Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Teresa of Avila, one of the women given the designation of “Doctor of the Church.”
It is difficult not to have admiration for this remarkable woman. She barely survived the Spanish Inquisition, she annoyed many with her reform of both the male and female Carmelite orders, she bent a few rules here and there, and she did it all while suffering debilitating illness through most of her life – living with almost constant pain. At the same time, she authored a body of written work that many would call the cornerstone of Christian mysticism, and she is, even today, one of the most widely read writers in the Spanish language.
She was also a woman of deep prayer, who also spent much time teaching her sisters and others how to deepen their prayer life and draw closer to God. In honor of her day, I thought I would share some of her instructions to her sisters and invite us to consider how they might apply to our own situations.
Hardly have we begun to imagine that our heads are aching than we stay away from choir…. One day we are absent because we had a headache some time ago; another day, because our head has just been aching again; and on the next three days in case it should ache once more.
Do I find excuses not to take time to be with God? Do I allow various types of aches, distractions and occupations to keep me away from prayer?
What an amusing kind of progress in the love of God it is, to tie God’s hands by thinking that God cannot help us except by one path.
Do I get caught up in one way of praying?Do I require of God a particular way of answering my petitions?
Resolve to give God a particular time of prayer every day and never take it back again, whatever we may suffer through trials annoyances or aridities.
Those of you who cannot engage in much discursive reflection with the intellect or keep your mind from distraction, get used to this practice! Get used to it! See, I know that you can do this; for I suffered many years from the trial…of not being able to quiet the mind in anything. But I know that our God does not leave us so abandoned; for if we humbly ask God for this friendship, God will not deny it to us. And if we cannot succeed in one year, we will succeed later. Let’s not regret the time that is so well spent. Who’s making us hurry.
Do I get easily discouraged when my prayer is difficult? Am I willing to “Get used to it” and stay at it?
It used to help me to look at a field, or water or flowers. These reminded me of the Creator – I mean, they awakened me, helped me to recollect myself and thus served me as a book……Go to some place where you can see the sky, and walk up and down a little.
What happens when I stop insisting on controlling my relationship with God and open myself up to finding God in all things?
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!