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Bernini's baroque style was a powerful influence on the architecture of his period. His most famous architectural works are the symmetrical curved colonnades of St. Peter's, the facade of Barberini's palace, and the arsenal at Civita Vecchia. Late in his career Bernini designed a series of three churches, culminating in the domed Sant' Andrea al Quirinale, , in Rome. The centerpiece is The Ecstasy of S. Teresa of Avila, a large statue designed to be illuminated by reflected light from a hidden window. The figures of S.

Teresa and an angel are seen upon a stage, witnessed by seven Cardinals and a Doge of the Cornaro family looking on from flanking balconies. Emphasis was placed on directness and clarity instead of symbolism and rhetoric. Teresa assigns the second degree of prayer to be that of Quiet, in which the powers of the soul are recollected, but not absorbed in God; the will or affections being strongly captivated in God, and employed in acts of love, and the understanding and memory aiding some little the will to enjoy this its sovereign good and quiet, though the will is so taken up in God as not to regard or be distracted by the concurrence of these powers.

This state is accompanied with an exceeding great interior comfort or delight, the powers of the soul are applied without labour or pains so that this prayer never wearies how long soever it continues and often tears flow with joy of their own accord, or without being procured. This recollection or quiet in the exercise of divine love inspired and produced by the Spirit of God, differs infinitely from a pretended quiet of the will which human industry may strive to produce in it; but which is without any effect or sublime operation; it quickly expires and is succeeded by great dryness in the affections.

The devil sometimes by working upon the imagination endeavours to imitate the visits of the Divine Spirit; but an experienced soul easily discovers his illusions, as St. Teresa remarks; for he leaves the mind disturbed, not calm, as the Holy Ghost always does: neither does he leave any impression of profound infused humility, but generally an inclination to pride; nor any strong dispositions to virtue: nor great spiritual light in the understanding; nor steady resolution or constancy in virtue: which are the effects of heavenly visitations, as the saint remarks.

Teresa explains at large; and is not inactive, as the false mystics or Quietists pretended, though she knows not at all how she acts. Teresa distinguishes the prayer of Union, in which her soul was able to resist the divine operation, from a rapture or ecstacy in which it could not resist, and in which her body lost all the use of its voluntary functions and every part remained in the same posture, without feeling, hearing, or seeing, at least so as to perceive it; though she says, on such occasions the soul knows she is in a rapture, whilst she is by the most ardent love ravished in God.

These raptures continue sometimes for hours, though not all that time in the same degree. In them the soul sees in a wonderful and clear manner the emptiness of earthly things, the greatness and goodness of God, and the like. Though before she saw nothing in herself but desires of serving God, in a rapture she beholds herself covered with spots, defects, and faults, for the smallest are clearly visible in a bright beam of divine light, darting in upon her: she sees that she is all misery, and imperfection, and cries out: Who shall be justified before thee?

As the vessel which seemed before clear in a crystal glass, appears full of atoms if it be placed in the beams of the sun: so this divine sun, by darting its bright beams upon the soul, sets before her eyes all her imperfections and sins as so many hideous spots.

At this sight she is confounded and humbled on one side beyond expression, and on the other astonished at the greatness and goodness of God, and transported in an ecstacy of love and adoration. Teresa mentions, that having suffered two raptures in the church which could not escape the observation of others, she prayed that this might no more happen to her in public, and from that time it had not when she wrote: but this was not long after.

She says she was sometimes raised from the ground in prayer, though she endeavoured to resist it. Teresa, after having exercised himself twenty years in mental prayer, began to withdraw herself from the conversation of secular persons, and other occasions of dissipation and little faults which she exceedingly exaggerates, and was favoured by God very frequently with the prayer of Quiet, and also with that of Union, which latter sometimes continued a long time with great improvement of her soul, and with excessive heavenly joy and love.

The examples of certain women who had been miserably the dupes of a deluded imagination and of the devil, much terrified her; and though she was persuaded her favours were from God, she was so much perplexed with these fears that she resolved to take advice: and she consulted so many persons, though obliging them to secrecy, that the affair was divulged abroad, to her great mortification and confusion. The first person to whom she opened herself was a gentleman of the town, named Francis of Salsedo a married man, who for thirty-eight years had practised mental prayer with great assiduity, and with his virtuous lady, who concurred with him in his great charities, fasts, and other exercises of piety, was an example of virtue to the whole country.

