomorrow. Her influence encompasses prayer, images, art, culture, movies like Angels and Demons, music including Grammy nods…right up to and including the Marvel Universe! I was truly taken by how Teresa – a holy woman born in a small Spanish village more than 600 years ago – remains so relatable to our 2022 lives.

I became a devotee of St. Teresa.

“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”

There are two women among the 36 doctors of the church, and she’s one of them. Clearly, she was accomplished and gifted. I have adapted for my daily living and my spiritual life her simple prayers which reflect profound meaning.

From her childhood mantra - “For ever, for ever, for ever, for ever, they shall see God” – to her numerous books and poems, her deep mystic life translated into prayers that are insightful, with words that are simple, understandable, relatable, and quite pray-able.

“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”

Her mysticism takes us from the need for relations with the Almighty to putting prayer into lifelong perspective.

As I researched the life of St. Teresa and welcomed her into my personal prayer life, I was surrounded by those who had fallen to Covid, those suffering the immediate and long-term effects of Covid, and other loved ones who were facing health challenges. As the patron saint of sick people, St. Teresa was quickly added to my litany of saints.

Her prayers speak to me, to us, as we are called to be contemplative, to conduct an internal spiritual review so as to strengthen our personal relationship with God, our bond with Jesus, our hopes with the Holy Spirit.

Her guidance for daily life goes to the core of existence in today’s society:

-“Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.”

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

-“To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.”

Her description of prayer touched me deeply. Thank you, St. Teresa.

“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”

-- Neva Rae Fox

Madeleine Sophie Barat

Before the Revolution, before worshiping in secret and the threat of the guillotine…Madeleine Sophie Barat was a young girl in Burgundy, a laborer in her father’s vineyard. She came from a family of devout Jansenists, a sect that emphasized original sin and total depravity. From a young age, she was taught that God was severe and distant, and salvation would be available only to a few.

Then, she was given the chance to learn. History, languages, natural science–it was an opportunity that young women seldom received. The opportunity to reason, to put her faith in conversation with her widening understanding of the world…this changed everything. Imagining a world beyond the vineyards of Joigny, and what God might have to do with that world was like a match set to dry leaves. Before she knew it, Sophie was on fire–and the passion that drove her would ultimately change the lives of millions of girls and women around the world. 

At 16, Sophie risked everything for the opportunity to worship in Christian community. The majority of France’s churches were closed, thousands of priests were forced to renounce their orders, and hundreds who refused were executed. There were bodies in the street–yet Sophie found the faith to keep going.

In her leadership, Sophie showed generosity of spirit. Though she loved to teach, she knew her skills were needed in administration. Though she longed to see the world, she let other Sisters pursue their dreams of educating children beyond French borders. She wrote thousands of letters during her tenure as Mother Superior, seeking to be available to any Sister who reached out to her for advice or spiritual direction. And Sophie had a vision of a more generous world…if children were educated in a way that valued them, treated as whole people, then they could better believe in themselves. They could know themselves as capable and already endowed with skills that could be their gift to the world.

In every way, Sophie’s life points to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A heart that shines with divine light, but is broken open to the pain of the world, and always on fire with love for us. Mother Barat recognized the true power of the incarnation, that God would choose to draw near to us and know us. For her part, Sophie strove to know children, to educate them with sensitivity and understanding. She often said that for the sake of one child she would have founded the society—enduring every hardship just for one child’s heart.  I’m reminded of that child’s cry from the round of quirks and quotes—”why do you love me so much? You’ve never even met me before!”

Madeleine herself would say it was simple: that she loved because God first loved us. With prayer, gentleness, and humility, with incredible bravery and passionate love, Madeleine Sophie gave everything she could so that people could know the incredible good news of Jesus Christ.

Whether or not the Golden Halo is ultimately hers, I know Mother Barat will be on my heart and mind come Maundy Thursday. The woman who, upon being given power and responsibility for others did not assume it her due or her destiny, but instead knelt down in awe to kiss her sisters’ feet. 

-- Eva Suarez

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73 comments on “Teresa of Avila vs. Madeleine Sophie Barat”

  1. I love and admire both of these exemplary women (and have voted for both this Lent Madness), but must vote for Madeline Barat today. On to The Golden Halo, whichever one of these saints prevail today!

  2. Thanks to both celebrity bloggers for these lovely appeals! Today's vote was a tough choice. One correction: In the Catholic Church, there are four women among the 36 "doctors." Along with Teresa, they are Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, and Thérèse de Lisieux.

  3. I was not able to vote. What a disappointment that this issue has plagued LM from the first match to now, the Final Four. Plus I wanted to vote for Madeleine and even though she is behind, on my screen, her name is in bold as if she is in the lead. The amount of technical difficulties this year has diminished my enthusiasm for Lent Madness. You have a year to correct this. In the meantime, may we all draw nearer to the Lord this Holy Week.

  4. As much as I loved leaning about Sophie, I've been a long-time can of Teresa. Tough call, but Teresa won.

  5. Thank you Eva and Neva for your touching commentary on these two powerful women who gave so much to their own time and continue to be an inspiration to ours.

  6. The summaries were both so beautifully written - which makes for a very difficult choice today. In the end I was swayed by Madeleine’s ability to move from her Jansenist upbringing to her “vision of a more generous world.”
    Thank you Neva Rae Fox and Eva Suarez for bringing these amazing women’s stories to life through your writing.

  7. MAN, this was a tough one, today! Very well stated cases for both of these beautiful souls, thanks, Ms. Fox and Suarez. St. Teresa by a hair.

