St Teresa Of Jesus On Prayer
The Ecstasy of St Teresa of Avila by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints~ St Teresa of Jesus or as she is more commonly called, St Teresa of Avila. This Carmelite nun is responsible for the reform of the order to which she belonged. One of the things I love about this saint is that she was never afraid to stand up for the Truth and take action in doing so no matter what it may cost her. I also love the very straightforward way she talked to Our Lord, always though respectfully and reverently referring to Him as His Majesty.
St Teresa is one of the 33 Doctors of the Church. She was declared thus by the Church because of her many writings and teachings. She wrote much on prayer and the spiritual life. I will admit that I often have difficulty with her writings, needing to reread sections at a time. It has been my experience with spiritual reading that sometimes this is God's way of telling me that I am not ready for this particular writing or lesson. Often when I go back to it at a later time I find I am more open to whatever the material happens to be.
That being said, I did come across this chapter on the importance of the practice of prayer with firm resolution from St Teresa's The Way of Perfection.
While this excerpt is a bit lengthy, it is worth the read and even if you come away with one or two things to help your prayerlife, it is time well spent. If you would like to read more follow the link at the end of the post.
Thank you St Teresa for your wisdom and guidance, please pray for us!
From: The way of Perfection Ch. 21
Do not be dismayed, daughters, at the number of things which you have to consider before setting out on this Divine journey, which is the royal road to Heaven. By taking this road we gain such precious treasures that it is no wonder if the cost seems to us a high one. The time will come when we shall realize that all we have paid has been nothing at all by comparison with the greatness of our prize.
Let us now return to those who wish to travel on this road, and will not halt until they reach their goal, which is the place where they can drink of this water of life. Although in some book or other -- in several, in fact -- I have read what a good thing it is to begin in this way, I do not think anything will be lost if I speak of it here. As I say, it is most important -- all-important, indeed -- that they should begin well by making an earnest and most determined resolve not to halt until they reach their goal, whatever may come, whatever may happen to them, however hard they may have to labour, whoever may complain of them, whether they reach their goal or die on the road or have no heart to confront the trials which they meet, whether the very world dissolves before them. Yet again and again people will say to us: "It is dangerous", "So-and-so was lost through doing this", "Someone else got into wrong ways", "Some other person, who was always praying, fell just the same", "It is bad for virtue", "It is not meant for women; it may lead them into delusions", "They would do better to stick to their spinning", "These subtleties are of no use to them", "It is quite enough for them to say their Paternoster and Ave Maria."
With this last remark, sisters, I quite agree. Of course it is enough! It is always a great thing to base your prayer on prayers which were uttered by the very lips of the Lord. People are quite right to say this, and, were it not for our great weakness and the lukewarmness of our devotion, there would be no need for any other systems of prayer or for any other books at all. I am speaking to souls who are unable to recollect themselves by meditating upon other mysteries, and who think they need special methods of prayer; some people have such ingenious minds that nothing is good enough for them! So I think I will start to lay down some rules for each part of our prayer -- beginning, middle and end -- although I shall not spend long on the higher stages. They cannot take books from you, and, if you are studious and humble, you need nothing more.
I have always been fond of the words of the Gospels and have found more recollection in them than in the most carefully planned books -- especially books of which the authors were not fully approved, and which I never wanted to read. If I keep close to this Master of wisdom, He may perhaps give me some thoughts which will help you. I do not say that I will explain these Divine prayers, for that I should not presume to do, and there are a great many explanations of them already. Even were there none, it would be ridiculous for me to attempt any. But I will write down a few thoughts on the words of the Paternoster; for sometimes, when we are most anxious to nurture our devotion, consulting a great many books will kill it. When a master is himself giving a lesson, he treats his pupil kindly and likes him to enjoy being taught and does his utmost to help him learn. Just so will this heavenly Master do with us.