This gentleman introduced to her Dr. Daza, a learned and virtuous priest; and after an examination from what she declared of herself, both judged her to be deluded by the devil, saying, such divine favours were not consistent with a life so full of imperfections as she exposed hers to be. Her alarms being increased by this decision, the gentleman advised her to speak with one of those first fathers of the Society of Jesus, who were lately come into Spain, and were eminent for their manner of prayer, and their experience in virtue and an interior life.

This gentleman to whom the saint says she owed her salvation and her comfort bade her not be discouraged, because she was not delivered from all her imperfections in one day; for God would do it by little and little, and said that he himself had remained whole years in reforming some very light things. By the means of certain friends one of these fathers of the Society visited her, to whom she made a very careful general confession, in which, with the confession of her sins, she gave him an account of all the particulars through the course of her whole life relating to her manner of prayer, and her late extraordinary favours.

The father assured her these were divine graces; but told her she had neglected to lay the true foundation of an interior life by the practice of a universal self-denial and mortification, by which a person learns to govern his senses, subdue entirely his passions, and cut off all inordinate attachments in the heart. That spiritual builder attempts to raise an edifice of devotion upon a quick-sand, who does not begin by laying the foundation by humility and that spirit of compunction and practice of general self-denial, which being joined with a life of prayer will be a crucifixion of the old man, and a reformation of the affections of the soul.

By the advice of this confessor, St. By the prudent order of the same servant of God, though he judged her extraordinary gusts in prayer to be from God, she endeavoured for two months to resist and reject them. But her resistance was in vain: and when she laboured the most to turn herself from heavenly communications, our Lord overwhelmed her most abundantly with them.

Francis Borgia, at that time commissary-general of the Jesuits in Spain, coming to Avila, was desired to speak to the saint, and having heard her account of her prayer and state, he assured her, without hesitation, that the Spirit of God was the author of her prayer; commended her resistance for a trial during the two months past, but advised her not to resist any elevations if our Lord was pleased to visit her so in prayer, provided she had no hand in endeavouring to procure them: and he prescribed her greater mortifications than she had hitherto undertaken.

Her confessor being called away, she chose another of the Society of Jesus.

Bernini, Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

This was F. Balthasar Alvarez du Paz, a very spiritual man, who, through severe interior trials during the space of twenty years, arrived at the perfection of holy contemplation and an interior life. Teresa, contrary to her perfect sanctification, especially in her remaining still sensible to the satisfaction of ingenious, witty, and learned conversation, of which he put her in mind.

Her answer was, that she had hoped her motive in it had been always for the best, and that it seemed a kind of ingratitude in her entirely to deny herself to certain friends. He told her she would do well to beg of God that he would direct her to do what was most pleasing to him, and for that purpose to recite every day the hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus. Balthasar Alvarez was her director she suffered grievous persecutions, for three years, and, during two of them, extreme interior desolation of soul intermixed with gleams of spiritual comfort and favours.

Six religious men of note who had been her friends, after a conference on this subject, decided that she seemed deluded by the devil, and prevailed on F. Balthasar to go with them to her, and to order her not to communicate so frequently, which was her greatest support and comfort, not to live so strictly retired, and not to prolong her meditations beyond the time prescribed by the rule of her house.

Her very friends reviled and shunned her as one who had a communication with the devil, and some scrupled not to call her a devil. Balthasar, indeed, bade her be of good courage; for if she was deluded by the devil, he could not hurt her, provided she laboured only to advance in charity, patience, humility, and all virtues.

A confessor whom the saint made use of once during the absence of F. Balthasar, told her that her prayer was an illusion, and commanded her when she saw any vision, to make the sign of the cross, and to insult the vision, as of a fiend. The saint assures us, that these visions and raptures carried with them their own evidence and demonstration, so that whilst they continued it was impossible for her to harbour the least doubt but they were from God.

Nevertheless, she knew them to be subordinate to the ordinary means which God has established to conduct our souls to him: and as all pretended visions must be false and condemned which should contradict the scripture or the authority of the church, so no such visions can exempt us from any duty towards the church or others: for God never derogates by private revelations from his general laws and established rules. Therefore, in simplicity, she obeyed this order of her confessor; and the saint assures us that Christ himself in several visions approved her conduct in so doing.

