“In recalling today’s feast of the glorious and spirited reformer St. Teresa of Avila, I can’t help but recall, as a Dominican myself, the great gifts that the Order of Preachers and the Carmelites together have given to the Church. This is particularly noted in the interaction between the intellectual contributions of the Dominicans and the mystical legacy of the Carmelites.
One of the most dynamic engagements between the two Orders began in Spain’s famed siglo de oro, the Golden Age. During this period, Spain experienced an incredible flourishing in nearly all of the liberal arts and also a revival in philosophical and theological Scholasticism and Catholic mysticism. Catholic Spain had become arguably the stronghold of the Faith after the onset of the Reformation, especially with the unification of the peninsula by los Reyes Católicos, Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. As a result, an orthodox and vibrant Catholic renewal was fostered. With regards to the intellectual life, the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria helped establish the historic tradition of academic excellence and made expansive developments in law and philosophy at the school of Salamanca. After him would come many learned friar preachers, like Domingo de Soto and Domingo Bañez, seeking to preach not only to Spaniards but to all those they might meet in the New World.
In mysticism, we find the two chief figures, both Carmelites, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. These two legendary reformers were for the most part not directly involved with the schoolmen but neither were they far removed from them. Their culture still retained a dogged commitment to the medieval understanding of the integral nature of the Catholic life; one did not separate intellectual study and the mystical life with as strong a tendency as is common today. For example, St. Teresa herself was a voracious reader, and she was not afraid to make this known, which was bold for a woman in the sixteenth century. In addition, she insisted that her sisters “go from time to time beyond their ordinary confessors and talk about their souls with persons of learning, especially if the confessors, though good men, have no learning; for learning is a great help in giving light upon everything” (The Way of Perfection, Ch. 5). Especially as the reformer of the Carmelite monasteries, she knew that establishing a firm intellectual foundation grounded in the font of the Church’s wisdom would be necessary if her reform was going to perdure. She would pick, for a large portion of her life, a succession of Dominican confessors and advisors trained in the rigorous intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. The most famous of those that St. Teresa sought out was the aforementioned Domingo Bañez. He was her confessor for six years and her advisor off and on for many more.
Jumping ahead a few centuries, we stumble upon a daughter of the holy Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. It was not the case for St. Elizabeth that she sought out a Dominican confessor or director, but it happened that Divine Providence allotted her one. The preaching of Fr. Irénée Vallée, a popular Dominican preacher in France at the time, captivated her, becoming one of the catalysts for her deep growth in the spiritual life. Saint Elizabeth spent a meager twenty-six years on this earth, so the development of her interior life happened rather quickly. Many of her writings attest to the great advances she made in the understanding of divine mysteries as a result of the doctrine she learned from Fr. Valleé. The friar also was edified by the future saint. He readily refers to her as his daughter. So, here too we see a similar edifying relationship between a Dominican spiritual director and a Carmelite nun.
The last mention goes to the great spiritual master of the twentieth century, Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Father Lagrange is arguably most well known for his project of fusing the thought of St. John of the Cross and St. Thomas Aquinas in his spiritual theology. He recognized the obvious foundations of St. John’s mystical theology on Thomistic principles and thought that he could reunite these disciplines, which were becoming more and more disparate in modern times. He wanted to prove that the serious Christian could find spiritual nourishment in rigorous Scholasticism and the mystical tradition. In his project, Fr. Lagrange shows the fecundity of the relationship between the charisms of the two Orders.
In this fallen world, harmonious things often become separated over time. The saints and theologians mentioned above are a refreshing witness to the power of collaboration for the building up and unification of God’s kingdom. Let us, then, call upon St. Teresa of Avila to help us to live more fruitful, unified lives in the mystical body of Christ.”
