Learning from Teresa of Avila

A new law school year is upon us and today was the first gathering of the Fall Reflection Series, on the theme of Praying with the Mystics. The first fall reflection series I offered at UST (five or six years ago) was on this theme and I decided to return to it, albeit with a slightly different cast of characters.

The series will have five sessions. The first three, which I will facilitate, are on Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton and Julian of Norwich. The last two, which Jennifer Wright will facilitate (during my Camino walk) will be on Margery Kempe and The Author of the Cloud of the Unknowing.

Today I gave in introduction to the series, talking about what is a mystic, and then giving a reflection on Teresa of Avila. In talking about Teresa, I began by describing some of that qualities that made her so open to hearing God and then talked about her explanation of the soul and its journey to God.

With respect to what it means to call someone a mystic I quoted Ursula Kay, who in her book Christian Mystics, defines a mystic in this way: “A mystic is a person who is deeply aware of the powerful presence of the divine spirit: someone who seeks, above all, the knowledge and love of God and who experiences to an extraordinary degree the profoundly personal encounter with the energy of divine life.” I also shared Robert Ellwood’s definition of mysticism “simply as a contact with the deity. … Mystical experience is experience in a religious context that is immediately or subsequently interpreted by the experiencer as encounter with ultimate divine reality in a direct nonrational way that engenders a deep sense of unity and of living during the experience on a level of being other than the ordinary.”

You can access a recording of the talk I gave here or stream it from the icon below. The podcast runs for 39:43. You can find the handout I distributed (which I refer to near the end of the podcast here.

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