I begged it also by the prayers of SS. Peter and Paul; because, as I had my first vision on their festival, our Lord told me they would take such care of me, that I should not be deceived. Accordingly, I have often seen very clearly these two glorious saints, my very good patrons, upon my left hand. But this making signs of scorn when I saw the vision of our Lord, gave me excessive pain and trouble.


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For when I saw him present before my eyes, it was impossible for me to believe it was the devil. That I might not be perpetually crossing myself, I took a cross into my hands, and this I did almost always. I used not the signs of scorn often; for this afflicted me too much, and I remembered the affronts which the Jews put upon our Lord; and I humbly besought him to pardon me, since I did this in obedience to those whom he had appointed in his own place.

He also gave me reasons to know that this was not the devil. They had the five wounds of our Lord engraved upon them after a most curious manner. He told me I should always see this cross so from that time forward, and so I did; for I no longer saw the matter of which the cross was made, but only those precious stones: though no other saw them but myself. When I was commanded to use this resistance to those favours, they increased much more, and I was never out of prayer.

Even whilst I slept I was uttering amorous complaints to our Lord, and his love was still increased in me. Nor was it in my power to give over thinking on him, and least of all when I endeavoured to do so. Yet I obeyed as well as I could, though I was able to do little or nothing in that respect. Our Lord never freed me from obeying them: yet he gave me all assurance that it was he, and instructed me what I should say to them.

Pope Gregory XV. Though after two years spent in frequent interior desolation, the visits of the Holy Ghost restored her interior peace with great sweetness and spiritual light, which dispelled her former darkness, she continued to suffer a whole year longer a persecution from her friends, which seemed general. Balthasar Alvarez, who was a spiritual man, but exceedingly timorous, durst not oppose the torrent, or decide with confidence that the Holy Ghost was the author of the wonderful operations in her prayer, though he continued to hear her confessions, which scarcely any other person in the country would have done; and he comforted her, saying, that so long as she improved herself in virtue, the devil could do her no prejudice.

She had learned to be so perfectly dead to herself, that with regard to herself she was not the least concerned what the whole world said or did concerning her; but the judgment of others, as to her state, gave her still frequent great alarms and fears, which contributed both to purify her soul, and to prove more clearly her spirit of prayer. In , St. Peter of Alcantara, commissary-general, and visiter of the Franciscans, coming to Avila, conversed several days with St. Few saints seem to have been more experienced in an interior life, or better versed in the supernatural gifts of prayer than this holy man.

He discovered in Teresa the most certain marks of the wonderful graces of the Holy Ghost, expressed great compassion for her sufferings from the contradictions and slanders even of good men and learned doctors, and publicly declared, that except the truths of holy faith, nothing appeared to him more evident than that her soul was conducted by the Spirit of God; but he foretold her that she was not come to an end of her persecutions and sufferings. The authority of this glorious saint, the reputation of whose judgment and sanctity gave his confident decision the greatest weight, turned the stream exceedingly in favour of the holy virgin.

It is not to be expressed what comfort and advantage she received from the conversation of this holy man who strongly recommended her defence and direction to F. Balthasar, at that time her ordinary confessor, though he was shortly after removed to another place. After the trials already made, and the judgment passed by St. Peter of Alcantara, not only F. Balthasar, but many other persons of the greatest piety, learning, and authority, declared confidently that the marks and reasons were most clear and convincing that in her ecstacies and prayer, she was conducted in a supernatural manner by the Divine Spirit.

In her life, written by herself, we have a general account of the wonderful things she experienced. She sometimes suffered interior trials of darkness in the mind, and great anguish of soul, joined with extreme pain of bodily sickness, so that the powers of her soul seemed, on some occasions suspended through excessive sorrow, almost as they were usually in raptures through excess of joy.

For these afflictions God made her very ample amends; for they were always followed with a great abundance of favours, and her soul seemed to come out of them like gold more refined and pure out of the crucible, to see our Lord within herself. Then those troubles appeared little, which before seemed insupportable, and she was willing to return again to suffer still greater tribulations and persecutions; for all in the end bring more profit, though the saint says she never bore hers as she ought.