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
“Because there is a crucial connection in the divine plan between advanced prayer and generous suffering, we may not omit to mention the extraordinary continuity and number of physical illnesses that beset Teresa from about the age of twenty until her death at sixty-seven. While most writers dealing with the teresian account of contemplation may see no particular significance in the saint’s sicknesses, spiritual direction over the years has taught this observer that there is a close correlation between suffering well and growth in prayer depth. Of itself, of course, suffering improves no one, for a person can become bitter in his woes. But trials borne with love and in union with the crucified Beloved make one grow by leaps and bounds. I have noticed this connection over and over through the years. Students of contemplation must attend to what cannot be coincidental, namely, that this woman who reached the heights of contemplative prayer also descended to the inner abyss of pain. From her early twenties Teresa was in daily discomfort, sometimes in agony.3 She suffered from fevers, tinnitus and a serious heart condition. So grave were some of her afflictions that she “always nearly lost consciousness” and sometimes completely lost it.4 Early in her autobiography she tells us that her heart pains were so severe that she felt she was near death: “For sometimes it seemed that sharp teeth were biting into me . . . because of nausea I wasn’t able to eat anything.” Teresa was so shriveled and wasted away from a daily purge prescribed for her that she considered her nerves to be shrinking, and she said this caused “unbearable pains”. All hope was given up for her life, because in addition to her heart problem she was also tubercular. This last diagnosis did not bother Teresa much because the “bitter torment” of her other problems had already drained and exhausted her. She added that the latter “were like one continuous entity throughout my whole body”.5 A little further on she noted that she was “almost never, in my opinion, without many pains, and sometimes very severe ones, especially in the heart”.6 In a letter to Don Antonio Gaytan she observed that “I was going to say I am well, because, when I have nothing the matter beyond my usual ailments, that is good health for me.”7 From a mere factual point of view one must marvel at what this woman accomplished in her supremely busy life and how it was that she lived as long as she did, for while she lacked the skilled medical treatment of our century, she by no means pampered her body.
Eyewitness accounts agree that throughout her life, from her early teens to mature age, Teresa of Avila had a remarkable impact on people. Though she made no effort to achieve notoriety, as a young woman she became a celebrity. At the Incarnation convent, the important people of Avila who frequented the parlors (apparently as a pastime and for spiritual edification) considered this nun the number-one attraction because of her charm and intelligence and holy conversation. When later during her travels she began to speak at rest stops on the road, the men who cared for the carts and the animals stopped their swearing and quarreling because they preferred hearing about God from her to indulging in their customary pastimes.8 Her persuasive force was such that she transformed an everyday Catholic, none other than her own father,9 into a mystic. One can only be amazed that, in a century hardly known for feminism, a nun could have exercised so strong an influence over men. She was authorized by Rubeo, the master general of the Carmelite Order, to found reformed houses of men, and she gave the discalced habit to St. John of the Cross. She was spiritual director to her married brother Lorenzo, who not surprisingly became a mystic himself, and to at least one bishop. Men had so great a trust in her person and her judgment that they would give her large sums of money to use as she saw fit. About this she confided to Lorenzo that “people have such a blind confidence in me—I don’t know how they can do such things”.10
-Dubay, Fr. Thomas (2009-12-16T22:58:59). Fire Within (Kindle Locations 336-362). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.
3 Testimony 58, no. 16, p. 353.
4 Life, chaps. 3 and 4, pp. 38-45.
5 Ibid., chap. 5, nos. 7-8, p. 49.
6 Ibid., chap. 7, no. 11, p. 60. See also Marcelle Auclair, Teresa of Avila (New York: Doubleday, Image edition, 1961), pp. 73-74, for a more detailed description of one of these frightful illnesses.
7 Letter 57, p. 144.
8 E. Allison Peers tells us that Ana reports this “from their own mouths”. See his introduction to the Book of Foundations, vol. 3, p. xii.
9 Auclair, p. 77.
10 Letter 19, p. 75.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she laughs at days to come.”-Proverbs 31:25
-by Rev. James Martin, SJ
“Joy, humor and laughter are constant threads through the lives of many saints, disproving the stereotype of the dour, depressed, grumpy saint.
Traditionally, there are two ways that Christians relate to the saints: as patron and as companion. The patron model may be the one with which most people are familiar. Christians, especially Catholics, ask for the saint’s help, for his or her prayers in heaven, in the same way that you would ask for a friend’s prayer here on earth. Many Catholics regularly ask for a saint’s prayers, also called their “intercession.”
