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

Teresa of Avila vs. Madeleine Sophie Barat

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

  1. I voted for Madeleine Sophie, but if she doesn't advance, that will at least eliminate an Eva vs Eva Golden Halo contest (depending, of course, on who wins tomorrow).

  2. It's that point in Lent Madness when voting gets really hard. I love Teresa's contemplative spirit, but today am moved even more by Madeleine's heart for children. Another day, my vote could have gone the other way. Thanks to both bloggers for moving and inspiring words!

  3. The two commentaries were inspiring to me. Hard choice, but I went with education for women when society gave them less agency than men. This Lent has impressed me with the overwhelming need to practice seeing everyone as my equal in spirit and unique in personality.

  4. I've been rooting for St. Teresa to win the Golden Halo from the start. Her incredibly humble approach to prayer has encouraged my own spiritual transformation, especially as she wrote to her sisters in faith. Go St. T!!

  5. This was the first really hard vote for me - I would like to give them both golden halos as they have given so much to all of us who come after.

  6. Teresa needs no extra golden halo - my vote goes to Madeleine Sophie Barat. I find I much prefer it when Lent Madness introduces me to unfamiliar saintly lives instead of saints who have had centuries of acclaim.

  7. The quote "prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God” reminds me of Teresa of Avila's witty repartee with God. One day, when she was crossing a river by foot and was almost carried away by the current, she said, "Oh my Lord! When will you cease from scattering obstacles in our path?" God responded, "Do not complain, daughter, for it is ever thus that I treat my friends." To which Teresa responded, "That is why you have so few of them!"

  8. The voting process was different this morning. Not sure my vote was counted: no pink signal whirling around. Jan Curtis

  9. Today's choice was the hardest of all. But I have admired Teresa for years, and was so happy to see her as a choice when they were first announced. Sophie Barat is also an excellent choice, but Teresa has my heart. I'll be placing my mug order as soon as it's available.

  10. Voted for Barat. She seems more real, more practical and more in touch with actual people. Lots of educators in my family so I love that she was a teacher and thought educating children was so important.

  11. This was a difficult choice for me as well. I loved Teresa's words: “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” As a Daughter of the King, I have taken lifetime vows of prayer and service, and relationship with God is so important. But Madeleine was filled with love and that to me is what Jesus preached about: "love God, love your neighbor, love one another as I have loved you." So in the end I voted for Madeleine because: "she loved because God first loved us."

  12. There were certain technical difficulties, but I love learning about some of the less well known saints of the church. It is a wonderful thing! I love both these saints, and I will be happy with whomever wins. JOY

  13. I was all set to vote for Teresa of Avila, but Eva's description of Mother Madeleine moved me to tears with Madeleine's love of children & education.

  14. I wish I had been surrounded by people like Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat when I was a child. And that, along with the fact that she is smiling, is what got her my vote today. Teresa of Avila just looks to stern. In Mother MadeleineSophie I see the joy of the Lord.

  15. Mother Sophie was the only one I got into the Final 4 so I voted for her. I’ve missed a few lately.

  16. These match-ups just keep getting more difficult! If she doesn't get the Golden Halo, I urge Madeleine for the Silver!

  17. Funny, today was the first time I have had no trouble voting all season. I am sorry folks are still having problems. It dampens the fun.
    I went with St. Theresa today. “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” Love it, love her.

  18. "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."

    I have in recent weeks been very involved with seeking, finding and hiring the next director of our parish preschool; and this vision closely describes our little school's legacy, reputation, and philosophy of educating and nurturing children!

    I've also in recent weeks been getting involved with the school district in where I live and serve, which like too many school districts these days is faced with voices and forces that wish to restrict students' access to books and curricula featuring diverse voices, points of view, and historical perspectives -- instead of opening the doors to knowledge, nurturing the whole child, and equipping them to sort out different perspectives and discern between truth and "spin" in order to find their places in a diverse world, and offer their gifts to make the world a better place.

    Teresa is amazing, of course. But Madeleine Sophie is a prophetic voice for our times!

  19. Wow, this was tough! They are both so inspiring. The write ups were both beautiful and compelling. I will be happy for either one to win.

  20. I have rarely said that I will pray for someone, instead I say I will discusses the issue with God. I, too, feel like prayer is more of a conversation than a meditation or supplication - you just have to remember to listen to the other participant and let Him speak. (wink)

    1. Marian, you have very aptly expressed my own thoughts on prayer. I learned the hard way that no, God doesn’t “obey” John’s claim that if God hears us, we know we have what we asked. So the purpose of prayer is not to beg, but the conversation, to get to know eachother. Thank you, and Neva, and Teresa, for this wisdom.

  21. This is the first time in several years that I have really been unable to decide- both are such wonderful saints (wonderful write-ups, too.)

  22. I've rather been leaning towards Teresa all along. Probably because while I'd heard of her previously, it was mostly by whim or rumor with intrigue and hesitancy... so this was nice to finally "meet" her.

    But what really pushed me over for today's vote was the reminder that she struggled with some illness(es).

  23. I had to vote for St. Teresa today as she has been someone important to me for years. Reading her books and learning about her life it is amazing to me how she combined the deepest mysticism with the soundest practicality about human nature and about getting things done--many convents, major reforms, in a time of great turmoil. But Madeline Sophie has been a wonderful discovery for me this Lent Madness! I imagine she and Teresa would have seen eye to eye on a lot! I will have to add her to my go to homies (excuse me, I meant patron saints) in heaven.

  24. So, a saint for illness—Covid—or a saint for children, especially children of war. I just don’t know! And the bloggers, you two are so terrific, I want to vote for both saints just to say thank you to you two! I am hoping my vote is for the underdog (never look at the standings before voting) just so both get support!

  25. The book Drawdown lists the most effective things we can change in our lifestyles to reverse Climate Change. One of the most important things we can do, apparently, is to educate girls. Carbon emissions are reduced in those countries that have good education for girls. So - vote for Madeleine, educate girls, save the planet! A no-brainer!

  26. Yeash! Both incredible lives! I was particularly touched by Madeline's difficult childhood and determination. Also my mom's name was Madeline. <3