  8. Teresa is a mother of the church, but Sophie has been such a gift to girls' and female spirituality that my vote goes to her. Sophie knew that educating a child was much more than reading and numbers: "What is the good of teaching various subjects, of wasting time in learning them, if at the same time we cannot teach children the words of life and touch their hearts and their consciences?" Sophie has heart.

  9. What a difficult choice. I think the write-up of Madeleine Sophie’s contains a more direct appeal to the heart, and she may win on that basis. I’ll be happy if either of these women wins the halo.

    I’m forever and always a devotee of Teresa. If for no other reason than that she was plagued with physical pain and illness for most of her life, and faced persecution by the Inquisition if she said or did one “wrong” thing; yet, she devoted herself to God’s service, wrote books that still inspire seekers, instituted important reforms in her order, and was a spiritual partner of John of the Cross. She gets my vote today and always.

  10. I'm so glad to have learned more about both of these saints. This morning I voted for Theresa because of “Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.” That needs to be on my wall as well as in my heart. But I still want “We don’t live with angels; we have to put up with human nature and forgive it” on a mug I use every morning! 😀

    1. There 2 women deserve a shared cup of love and the golden crown. Why can't there be a tie?
      I did vote for Madeleine but don't know if it counted. It went through so quickly compared to previous days.

  11. Madeline gets my vote today. Her dedication to the education of children, girls, at a time when it was not permitted… she is a true saint for her devotion and courage. Not to mention my love of the Madeline books LOL, from a young age. And who can resist the French sweet known as a Madeleine? Bonne chance!

  12. Nada te turbe, nada te espante. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta. Nada te turbe, nada te espante. Solo Dios basta. Let noting disturb you, let nothing frighten you. The one who has God lacks nothing. Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. God alone is sufficient.

    Voting Teresa!

  13. Oh, what a tough choice. Never before have I been tempted to vote twice - once for each, but that wouldn't accomplish anything, would it? So, I didn't. St. Teresa is properly famous, Mother Barat a little less famous, so, for me, she gets the Golden Halo (I hope) this year.

  14. Prayer and friendship with God is such a joyous and welcoming perspective and one that draws the heart forward. Both saints are so enticing. Both were incited to the passion of faith by education that was not the norm for women of their times. Teresa's intellect and mystic ecstasy made her a doctor of the church, but Madeleine Barat became a teacher and protector of children as well as an important revolutionary in expanding the army of those serving our Lord. Teresa seems more self contained, while Madeleine seems more giving and humble. Being a teach, I voted for Madeleine. Both bloggers did an excellent job!

  15. For the first time this year I had difficulty voting. May I fervently entreat forgiveness if I inadvertently voted more than once. What wonderful women and what a difficult choice. In the end I voted for Madeleine for the transformative effect that learning had on her, and for her humility and but will be happy whatever the outcome.

  16. I will not be casting any more votes this year. Of the 9 I would have enthusiastically supported, or seriously considered supporting, none are left.

    1. Can you find nothing redeeming in any who are left?
      I admit, I do not pick the bracket ahead of the voting. Instead I am daily surprised by the choices presented to me with each match up - and what I learn about where my heart is this Lenten season.

  17. Great writeups, bloggers. "She persisted." That is all I have to say: both are winners.

  18. I wish these two women were not competing with each other in this Lenten game. I'd love for one to be gold and the other silver. Both will be in my heart and reading this year.

  19. Madeline Sophie Barat got my vote today because she continued her spiritual work even while churches in France were closed and some faithful were even executed. Her courage in the face of those times would ultimately result in her formation of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Their mission to teach resulted in over 100 schools teaching poor children throughout Europe and eventually even in the United States… teaching with kindness, humility and good example, she helped grow spirituality and knowledge for thousands of children. Some of those schools still exist even today!

  20. I'm going with Teresa today. The accessibility of her prayers won me over. And I've been picturing a Golden Halo mug with St. Teresa pretty much from the beginning...

  21. Madeleine Sophie Barat: for her love of children and her commitment to women’s spiritual growth.
    My imagination runs wild thinking of the emotionally austere lives society subjected children to in perpetual war-torn European culture of the 18th century. Then Mother Superior elevates them from her transformed life - truly by the sacred heart of Jesus.
    This is a huge accomplishment during a time when practicing one’s faith could be a death sentence.
    Glad to have ‘met’ this wonderful saint!

  22. I needed to vote for Mother Barat today. Educating girls and valuing them as they deserve is so important and so neglected. And as I cast my vote today, I think of all the Ukrainian refugee children--and refugee children everywhere--uprooted from their homes, many having lost one or both parents, all in need of that kind of unconditional love, sight unseen.

  23. Two compelling blog postings today. As a contemplative, I try to live up to that last quote of Teresa's: "For prayer is nothing else than being on friendship terms with God." But as a flawed being, I can't quite imagine God wanting to be friends with me, still I persist to pray.
    But I am moved to vote for Sophie. I have particularly dedicated myself to learning about saints I was unfamiliar with this year, and Eva Suarez has written compellingly throughout for the good sister. So to celebrate new knowledge, and to thank the SEC for bringing it about, I vote for Madeleine Barat today.

    1. "New knowledge!" Thank you, Richard, for articulating my deepest reason for participating in Lent Madness each year. It's the learning, the discovering of amazing models of faith, many of whom I'd never have heard of but for Lent Madness.
      I have read about St. Teresa, have grown through her insights and determination to follow Jesus as she knew him. However, only this season did I meet Madeleine Sophie Barat. As a special educator, the heart of the child was always my focus; book learning was lower priority. Mother Sophie has my vote.