But the model more prevalent in the early church, and the model that has been of greatest influence in my own life, was the saint as companion. Elizabeth Johnson, a Catholic theologian, makes this point, and dilates on the traditional double model of “patron” and “companion” in her marvelous book on the saints Friends of God and Prophets.
The saint was seen as our fellow traveler along the way to God; by following his or her example the saint provides us with a model of Christian life. In other words, they serve as our models. So we can look to the saints as examples of those who not only lead joyful, laughter-filled lives, but often worked against the kind of deadly seriousness that infects religion.
St. Teresa of Ávila, the 16th-century Carmelite nun and reformer, herself spoke out against that kind of deadly serious Catholicism. “A sad nun is a bad nun,” she said. “I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits….What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.” Here is a woman whom the Catholic church has designated as “Doctor of the Church,” an eminent teacher of the faith, recommending a sense of humor.
Humor suffuses the writings of St. Teresa, an intelligent, capable and strong-willed woman. Indeed the first line of her autobiography is famously lighthearted. She begins, “Having virtuous and God-fearing parents would have been enough for me to be good if I were not so wicked.”
Later on, after a lengthy description about the nature of prayer, Teresa writes, “It seems to me I have explained this matter, but perhaps I’ve made it clear only to myself.” It is a charmingly self-deprecating remark, which instantly invokes the reader’s sympathy and friendship. And throughout her writings she regularly addresses God in the most familiar, even playful terms. Susan M. Garthwaite, Ph.D., refers to the saint’s “playful teasing of God” in an article in Spiritual Life (Spring 2009) entitled “The Humor of St. Teresa of Avila in The Life.”
And one of her most famous lines, though probably apocryphal, is also apposite: “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.”
This quotation of Teresa’s is one of the most well known of the saint’s, and is quoted in many popular books on her spirituality, not to mention its appearance all over the Internet. And it is certainly in keeping with her zestful and joyful approach to the spiritual life. There’s only one problem: it seems to appear nowhere in her writings.
Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., a Catholic scholar, a translator of her works, and a member of the male branch of the Carmelite Order, told me that he could not find it in any of her writings, though he pointed me to other places where she speaks about joy and lightheartedness in the spiritual life. “That doesn’t mean that she didn’t say it,” Father Kavanaugh told me, “only that it’s not written down.” In any event, it’s a great little prayer.
And while Teresa’s spirituality was a deeply reverential one, her humor also evinces a kind of playfulness in her relationship with God. Once, when she was travelling to one of her convents, St. Teresa of Ávila was knocked off her donkey and fell into the mud, injuring her leg. “Lord,” she said, “you couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?”
And the response in prayer that she heard was, “That is how I treat my friends.”
Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”
This story, one of the most well known about St. Teresa, is often told as a way of demonstrating the abundant humor of the saint. But it shows something else: her playful way of addressing God. Moreover, it shows her assumption of God’s playfulness with her.”
“I saw in [the angel’s] hands a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. [The] angel plunged the dart several times into my heart . . . . When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan, and the sweetness this greatest pain caused me was so superabundant that there is no desire capable of taking it away” -Teresa of Ávila, Autobiography
In 1976, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate (’87-’88) Richard Wilbur published a short poem entitled “Teresa.” The first stanza describes the famous mystical encounter between St. Teresa and an angel with a spear:
After the sun’s eclipse, The brighter angel and the spear which drew A bridal outcry from her open lips, She could not prove it true, Nor think at first of any means to test By what she had been wedded or possessed.
Though now we can see that Teresa was “wedded” to God, at the time even she who enjoyed such divine intimacy did not rule out the possibility that she had been “possessed” by some lower power. In case of supposed mystical experiences, St. Teresa writes, “The safest thing, as the Lord told me, is to make known to my confessor the whole state of my soul and the favors God grants me, that he be learned, and that I obey him. The Lord has often told me this.”
