Teresa of Ávila

POETRY: Teresa by Richard Wilbur

July 11, 2018

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. 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. 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 consonant of [...]

PRAYER: St. Teresa Of Ávila And Prayer by Ernest E. Larkin

June 19, 2017

From: The Published Articles of Ernest E. Larkin, O.Carm. Prayer is the heart of Teresa of Avila’s life and teaching, her “way of perfection.” For her, prayer is the supreme meaning and value of human existence, since it is the inner life that animates the exterior, the journey within that is the journey into reality. Prayer is life before it is an exercise, a dimension of being before it is an experience. Prayer means to be in touch with the Center of one’s life, who is “the Divine Majesty” dwelling in his own rooms in the depths of the interior castle, the figure for ourselves. This contact deep within where we merge with God and are transformed into God-centered persons makes us the “new creation” of Pauline theology and [...]

SAINTS: Teresa Of Ávila — A Woman For More Than Her Time, by Greg Friedman

April 1, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Jeremiah 11:18-20; Psalm 7:2-3, 9bc-12; John 7:40-53 In the classic Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons, and Feasts, which I used alongside the lectionary in preparing these reflections, there’s a great description of Saint Teresa of Avila: Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes; wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; mystic, yet an energetic reformer.  A holy woman, a womanly woman. The lectionary readings continue to give us the sense of the growing plot against Jesus.  Today we hear a snippet from the plot against the prophet Jeremiah, then we listen to discussions about whether Jesus is the Messiah.  The chief priests and Pharisees debate this as well, and a [...]

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: Prayer And The Christian Way Of Life (Part Three), by Claire E. Wolfteich

October 27, 2016

From Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility Prayer as Friendship: Teresa of Ávila Another Spanish spiritual guide, Teresa of Ávila, a mystic and preeminent teacher on prayer, described prayer as “nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends.”  Teresa knew about friendship and about prayer; she was sociable and as a teenager quite absorbed in what she later would see as vain friendships.  Inspired by spiritual books and conversation, she made a decision at age twenty (against her father’s wishes) to enter a nearby Carmelite monastery and live as a nun.  She experienced terrible health problems and great difficulty in prayer for years before experiencing the intense mystical [...]

POETRY: In The Hands Of God by Teresa of Ávila

November 25, 2015

Majestic Sovereign, Unending wisdom, Kindness pleasing to my soul; God sublime, one Being Good, Behold this one so vile. Singing of her love to you: What is your order for me to do? Give me, if You will, prayer; Or let me know dryness, And abundance of devotion, Or if not, then barrenness. In you alone, Sovereign Majesty, I find my peace. What is your order for me to do? Yours, you made me, Yours, you saved me, Yours, you endured me, Yours, you called me, Yours, you awaited me, Yours, I did not stray. What is your order for me to do? Give me then wisdom. Or for love, ignorance, Years of abundance, Or hunger and famine. Darkness or sunlight, Move me here or there: What is your order for me to do? Good Lord, what is your order for me to do, [...]

MYSTICISM: Resisting The Gifts by Teresa of Ávila

June 12, 2015

From The Book of My Life My confession to Father de Cetina soothed my soul.  I felt prepared to do whatever it might take to reach God.  Although my confessor did not pressure me in the slightest, I felt compelled to change many subtle habits.  Father de Cetina did not seem to take these matters very seriously; he was far less concerned with technical details than he was with the love of God.  But his emphasis on loving God inspired me all the more, because he gave me tremendous freedom and never coerced me. I spent almost two months trying with all my might to resist God’s favors and gifts.  The changes inside me began to show on the outside.  The Lord was giving me the courage to endure things that people who knew me [...]

PRAYER: Intelligence In The Prayer Of Quiet by Thomas Merton

December 20, 2014

From The Ascent to Truth Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Àvila have both left us detailed studies of the ways of contemplative prayer, and better than any other mystics they have described the practical details of our cooperation with the Spirit of God in the degree of prayer which most interests us here.  They both agree that in the Night of Sense, and more still in the Prayer of Quiet, the faculties of the soul are in some measure passive.  But they also agree that these faculties are still free to act of their own accord and that consequently they are capable of either helping of hindering the work of God.  And they both agree that in order to help the action of grace our faculties must engage in some very simplified [...]

SATURDAY READING: Flight Of The Spirit, by Teresa of Ávila

August 2, 2014

From The Book of My Life One night, I felt so ill that I had to excuse myself from the communal practice of silent prayer.  I took my rosary with me so that at least I could occupy myself with vocal prayer.  Since I was sitting in an oratory, it probably appeared that I was in a recollected state, but I was trying very hard not to let my mind become absorbed.  Such techniques are of little use, however, when the Lord wills otherwise. I had not been there for very long when such a forceful rapture seized my soul that I was powerless to resist it.  It seemed to me that I was carried to Heaven where I was greeted by my father and mother.  In the short amount of time it takes to recite an Ave Maria, I saw so many wondrous things that I [...]