Besides interior troubles and temptations, she sometimes met with exterior afflictions, and frequently saw devils in hideous figures; but she drove them away by the cross or holy water; and when the place was sprinkled with holy water they never returned. Nothing can be added to the energy with which she describes the pain she felt from an interior fire and unspeakable despair: the thick darkness, without the least glimpse of light, in which she knew not how, she says, one sees all that can afflict the sight: from torturing discontent and anguish, the dismal thought of eternity, and the agony of the soul by which she is her own executioner, and tears herself, as it were, to pieces, of which it is too little to say that it seems a butchering and a rending of herself.

The saint says, that in comparison of these pains all torments of this world are no more than pictures, and burning here a trifle in respect of that fire. This was but a representation of those torments; yet she says that after this vision all things seemed easy to her in this life, in comparison of one moment of those sufferings. She continued ever after most heartily to thank God for having mercifully delivered her, to weep for sinners, and to compassionate the blindness of so many who swallow down, as if they were nothing, even most grievous sins, which though she had been most wicked, she had by the divine mercy always shunned, as murmuring, detraction, covetousness, envy, and the like.

If the various proofs by which it pleased God to try Teresa served only to purify her virtue, the heavenly communications with which she was favoured gave her a new lustre. In her ecstacies revelations were imparted to her, with visions and other great favours, all which served continually to humble and fortify her soul, to give her a strong disrelish of the things of this life, and to inflame her with the most ardent desires of possessing God. In raptures she was sometimes elevated in the air, of which she gives the following description.

When I had a mind to resist these raptures, there seemed to me somewhat of so mighty force under my feet, which raised me up, that I know not what to compare it to. All my resistance availed little; for when our Lord hath a mind to do a thing, no power is able to stand against it. The effects of this rapture are great. First, the mighty power of the Lord is hereby made manifest; for when he is pleased, we are no more able to detain our bodies than our souls: we are not masters of them, but must, even against our will, acknowledge that we have a superior, that these favours come from him, and that of ourselves we are able to do nothing at all: and a great impression of humility is made on the soul.

Further I confess it also produced in me a great fear which at first was extreme to see that a massy body should be thus raised up from the earth. For though it be the spirit which draws it after it, and though it be done with great sweetness and delight, if it be not resisted, yet our senses are not thereby lost; at least I was so perfectly in my senses, that I understood I was then raised up. There also appears hereby so great a majesty in him who can do this, that it makes even the hair of the head to stand on end; and there remains in the soul a mighty fear to offend so great a God.

Yet this fear is wrapped up in an excessive love, which the soul conceives afresh towards him, whom she finds to bear so great a love to such wretched worms as we are. For he seems not content with drawing the soul to himself, but he will needs draw up the very body too, even whilst it is mortal, and compounded of so filthy an earth, as we have made it by our sins.

This favour also leaves in the soul a wonderful disengagement from all the things of this world. In raptures of the spirit alone there seems a total loosening of the soul from all things, as it concerns the spirit. But here it seems that also the body partakes of this disengagement. And it breeds such a new aversion and disgust of the things of this world, that it makes even our life much more painful to us.

Joseph at Avila, as she was going to receive the communion at the hands of the bishop Don Alvarez of Mendoza, was raised in a rapture higher than the grate through which as is usual in nunneries she was to receive the holy communion; of which also sister Mary Baptist, prioress of Valladolid, was an eye-witness with others. Likewise Bannes, a very learned theologian of the Order of St.

Dominic, whose name is famous in the schools, and who was for sometime confessor of St. Richard of St. We learn from St. Teresa, that these three effects of an external grace usually concur in raptures. She says, the faculties or powers of the soul are lost by being most straightly united to God, so that she thought she neither saw, nor heard, nor perceived any thing about her; but this was only for a very short space during the highest part of some raptures; during the rest of the rapture, the soul, though she can do nothing of herself as to the exterior or the voluntary motions of the body, understands and hears things as if they were spoken from afar off.

When she returns to herself, her powers continue in some degree absorbed sometimes for two or three days. In these raptures a soul clearly sees, and, as it were, feels how perfectly a nothing all earthly things are: how gross an error, and abominable a lie it is, to give the name of honour to what the world calls so; real honour being built on truth, not on a lie. A like idea she has of the vanity and folly of the love of money, and of the baseness of earthly pleasures; and she learns that nothing is really true but what conduces to virtue, and makes no account of any thing which brings us not nearer to God.

