St Teresa of Avila

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything. For whoever has God lacks nothing.” – St Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila, also known as St. Teresa of Jesus, was a prominent Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, reformer of the Carmelite Order, an author and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. St Teresa of Avila was the first Woman Doctor of the church and canonized a saint by Pope Gregory XV 40 years after her death. She was made the first woman Doctor of the Church because her holiness was a life to be imitated and shared. She is best known for three major works: The Way of Perfection, The Interior Castle; and her Autobiography.

St Teresa was a great reader. She found wisdom in St Augustine’s Confessions and understood the importance of reading the Word of God. For Teresa, spiritual transformation was rooted in a growing, personal, and loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Developing a relationship with Jesus Christ through mental prayer was extremely important to St Teresa of Avila. Shortly after entering the Carmelite Convent at Avila, Teresa of Avila became ill during which time she developed practice of mental prayer. After her recovery Teresa stopped praying, however, she returned to mental prayer after a religious ‘awakening’ while reflecting on artwork of Christ’s scourging at the pillar. St Teresa of Avila believed the reason to enter into mental prayer was to be in communion with God, stating “In prayer, what counts is not to think a lot but to love a lot”. To love and let ourselves be loved – shifts the focus from ourselves to God.

In her Autobiography (chapter 12) she describes this as follows:

“We can picture ourselves standing in front of Christ, and arouse in ourselves the liveliest sentiments of love for his Sacred Humanity; live in his presence, talk to him, ask him for things we need, tell him about the things that are making us suffer, share our joys with him instead of letting them drive him from our thoughts; without looking for well-turned phrases in our prayers, but finding the words that express our desires and needs. This is an excellent way of making very repaid progress: those who make this effort to live in his precious company so as to profit greatly from it and experience real love for our Lord, to whom we owe much- those are souls I consider to be very advanced.”

St Teresa of Avila offers the church a model for Mental Prayer because prayer binds us together as a community. When we grow in prayer, so do we grow in love of neighbor.

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