PRAYER: Prayer As Suffering — Aridity, by Donald Spoto

December 9, 2013

From In Silence For much of her life as a nun, Teresa of Ávila found prayer a tedious, depressing duty that left her feeling frustrated, a failure; it is said that during these years, she regularly shook the hourglass, as if to hurry time along.  “I spent nearly twenty years on that stormy sea,” she wrote in her autobiography.  “I had not joy in God and no pleasure in the world.”  In addition, she endured a series of grave illnesses; hers was not, in other words, a comfortable and soothing life of easy piety. On the brink of despair, she thought of Christ alone and afflicted, praying to God in agony the night before his death – “simple thoughts of this kind.”  Then someone gave her a copy of [...]

REFLECTION: Exclamations of the Soul to God (I through V), by Teresa of Ávila

November 10, 2013

I O life, life, where can you find your sustenance when you are absent from thy life?  In such great loneliness, how do you occupy yourself?  What do you do, since all your actions are faulty and imperfect?  Wherein do you find comfort, O my soul, in this stormy sea?  I grieve for myself, but still more do I grieve for the time when I lived without grief.  O Lord, how smooth are your paths!  Yet who will walk in them without fear?  I fear to live without serving you, yet when I set out to serve you I find no way of doing so that satisfies me or can pay any part of what I owe.  I feel that I would gladly spend myself wholly in your service, and yet, when I consider my wretchedness, I realize that I can do nothing good unless you [...]

SERMON: Being A Friend Of Jesus by Fred B. Craddock

August 4, 2013

As the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you [...]

MYSTICISM: Saint Teresa of Ávila — The Ironic Doctor by Francine Prose

January 12, 2013

From A Tremor of Bliss: Contemporary Writers on the Saints Irony is not the quality we associate first with the saints. Seen from this distance, and with the modernist’s double vision, their lives appear to us to have been rich in ironic and playful incident and detail.  Consider the vegetarian Nicholas of Tolentino, who, on being forced to eat a pigeon stew, caused the cooked birds’ feathers to regrow, the sauce to flow like blood in their veins, until the revivified pigeons fluttered their wings and flew out the window; or Saint Datius, who exorcised a haunted house by mocking the devil for making the sounds of ghostly animals in the night.  Let us think of Saint Ansovinus, who embarrassed a stingy innkeeper with a miraculous [...]

MYSTICISM: The House Of The Soul by Evelyn Underhill

December 13, 2012

From: The Essentials of Mysticism and Other Essays When Saint Paul described our mysterious human nature as a “temple of the Holy Spirit” — a created dwelling-place or sanctuary of the uncreated and invisible divine life — he was stating in the strongest possible terms a view of our status, our relation to God, which has always been present in Christianity and is indeed implicit in the Christian view of reality.  But that statement as it stands seems far too strong for most of us.  We do not feel in the very least like the temples of creative love.  We are more at ease with Saint Teresa, when she describes the soul as an “interior castle” — a roomy mansion, with various floors and apartments from the basement upwards, not [...]

TERESA OF ÁVILA: Quixote’s Madness by Colin Dickey

November 22, 2012

From Afterlives of the Saints Lost in the limitless labyrinth of books is Teresa.  Born in March 1515 in Avila, she was born for reading and as a young girl read incessantly: “I do not believe I was ever happy if I had not a new book,” she writes in the opening of her autobiography.  She learned this love from her mother, who was fond of chivalric romances and always made time for her children to read.  Teresa’s father disapproved, thought it a waste of time, a corrupting of his children’s minds.  Teresa and her siblings had to keep the reading a secret — she began to call it “an addiction,” her “little fault.”  She read in the quiet of dark spaces, much like the young Marcel Proust, who centuries later described [...]

MYSTICISM: Teresa of Ávila, or Love’s Madness

February 15, 2012

I have never been one to shake my fist at man and yell out, why don’t you believe in God, the almighty, the one who loves you absolutely?  To me it has always been fairly obvious – the causes of this near-to-complete divorce proceeding that our culture likes to keep in court, drawing out the litigation, airing the seemingly eternal complaints against God, the history, the agony. To me it’s simple: God is absolute; man is relative.  We are the ones, after all, who get to hear the ticking of the clock.  Who get to feel the streaking pain in our bodies.  Who get to know the shock of watching a loved one leave us. God, on the other hand, experiences nothing in terms of time.  Experiences nothing in terms of his own pain. [...]


December 16, 2011

I took the following definition of centering prayer off the website Centering Prayer, ostensibly the website dedicated to the teachings of Father Thomas Keating, one of the priests who began the teaching of contemplative prayer in the modern age.  The definition goes: Centering prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself.  This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. I find within this definition a perfect expression of our relationship with God: through this kind of prayer we experience [...]