The greatness and goodness of God, the excess of his love, the sweetness of his service, and such other great truths are placed in a great light, and made sensibly manifest to her; all which she understands with a clearness which can be no way expressed: the impression whereof remains afterwards in the soul.

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In the rapture she acquires also a liberty and dominion, which results from her perfect disengagement from creatures, upon which she looks down, as raised above them, and above herself; and she is filled with confusion that she should have been so miserable as to have ever been entangled by them. She looks back upon her former blindness with amazement; and considers with compassion the misery of those who still remain in the like. But no effects of a rapture are so remarkable or profitable as the clear sight which the soul receives in it of her own imperfections, baseness and nothingness; together with the most profound sentiments of humility, and, on the other side, a great knowledge of the goodness, majesty, and boundless power of God, with the most ardent love and desires of speedily possessing him for ever.

Teresa, when her soul was deeply wounded, and totally inflamed, as it were, by a spark falling from the immense fire of the love our Lord bore her, often repeated, with incredible earnestness, that verse: As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. She sometimes saw the mystery of one God in three persons in so clear and wonderful a manner, as much comforted and amazed her: sometimes Christ in the bosom of his Father, and frequently his humanity in its glorified state so beautiful and delightful, that she comprehended that to behold one glorified body, especially the adorable humanity of Christ, would alone be a great felicity.

Joseph, and other saints; and frequently of angels of different orders standing near her, though she did not know their orders; for they never told her this. This angel appeared rather little than big, and very beautiful; his face was so inflamed that he seemed to be one of those highest angels called seraphim, who seemed to be all on fire with divine love. He had in his hand a long golden dart, and at the end of the point methought there was a little fire; and I conceived that he thrust it several times through my heart after such a manner that it passed through my very bowels; and when he drew it out, methought it pulled them out with it, and left me wholly inflamed with a great love of God.

Sometimes I say to him with my whole heart: Lord, either to die, or to suffer, I beg no other thing for myself. It comforts me also to hear the clock strike; for so methinks I draw a little nearer to the seeing of God; since one hour more of my life is past. Besides the particular instances she relates, she adds she had seen the same of many others.

Peter of Alcantara, a religious man of the Order of St. Dominic F. Peter Ivagnez , and a Carmelite friar. Spiritual graces require this condition. All these visions and raptures tended exceedingly to the spiritual improvement of the saint in humility, divine love, and all other virtues. By them she was advertised of all her failings, and made continually more and more courageous, and perfect in the practice of all virtues; she learned that it is a misery, and a subject of patience, to converse in the world, to behold the comedy or puppet-show of this life, and to be employed in complying with the necessities of a mortal body by eating and sleeping, which captivate the mind, and are the occupation of our banishment from God.

She learned by these raptures great heavenly mysteries, secrets, and things to come, which she foretold; and as she assures us, not the least tittle of what was thus revealed to her, ever failed to come to pass, though, at the time of her revelation and prediction, all appearances were contrary. She mentions that God, through her prayers, brought several sinners to repentance, and granted great graces to many others, as she learned by revelations. Also, that at her earnest request he restored sight to one that was almost quite blind, and health to some others labouring under painful and dangerous distempers.

The account which this saint has drawn up of these visions, revelations, and raptures, carries with it the intrinsic marks of evidence. The saint assures us, that she may be deceived, but would not lie in the least point, and would rather die a thousand times. The circumstances and the manner of the narration in each part furnish a chain of corroborating proofs in favour of the work; and as Mr. The heroic sentiments and practice of all the most sublime virtues, with which this book is interspersed in every page, suffice alone to evince that what is here written could not be founded on chimerical illusions, or be the effect of a heated imagination.

In the raptures and visions of this saint we admire indeed the divine goodness in his infinite condescension; but what we ought chiefly to consider and study herein are the great lessons of virtue which we meet with in the relation of these miraculous favours, and in the wonderful example of this saint.