The second stanza of Wilbur’s poem contrasts the ecstasy of St. Teresa with the experience of Odysseus’ comrades on the island of Aeaea. In Homer’s Odyssey, the witch-goddess Circe gave the men a drugged draft and changed them into swine: “She struck with her wand, drove them into her pigsties . . . with grunts, snouts . . . off they went to their pens, sobbing, squealing . . . (X, 260-70).” The first line of the stanza understates the contrast with Teresa’s “outcry”:
Not all cries were the same; There was an island in mythology Called by the very vowels of her name Where vagrants of the sea, Changed by a wand, were made to squeal and cry As heavy captives in a witch’s sty.
So the poem distinguishes two kinds of ecstasy. The swine in Circe’s sty symbolize the irrational fits and shouts of human animality in revolt. When reason loses control to the emotions and sensuality, the rational animal turns wild. Man becomes a pig.
The second kind of ecstasy results from a knowledge of God. Catholics use the phrase “faith and reason,” but it would be a mistake to infer that some things are reasonable and that faith is not one of them. By faith, we transcend human reason and come to share in the knowledge of God, who is Wisdom Itself.When St. John calls Jesus the Word, the Greek word is Logos (from which we derive “logic” and all those names of knowledge ending in “-ology”). If faith is experienced as darkness, it is not because faith is irrational but because it is supra-rational. What Teresa saw was beyond her, but still her encounter with the Word was a real illumination.
A consummate wordsmith, Wilbur develops the theme by noting the similarity between “Teresa” and “Aeaea” (“the very vowels of her name”: e-e-a). Aristotle once remarked that among the animals only man possesses speech (logos), while the others have only the mere voice (phonē). Think of the cow’s “moooo” or the sheep’s “baaaahh,” or even the less reflective of human utterances: “ooooh,” “aaaah,” or “uuuuh.” By using consonants to shape the voice in numerous and various ways, the logical animal (the human being) turns a handful of vowels into a language of hundreds of thousands of words (to say nothing of poems). Likewise, inspired by the Logos, Teresa went on to write profound and detailed books on prayer. The Grecian vagrants, struck by the witch, could only grunt and squeal.
In fact, the wisdom of her teaching and the greatness of her deeds give eloquent witness to the authenticity of her visions. The last stanza of Wilbur’s poem gives voice to that witness.
The proof came soon and plain: Visions were true which quickened her to run God’s barefoot errands in the rocks of Spain Beneath its beating sun, And lock the O of ecstasy within The tempered consonants of discipline.
The bulk of those “barefoot errands in the rocks of Spain” went toward the reform of the Carmelites—work that called for extraordinary discipline and uncommon vision. For Teresa, there was ultimately no contradiction between mysticism and intense concentration on the business of daily life, between the delights of prayer and the labors of reviving a late-medieval religious order. In fact, it was her mysticism, or better, her deep friendship with Jesus the Logos, that sharpened her mind and inspired her self-possession.
Nor did Teresa make “spirituality” a pretense for despising “organized religion.” She knew that the Logos had become flesh and established a visible, tangible Church, and that he had wedded the Church to Himself and so become one flesh with her. Teresa understood herself as both organized in that body and commissioned to organize the religion of a part of that body, the Carmelite Order. And it is in and through that organized body that the Logos recommends her sanctity to us today.”
Kelly & I, ESPECIALLY Kelly, are learning A LOT about children, having a daughter of our own. It used to be people would utter the number of children they have, and it would be a number. And I would think or say, “Isn’t that nice!”, or pay some other innocuous compliment. From the experience of one, now, my eyes ever widen wider and my jaw drops ever further given the same number! And, I stop breathing. What a gift! What a commitment!
With Mara, for me, one was easy, two was a breeze, THREE IS STILL GOING ON!!!! Whatever I say about my experience as a father multiply by a million, or more, for Kelly! It is and always will be MUCH harder for her, as a mother! Praise her! Praise YOU, Kelly!
My own respect for my own parents has reached unimaginably profound levels I never could have conceived of or fantasized about before. Six! w/twins! Life has many realities you have to actually experience to begin to appreciate. Parenthood and marriage are some of those.
