Tag Archives: St. Teresa of Avila

Spiritual exercises with Saint Teresa of Avila

DSC01682Last week the Salvadoran Carmelite bishop of Chaltenango led the spiritual exercises for the clergy of diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. Monseñor Oswaldo Escobar, O.C.D., was a breath of fresh air, sharing his understanding of the spirituality of Saint Teresa of Avila.

He began the first night with two questions:

“Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

“What are you seeking?” (John 1: 38)

And he noted the request of the apostles:

“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

And it got better throughout the week as he shared with us his understanding of St. Teresa.

He spoke of prayer as the relationship of friendship with God that needs the virtues of love, humility, and detachment.

He noted that in getting to know ourselves, it is important to remember that God enhances (engrandecer) the human condition; he does not denigrate it! We should not begin with sin.

This fits in with a passage from one of my favorite canticles in Evening Prayer (Ephesians 1: 4)

God chose us in Christ,
before the foundation of the world
to be holy and blameless in his sight,
to be full of love.

There was so much more. I need to read the articles he shared and the notes I made. It was exactly what I needed at the beginning of Lent this year.

Thanks be to God.


If you can read Spanish, you can find links to pdfs of his writings here. The retreat was largely based on these articles:

“Las conversiones teresianas y su discernimiento”
“Las falsa paz en los orantes”
“Conocimiento propio según Santa Teresa de Jesús”
“Los deseos según Santa Teresa de Jesús”

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The poor Christ of St. Teresa

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A critical moment in the life of Saint Teresa of Avila was her contemplation of Christ Crucified. She later wrote on this encounter with the suffering, poor Christ:

“When I fell to prayer again and looked at Christ hanging poor and naked upon the Cross, I felt I could not bear to be rich. So I besought him with tears to bring it to pass that I might be as poor as he.”

In her reform of the Carmelites, poverty and begging were important. They were called “Dsicalced” because they wore hemp sandals, not fancy shoes.

She wanted to be poor like the poor Christ.

But this was not only a message for her sisters – and for her fellow Carmelite reformer, St. John of the Cross. It was a message that she saw as important for all believers, for the whole Body of Christ. As she wrote in  Conceptions of the Love of God,

 “Some people have all they need and a good sum of money shut up in their safe as well. Because they avoid serious sins, they think they have done their duty, They enjoy their riches and give an occasional alms, yet never consider that their property is not their own, but that God has entrusted it to them to share with the poor. . . . We have no concern with this except to ask God to enlighten such people. . . and to thank him for making us poor, which we should hold as a special favor on his part.”

This is quite a challenge for most of us, but reminds me of the call of Pope Francis to be a poor church, a church for the poor – or, as Pope Saint John XXIII hoped, a church of the poor.

 

Uppity Saint Teresa

Saint Teresa in Ecstasy (by Bernini

Saint Teresa in Ecstasy (by Bernini)

There is much we can learn from the mystic and reformer of the Carmelites, Saint Teresa of Avila. Sor Teresa de Jesús, the doctor of the church whose feast is celebrated today, was, in the words of a papal nuncio, “a restless, disobedient and contumacious gad-about woman.”

She was a woman who persevered in the face of trials, reforming the Carmelites, writing on mystical prayer, and founding monasteries throughout Spain.

It was not an easy life. But, as she wrote in her autobiography, “If people have Christ Jesus with them as Friend and loving Guide, they can put up with everything.”

That was tested many times, including the time when she was thrown into a muddy river when her cart overturned. She is reported to have remarked in prayer, “If this is the way you treat your friends, this is why you have so few of them.”

But her first years in a Carmelite convent were comfortable and didn’t show signs of a deep spiritual life and commitment to God.

But one day when she was about 39, she was praying before an image of the wounded Christ. “When I fell in prayer and looked at Christ hanging and naked upon the Cross, I felt I could not bear to be rich. So I besought Him with tears to bring it to pass that I might be as poor as He.”

She and her sisters lived poorly from alms, wearing sandals instead of shoes (and so were called the Discalced – shoeless – Carmelites).

Poverty was for her a part of her way to open herself to Jesus, the God who became flesh as a poor human being.

And, as Paul wrote to the Romans (1:16), she was “not ashamed of the Gospel.”

In fact she wrote these pointed words about money and wealth in Conceptions of the Love of God:

“Some people have all they need and a good sum of money shut up in their safe as well. Because they avoid serious sins, they think they have done their duty, They enjoy their riches and give an occasional alms, yet never consider that their property is not their own, but that God has entrusted it to them to share with the poor. . . . We have no concern with this except to ask God to enlighten such people. . . and to thank him for making us poor, which we should hold as a special favor on his part.”

Pope John XXIII called for a “Church of the poor,” and Pope Francis has called for “a poor Church, a Church for the poor.” St. Teresa can help us turn to the poor Christ and be truly a Church of the poor, imitating our Savior.”