How perfectly she excelled in obedience appears from this circumstance, that on all occasions she preferred this virtue to her revelations, saying in them she might be deceived by the devil, but could not in obedience. In founding her convents and many other things, when she had received a command from Christ, she availed not herself hereof, but waited till, by the rules of obedience, she was authorized to execute the divine commission, depending however steadfastly on him who promised or commanded the undertaking, that he would carry the same by the regular means into execution: in which she was never disappointed.

What sublime graces has she received of God! Is it nothing great to abandon in some sense the enjoyment of God, in order to do his will manifested to us in obedience?


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  6. As for her own part, even when superior, she studied by many contrivances to obey others, and always obeyed her confessor as she would have done God himself. A desire most perfectly to obey God in all things, moved her to make a vow never with full knowledge to commit a venial sin, and in every action to do what seemed to her most perfect; a vow which, in persons less perfect, would be unlawful, because it would be an occasion of transgressions.

    Humility, the root of true obedience, and the fruitful parent of other virtues, was that in which she placed her strength, and her humility increased in proportion as she received from God the more extraordinary favours, which she saw to be his pure gifts, without her contributing any to them; and, because she profited so little by them, she condemned and humbled herself the more.

    The virtues of others seemed to her more meritorious, and she conceived that there was not in the world one worse than herself. Hence, seated in the centre of her own baseness and unworthiness, she was always covered with confusion and shame in the divine presence, as a spouse blushing at the remembrance of her treasons and infidelities towards the best and greatest of lords and husbands.

    She treated with all men confounded in herself, as unworthy to appear before them. She sincerely looked upon herself as deserving every sort of disgrace and contempt, as one who deserved hell, and whose only support against despair was the infinite mercy of God: and she endeavoured to convince others of her wretchedness and grievous sinfulness with as great solicitude and affection as an ambitious proud man desires to pass for virtuous.

    There are many who affect to use this language of themselves, but cannot bear from others any contempt or injurious treatment. This St. Teresa received on all occasions with great inward joy, and exceedingly desired; and all honours and marks of esteem were most grievous to her. This satisfaction which the heart feels in its own just contempt is, as it were, the marrow and pith of true humility, says Bishop Yepez. Nothing is more dangerous or nice, and nothing more difficult than for a man to speak much of himself without discovering a complacency in himself in speaking superfluously concerning what belongs to him, and without discovering symptoms of secret self-love and pride, even in a studied affectation to disguise them, or in colouring or suppressing his own disgraces or weaknesses, and in displaying covertly his own talents and advantages.

    Her exterior conduct breathed this sincere disposition of her soul. Though superior and foundress, she chose unaffectedly the greatest humiliations that could be practised in her Order. If she pronounced a word in the divine office with a false accent, she prostrated herself in penance; confessed in chapter, and humbled herself for the least faults of inadvertence with surprising humility and alacrity, and underwent the most humbling penances in the refectory and elsewhere with the same.

    It was her pleasure to steal secretly into the choir after the office, to fold up the cloaks of the sisters, to choose for her part of work to sweep the most filthy places in the yard, and to perform the lowest offices in serving at table, or in the kitchen, in which place she was often seen suddenly absorbed in God, with the utensils or instruments of her business in her hands; for every place was to her a sanctuary, and no employment hindered her from offering to God a continual sacrifice of humility, and of ardent love and praise. She teaches that false humility is attended with interior trouble, uneasiness, and darkness in the mind in the confession of faults, and in embracing humiliations; but that true humility does these things with alacrity and interior light.

    She used to repeat to her sisters that sincere humility is the groundwork of prayer, this whole edifice being founded in it; and that as humility is the foundation, so is it the measure of our progress in the spirit of prayer, and all other virtues. Her spirit of penance was not less edifying than her humility. Who, without floods of tears for his own insensibility, can call to mind the wonderful compunction with which the saints wept and punished themselves their whole lives for the lightest transgressions?

    Teresa having had the misfortune in her youth to have been betrayed into certain dangerous amusements and vanities, though she would not for the world have ever consented knowingly to any mortal sin, had always hell and her sins before her eyes, penetrated with the compunction of a Magdalen or a Thais. Her love of penance, after she was well instructed in that virtue, made her desire to set no bounds to her mortifications, by which she chastised and subdued her flesh by long watchings in prayer, by rigorous disciplines, hair cloths, and austere fasts.

