St. Teresa of Avila
(Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, 1515-1582)
Description: Readers interested in basic Christian mysticism need look no further than Saint Teresa of Avila. The Spanish Carmelite nun's autobiography provides a perfect entrance point to the world of "mental prayer." She begins her story with tales of her childhood in the early 1500s--her pious parents, the death of her mother, and how she became a nun. She tells of the hardships of her life--illness and a period of "lukewarmness" during which she ceased to pray. St. Teresa also relates the visions and instructions she received from God later in her life. The book also contains St. Teresa's writings on the four states of mental prayer. In the first stage, believers learn to pray. In the second, the prayer of quiet, they experience the supernatural aspect of prayer. In the third, deep prayer, the soul is bathed in the pleasure of God's presence; and in the fourth, sense are abandoned in a sort of out-of-body experiences where the soul feels only divine union. This book also contains a series of "relations," letters she sent to colleagues giving further thoughts on her beliefs. St. Teresa's warm and personal descriptions of union with God provide a wonderful starting point for engagement in her life and theology of mysticism.
The Book of the Foundations of St. Teresaby St. Teresa of Avila
I Have often found by experience, to say nothing of what I have read in several books, the great benefit a soul derives by not departing from obedience. In this, I consider our advancement in virtue to consist, as well as the acquisition of humility; for obedience secures us from those fears, which while we mortals live it is fit we should have, lest we stray from the… See more details below
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I Have often found by experience, to say nothing of what I have read in several books, the great benefit a soul derives by not departing from obedience. In this, I consider our advancement in virtue to consist, as well as the acquisition of humility; for obedience secures us from those fears, which while we mortals live it is fit we should have, lest we stray from the path to heaven. Herein is found that quiet, so much prized by souls desirous of serving God; for if they truly resign themselves to this holy obedience, and subject their understanding to it, so as to have no other will but that of their confessor; and if they be Religious, that of their superior, the devil ceases to attack them with his continual scruples and vexations, finding he loses rather than gains. And besides, the turbulent motions of our minds, which delight in doing their own will, and even in subjecting reason, in things that please us, cease by obedience: and remember that we have deliberately surrendered our will to the will of God, choosing, as a means, to subject ourselves to one who holds his place.
Since, then, our Lord, in His goodness, hath given me the light to know the great treasure contained in this precious virtue, I have endeavoured to acquire it, though weakly and imperfectly; and often the little virtue I see in me causes me uneasiness, because I know I have not fully accomplished some of the things enjoined me. May His divine Majesty supply whatever is defective, in this my present undertaking.
While living in the monastery of St. Joseph at Avila, in the year 1562 (the same year in which that monastery was founded), I was commanded by Father Garcia, of Toledo, of the Order of St. Dominic, and who was then my confessor, to write the Foundation of that house, with several other things, which (if published) whoever reads them will know what they are. But being now at Salamanca, in the year 1573 (it is eleven years since I wrote the first Foundation), my present confessor, Father Ripalda, Rector of the Society of Jesus, having read the book of the first Foundation, he thought it might conduce much to the honour of our Lord, if I wrote the Foundations of the other seven monasteries, which, by the goodness of our Lord, have since been erected; he accordingly commanded me to do so, and likewise to give an account of the commencement of the monasteries belonging to the Discalced Fathers of this First Rule. But as such an undertaking seemed to me impossible, on account of the many duties I had to attend to, and of the Letters I was obliged to write, as well as other important business commanded me by my superiors, I was recommending myself to God, being somewhat troubled on account of my poor abilities and weak state of health (for even without this burden, I seemed unable to perform my other duties by reason of my natural imbecility), when our Lord said to me, “Daughter, obedience gives strength.”* His Majesty grant it may prove so, and may he give me grace worthily to relate, to His glory, the favours He hath bestowed on our Order in these Foundations. Be assured, that whatever I may say shall be said in all truth, without any exaggeration, agreeably with what happened; for in any matter, however slight, I would not tell a lie for the whole world; and therefore, in what I am now writing (with the intention that our Lord may be praised therein), I shall be most scrupulous, believing it would be not only a loss of time, but using deception in the things of God, to be otherwise; for then, so far from honouring Him, I should rather offend Him, which would be high treason. May His Majesty ever protect me from doing such a thing.
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