-confessional regularly used by St Teresa of Avila at the Dominican priory in Salamanca.
-by Br Toby Lees, OP, English Province
“St Teresa was born in Avila, in 1515. The 16th century was a time of turmoil in many areas of life, not least in the Church, but also, thanks to women like Teresa, a time of reform and renewal. Her mother died when she was 13, and despite her father’s protestations, she entered the Carmelites, aged 20. However, she soon became very ill and had to be sent home to recover at home for a number of years. Undeterred, when well enough, she returned to the Carmel and through a life of continual striving to love God more and more, she received extraordinary spiritual experiences and wonderful insights into the life of prayer. These insights are still a great gift to the Church thanks to her engaging writings.
She was granted the realization that God alone is changeless and permanent, and that when we seek solace in anything other than God, we are really placing our hopes in the ephemeral where we will never find peace. What helped make Teresa a saint though was that this insight did not remain at the level of mere insight. Instead it became recognition of a reality which she allowed to transform her life. One way in which she aided herself in this task of continual dedication to love God above all things is beautifully reflected in some of her words which she recorded on a bookmark, which she then used to keep her focussed on what truly matters:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
You may enjoy listening to this beautiful setting of these words sung by a virtual choir of 93 Carmelite nuns from 24 countries to celebrate the 500th anniversary of her birth.
Another of Teresa’s great lessons to us – at time when we hear many arguments about power within the Church – is that holiness has its own authority. Always born out of humility, holiness is more powerful that any title, status or position. Who would have believed that this frail lady, who suffered with poor health, would reform her Order; found many new houses of Carmel throughout Spain; and be at the forefront of a great renewal of spirituality within the Church? Despite little formal education, her receptivity to God means that 500 years on she still has much to teach us, and she is rightly recognized as one of the Doctors of the Church. It is one of the beautiful paradoxes often found in the lives of the saints, that one who spent so much of her life in the cloister has so much to teach those who live outside of it. Her reflection on the Church as the body of Christ is as challenging and as relevant to us as the day she wrote it:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
is to look out to the earth,
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom