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Posted February 28, 2011
Author Jean Abiven, a Carmelite, is a native of Brest, France. His topics for the 15 days of Prayer with Teresa of Avila include the merciful benevolence of the Savior, discerning the Lord's initiatives, and remaining united with the Lord in our daily lives through service to the Church. As part of the" 15 Days of Prayer with" series, this work on Teresa of Avila includes guidelines for using the material, a brief biography of the saint, and 15 titled sessions consisting of a focus statement, teachings taken from the saint's writings, and suggestions for applying them to our lives today. Each session ends with several reflection questions. The series format is well suited to use by individuals and groups. The title for the third day, Thrown into Hell, describes what Abiven calls a "harrowing experience" in the form a vision of hell that came to Teresa while she was at prayer. He quotes Teresa's own writing on the scene. The entrance was long and narrow like an oven, the floor filled with dirty, foul-smelling water "swarming with putrid vermin." She saw herself placed in a small cupboard where she was afflicted with a sense of the soul "tearing itself to pieces" and unbearable bodily pains. Afterward, Teresa understood that earthly afflictions are nothing when compared to the torments of hell. Though Teresa found the vision terrifying for a long time, she considered the experience one of the greatest favors the Lord had granted her. It took away her fear of earthly tribulations, she wrote, and gave her strength to endure them "and give thanks to the Lord who, as it now appears, freed me from such everlasting and terrible evils." In reflecting on this passage, Abiven acknowledges that the vision was "an offshoot of the teachings of her times" but goes on to say that the image of a soul tearing itself apart is an accurate theological perspective. Reflection questions for this chapter address our attitude toward hell and our ability to choose to move closer to God rather than farther away.
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