    Moved by this spirit of penance, she restored the original severity of her rule, and, notwithstanding her bad health, observed its fasts of eight months in the year, and other austerities, unless some grievous fit of illness made them absolutely impossible. On such occasions it was with great repugnance that she consented to use some small dispensations, but said she understood this repugnance proceeded rather from self-love than from a spirit of penance.

    Her prudence and pious zeal for religious discipline and penance, appear in the caution with which she guarded against the granting dispensations too easily on account of weak health, which opens a wide door to all relaxations in religious Orders. She tells her nuns, that it is often the devil that suggests the idea of imaginary indispositions, or that sloth and immortification magnifies those that are slight; that it is often a mark of self-love to complain of little ailments, and that the more the body is indulged, the more numerous and craving its demands and necessities grow.

    Francis of Assisium seems not to have carried the love of holy poverty higher than St. Teresa, though she mitigated some points of her first reform in this particular. If, even in secular princes, excess, vanities, and superfluities are sinful, how carefully ought the shadow of such abuses to be banished a religious life! It was her saying, that the least inordinate attachment hinders the flight of a soul upwards; to prevent which she obliged her nuns often to change every thing they used; reduced every thing in their mean clothing, coarse diet, and cells to what was indispensably necessary.

    She speaks most pathetically against superfluous or stately buildings. The modesty of the countenance of this holy virgin was a silent strong exhortation to the love of purity, as bishop Yepez testifies, who was persuaded she never felt in her whole life any importunate assaults against that virtue. A noble and generous disposition of soul inclined our saint to conceive the most tender sentiments of gratitude towards all men from whom she had ever received the least service.

    The gratitude she expressed to God for his immense favours was derived from a higher source. Contumelies she always bore in silence and with joy. She often said of those that reviled her, that they were the only persons that truly knew her.

    The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila by Herself Quotes

    Under grievous slanders with which she was attacked at Seville, one asked her how she could hold her peace. They have reason for what they say, and speak truth. He is most beloved by my Father, on whom he lays the heaviest crosses, if these sufferings are accepted and borne with love. By what can I better show my love for thee than by choosing for thee what I choose for myself?

    An eminent spirit of prayer, founded in sincere humility, and perfect self-denial, was the great means by which God raised this holy virgin to such an heroic degree of sanctity. If she remained so long imperfect in virtue, and was slow in completing the victory over herself, it was because for some time she did not apply herself with a proportioned assiduity to the practice of devout prayer, some of her confessors having diverted her from it on account of her ill health and exterior employments: which mistaken advice was to her of infinite prejudice, as she grievously laments.

    Balthasar Alvarez took much pains with very little progress for twenty years on the same account. A right method of prayer replenished all the saints with a spirit of devotion which wrought a wonderful reformation of their affections, and changed their interior so as to make them on a sudden spiritual men. Teresa inculcates above all things in her writings the incomparable advantages of this spirit of prayer, and gives excellent lessons upon that important subject. She suggests this often as the most easy method for beginners to accustom themselves to the familiar use of aspirations, that they imagine themselves in spirit conversing with Christ, representing his humanity as present with them, whether by their side or in their heart.

    It is a maxim which she strongly inculcates, that the most advanced ought not entirely to abandon the method of sometimes representing to themselves Christ as man, and considering him as the object of their devotions, and this sometimes occupied her soul in her highest raptures. She used to say, that one communion is enough to enrich a soul with all spiritual treasures of grace and virtue, if she put no obstacles.

    To unite ourselves most frequently and most ardently with Christ in the holy eucharist she called our greatest means of strength and comfort in our state of banishment till we shall be united to him in glory. Her ardour to approach the holy communion, and her joy and comfort in presence of the blessed sacrament are not to be expressed.

    In her most earnest prayers she conjured Almighty God, for the sake of his divine Son present on our altars, to stem the torrent of vice on earth, and preserve the world from those horrible profanations by which his mercy is insulted. She will have the divine love in all souls to be both contemplative and active, yet so that the exterior actions proceed from, and be animated by the interior fire; or be flowers of this plant, the root of which is the vehement affection of love reigning in the heart, from which they must draw their whole substance without any foreign mixtures: thus a preacher ought so entirely to have the divine honour in view as not to think even indirectly of pleasing men.

