Nobody can accuse Teresa of Avila for being a dormouse or a doormat. She wasn’t a sleepy little submissive mouse, nor was she anybody’s fool. She rolled up her sleeves and got on with the job of reforming the corrupt Carmelite order in Spain and wasn’t afraid of the knocks she would get for it.
Reading about her life reminds one that all the saints have this gritty and realistic streak to them. They engage in battle and they are not surprised when they’re wounded. When this fighting spirit is seen in the female saints it is even more striking. St Catherine of Siena had it. Teresa of Calcutta had it. Even Therese of Lisieux–the Little Flower and God’s good little girl–had that tough interior life, and she admired Teresa of Avila who wrote about the Interior Castle.
It’s easy to romanticize about the spiritual life, and St Teresa’s vision was of a beautiful castle of crystal, but I ask myself what an interior castle really is. If it was crystal it was also crusty. In other words, a castle is a tough place to live. Built out of stone and lodged on a solid rock, a castle is a safe place and a secure home, but it is also a fortress and a place to withstand a siege and plan a battle.