One child, alone, certainly MAKES an impression! We can always immediately tell the waiters or waitresses who DO NOT have children! They place the food immediately in front of Mara! Yikes! We HAVE TO create an area, a “buffer zone” around her, clearing away any possible projectile from within her reach! Having children is a joyful, Divine gift and vocation! Praise Him! I love being a father and hope to be again, if I play my cards right! 🙂
At seven, Teresa and her brother Rodrigo loved to read the lives of the saints and martyrs. It seemed to them that the martyrs got to heaven an easy way. The two children set out secretly to go to a faraway land, where they hoped they would die for Christ, being beheaded by the Moors. But, fortunately, they had not gotten far when they met an uncle! He took them back to their worried mother at once. Next the children decided to be hermits in their garden. This didn’t work out either. They could not get enough stones together to build their huts! Foiled, again!
Born 28 March 1515 at Avila, Castile, Spain as Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada, Teresa herself wrote down these amusing stories of her childhood. She was born to Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Doña Beatriz.
In 1528, when Teresa was 15, her mother died, leaving behind 10 children. Teresa was the “most beloved of them all.” She was of medium height, large rather than small, and generally well proportioned. In her youth she had the reputation of being quite beautiful, and she retained her fine appearance until her last years. Her personality was extroverted, her manner affectionately buoyant, and she had the ability to adapt herself easily to all kinds of persons and circumstances. She was skillful in the use of the pen, in needlework, and in household duties. Her courage and enthusiasm were readily kindled, as exemplified by her and Rodrigo’s adventures. Seeing his daughter’s need of prudent guidance, her father entrusted her to the Augustinian nuns at Santa Maria de Gracia in 1531.
The fact is that when she became a teenager she changed. Teresa read so many novels and foolish romances that she lost much of her love for prayer. She began to think more of dressing up to look pretty. She gave some thought to marriage. But after she recovered from a bad illness, Teresa read a book about the great St. Jerome. Then and there, she made up her mind to become a bride of Christ. She entered the Carmelite Order in 1536. Her father opposed this, but Teresa prevailed.
As a nun, Teresa often found it very hard to pray. Besides that, she had poor health. Teresa wasted time every day in long, foolish conversations. But one day, in front of a picture of Jesus, “the sorely wounded Christ”, she felt great sorrow that she did not love God more. She started then to live for Jesus alone, no matter what sacrifice had to be made. In return for her love, the Lord gave St. Teresa the privilege of hearing Him speak to her. She learned to pray in a marvelous way, too. These mystical experiences caused much controversy. Teresa’s conduct was more relaxed than the common ascetical practices of the time. Many of her acquaintances and friends accused her visions of being occasioned by the devil.
One confessor was so sure that the visions were from the devil that he told her to make an obscene gesture called the “fig” every time she had a vision of Jesus. She cringed but did as she was ordered, all the time apologizing to Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t seem upset but told her that she was right to obey her confessor. In her autobiography she would say, “I am more afraid of those who are terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself.”
I love Church technical terms: exegesis, hermeneutical arch, etc. One of Teresa’s most famous mystical experiences was the transverberation of her heart, immortalized by Bernini in marble in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.
“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.” –Chapter XXIX; Part 17, Teresa’s Autobiography
Teresa felt that the best evidence that her delights came from God was that the experiences gave her peace, inspiration, and encouragement. “If these effects are not present I would greatly doubt that the raptures come from God; on the contrary I would fear lest they be caused by rabies.”
Sometimes, however, she couldn’t avoid complaining to her closest Friend about the hostility and gossip that surrounded her. When Jesus told her, “Teresa, that’s how I treat my friends” Teresa responded, “No wonder You have so few friends.”
St. Teresa of Avila is well known as a great reformer of the Carmelite order and for having opened sixteen new Carmelite convents. When plans leaked out about her first convent, St. Joseph’s, she was denounced from the pulpit, told by her sisters she should raise money for the convent she was already in, and threatened with the Inquisition. The town started legal proceedings against her.