    I have care of thee, because God is pleased to preserve thee, and thou belongest to him; but be not ungrateful. How is my banishment prolonged! All time indeed is short to gain eternity. The operations of the same divine Spirit are various. Though fear, humility, love, and compunction reign in all devout souls, the Holy Ghost excites in some this, and in others that, virtue in a more sensible manner, and in some this, in others that, gift appears more eminent. Teresa, burning with a desire to promote with her whole strength the greater gratification of her own soul and that of others, and of labouring to secure by the most perfect penance her eternal salvation, concerted a project of establishing a reform in her Order.

    The rule which had been drawn up by Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem, was very austere: but in process of time several relaxations were introduced, and a mitigation of this Order was approved by a bull of Eugenius IV. In the convent of the Incarnation at Avila, in which the saint lived, other relaxations were tolerated, especially that of admitting too frequent visits of secular friends at the grate in the parlour or speak-house.

    Peter of Alcantara, St. Lewis Bertrand, and the Bishop of Avila, and the saint was commanded by Christ in several visions and revelations which she recounts, to undertake the same, with assured promises of success and his divine protection. The lady Guyomar procured the license and approbation of F. Angelo de Salazar, provincial of the Carmelites in those parts. No sooner had the project taken wind but he was obliged by the clamours which were raised against it, to recal his license, and a furious storm fell upon the saint, through the violent opposition which was made by all her fellow nuns, the nobility, the magistrates, and the people.

    She suffered the most outrageous calumnies with perfect calmness of mind and silence, contenting herself with earnestly recommending to God his own work. Although she was the life of any conversation, Teresa was known to spend long hours in prayer and silence. Cease troubling about these fears. This is not the time to believe everyone; believe only those whom you see modelling their lives on the life of Christ.

    Biography of Saint Teresa of Avila

    For Teresa, prayer is the source of Christian life and the wellspring of all moral virtues. Prayer is not everything, but without prayer, nothing else is possible. Under this umbrella of prayer, God works in mysterious, often unpredictable, ways, and the soul works strongly.

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    Her understanding of disengagement from the world is not necessarily ascetic. On the contrary, her idea of genuine suffering comes from being fully present in the world and serving others. Spiritual progress is measured neither by self-imposed penance nor by the sweetest pleasures of mystical experiences but by growth in constant love for others and an increasing desire within for the will of God. Like men and women of our generation, Teresa of Avila suffered from bouts of despair, especially as she was forced by age to weaken and slow down.

    Despite the eminent stature she occupies in the Church today, we have to remember that while she was founding her reformed convents, Teresa was actually a sickly old woman who travelled great lengths on rough roads and bad weather, often with little food and even less sleep. In her writings Teresa openly talked about her failing health, her memory loss, her inability to do what she was instructed, even her shortcomings as an author. Whether lay or religious, we are likely to reach a stage in our lives and in our work when we no longer feel as capable or as effective as we were years back.

    Or, we begin to question why we are doing these things in the first place — what have we accomplished that is of any relevance to the world? Discouragement quickly follows, as we no longer understand ourselves and our real motivations. All around us and in ourselves we see deception, duplicity, and lies. We are stunned by our experience of impermanence, instability and insecurity.

    We try to protect ourselves because we are afraid of the truth that haunts our sleeping and sometimes even our waking hours, the truth that the Buddhist and Hindu traditions call samsara : Everything changes, passes, and dies—and so will we. Teresa continues to inspire us even four centuries after her death.

    Renaissance: Italy

    Her teaching has the power to see us through a lifetime and will endure hundreds of years after us, because the wisdom she shares is timeless and perennial. Auclair, M. New York: Pantheon Books. Hutchison, G. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press. Smith, J. Manila: National Book Store Publishers. All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister.

    Angela Blardony Ureta, A. Teresa Avila. Carmelite Spirituality. A saint but not an angel Many accounts on her life and works describe Teresa as an astute religious reformer and administrator, an inspired spiritual director, and an extraordinary mystical writer. As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God the contemplative dimension of life , through prayer, through fraternity, and through service diakonia.

    These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. Recent Posts Electoral Chapter of the Monastery of Utrera, Spain. Lectio Divina July Electoral Chapter of the Monastery of Guiguinto, Philippines. Appointments of the Prior General with his Council.