She was called “a restless, disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor” by the papal nuncio. When her former convent voted her in as prioress, the leader of the Carmelite order excommunicated the nuns. A vicar general stationed an officer of the law outside the door to keep her out. The other religious orders opposed her wherever she went. She often had to enter a town secretly in the middle of the night to avoid causing a riot.
And the help she received was sometimes worse than the hostility. A princess ordered Teresa to found a convent and then showed up at the door with luggage and maids. When Teresa refused to order her nuns to wait on the princess on their knees, the princess denounced Teresa to the Inquisition.
To Teresa, spiritual life was an attitude of love, not a rule. Although she proclaimed poverty, she believed in work, not in begging. She believed in obedience to God more than penance. If you do something wrong, don’t punish yourself — change. When someone felt depressed, her advice was that she go some place where she could see the sky and take a walk. When someone was shocked that Teresa was going to eat well, she answered, “There’s a time for partridge and a time for penance.” To her brother’s wish to meditate on hell, she answered, “Don’t.”
In another town, they arrived at their new house in the middle of the night, only to wake up the next morning to find that one wall of the building was missing.
Why was everyone so upset? Teresa said, “Truly it seems that now there are no more of those considered mad for being true lovers of Christ.” No one in religious orders or in the world wanted Teresa reminding them of the way God said they should live.
Teresa looked on these difficulties as good publicity. Soon she had postulants clamoring to get into her reform convents. Many people thought about what she said and wanted to learn about prayer from her. Soon her ideas about prayer swept not only through Spain but all of Europe. She also left a significant legacy of writings, which represent important benchmarks in the history of Christian mysticism. These works include the “Way of Perfection” and the “Interior Castle”.
“Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough.”– Saint Teresa of Avila
“God, deliver me from sullen saints”. – Saint Teresa of Avila
“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” -St. Teresa of Avila
“To be humble is to walk in truth.” -St. Teresa of Avila
“Oh my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for You is paid in
troubles! And what a precious price to those who love You if we understand its value.” – Saint Teresa of Avila
“There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” – Saint Teresa of Avila
“We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to look upon Him present within us.” – Saint Teresa of Avila
“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” –St. Teresa of Avila
“Once, while I was wondering why Our Lord so dearly loves the virtue of humility, the thought suddenly struck me, without previous reflection, that it is because God is the supreme Truth and humility is the truth, for it is the most true that we have nothing good of ourselves but only misery and nothingness: whoever ignores this, lives a life of falsehood. They that realize this fact most deeply are the most pleasing to God, the supreme Truth, for they walk in the truth.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament of the Eucharist, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” –St. Teresa of Avila – Teresa of Jesus
“Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.” -Saint Teresa of Avila
“Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one.” – Saint Teresa of Avila
“Truth suffers, but never dies.” -St. Teresa of Avila
“Perhaps we do not know what love is, nor does this greatly surprise me. Love does not consist in great sweetness of devotion, but in a fervent determination to strive to please God in all things, in avoiding, as far as possible, all that would offend Him, and in praying for the increase of the glory and honor of His Son and for the growth of the Catholic Church.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“Let us not fancy that if we cry a great deal we have done all that is needed—rather we must work hard and practice the virtues: that is the essential—leaving tears to fall when God sends them, without trying to force ourselves to shed them. Then, if we do not take too much notice of them, they will leave the parched soil of our souls well watered, making it fertile in good fruit; for this is the water which falls from Heaven. … I think it is best for us to place ourselves in the presence of God, contemplate His mercy and grandeur and our own vileness and leave Him to give us what He will, whether water or drought, for He knows best what is good for us; thus we enjoy peace and the devil will have less chance to deceive us.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.” -St. Teresa of Avila
“The important thing is not to think much but to love much; do, then, whatever most stirs you to love.” -St. Teresa of Avila
“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.” -St. Teresa of Avila
“Do not suppose that one who suffers does not pray; he prays, since he offers his sufferings to God, and often far better than one who is racking his brains in solitude and who fancies, if he manages to wring out a few tears, that this is true prayer.” —St. Teresa of Avila
“If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that as we expect to please Him and receive an abundance of His graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through His most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding His life we find that He is the best example.
What more do we desire from such a good Friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, He will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves Him and always keeps Him near. Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led Him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of His love; for Love calls for love in return.
Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love Him. For soon the Lord will grant us the grace of impressing His love on our hearts, and all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.” – Saint Teresa of Avila
“While in a state like this the soul will find profit in nothing, and hence, being as it is in mortal sin, none of the good works it may do will be of any avail to win it glory; for they will not have their origin in that First Principle, which is God, through Whom alone our virtue is true virtue. -St Teresa of Avila, “Interior Castle”, about when the soul is in mortal sin.
“Do not suppose that after advancing the soul to such a state God abandons it so easily that it is light work for the devil to regain it. When His Majesty sees it leaving Him, He feels the loss so keenly that He gives it in many a way a thousand secret warnings which reveal to it the hidden danger. In conclusion, let us strive to make constant progress: we ought to feel great alarm if we do not find ourselves advancing, for without doubt the evil one must be planning to injure us in some way; it is impossible for a soul that has come to this state not to go still farther, for love is never idle. Therefore it is a very bad sign when one comes to a standstill in virtue.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“Do you know what it is to be truly spiritual? It is for men to make themselves the slaves of God—branded with His mark, which is the Cross. … Unless you make up your minds to this, never expect to make much progress, for as I said humility is the foundation of the whole building and unless you are truly humble, Our Lord, for your own sake, will never permit you to rear it very high lest it should fall to the ground. Therefore, sisters, take care to lay a firm foundation by seeking to be the least of all and the slave of others, watching how you can please and help them, for it will benefit you more than them. Built on such strong rocks, your castle can never go to ruin. I insist again: your foundation must not consist of prayer and contemplation alone: unless you acquire the virtues and praise them, you will always be dwarfs; and please God no worse may befall you than making no progress, for you know that to stop is to go back—if you love, you will never be content to come to a standstill.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“We must beg God constantly in our prayers to uphold us by His hand; we should keep ever in our minds the truth that if He leaves us, most certainly we shall fall at once into the abyss, for we must never be so foolish as to trust in ourselves. After this I think the greatest safeguard is to be very careful and to watch how we advance in virtue; we must notice whether we are making progress or falling back in it, especially as regards the love of our neighbor, the desire to be thought the least of all and how we perform our ordinary, everyday duties. If we attend to this and beg Our Lord to enlighten us, we shall at once perceive our gain or loss.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways. Sometimes He calls souls by means of sickness or troubles, or by some truth He teaches them during prayer, for tepid as they may be in seeking Him, yet God holds them very dear.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“I believe we shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God, for, beholding His greatness we are struck by our own baseness, His purity shows our foulness, and by meditating on His humility we find how very far we are from being humble. Two advantages are gained by this practice. First, it is clear that white looks far whiter when placed near something black, and on the contrary, black never looks so dark as when seen beside something white. Secondly, our understanding and will become more noble and capable of good in every way when we turn from ourselves to God: it is very injurious never to raise our minds above the mire of our own faults.” —St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
“The queen is the piece that can carry on the best battle in this game, and all the other pieces help. There’s no queen like humility for making the King surrender. Humility drew the King from heaven to the womb of the Virgin, and with it, by one hair, we will draw Him to our souls. And realize that the one who has more humility will be the one who possesses Him more; and the one who has less will possess Him less. —St. Teresa of Avila from the book The Way of Prayer
-Ecstasy of St Teresa, (1647-1652), Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
–Teresa of Ávila, 1827, by François Gérard (1770−1837)
Prayer to Saint Teresa of Avila
Dear wonderful saint, model of fidelity to your vows, you gladly carried a heavy cross following in the steps of Christ, Who chose to be crucified for us. You realized that God, like a merciful Father, chastises those whom He loves – which to those who love this world seems silly indeed. Grant to those who suffer like you relief from their affliction, if this be the will and the plan of God. Amen.
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., "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "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