What the Theologians Say 6
Saint Teresa of Ávila (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. Columbus had recently opened up the Western Hemisphere for Europeans, while Luther had started the Protestant Reformation. This was to lead to the Counter-Reformation, of which teresa would be a part. When she was 16, her father decided to send her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually began to enjoy it. However, when the time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she struggled with the decision. A difficult marriage had ruined her mother, but being a nun didn't seem like much fun. She eventually chose to be a nun as she felt it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was. At first she developed a reputation as an entertainer in the Order, but by the time she was 40 she felt the need to reform the Order and started a new convent in Avila, which was followed by 17 others.
She aligned herself against pleasure seeking and prompted those around her to adopt the disciplines of mental prayer and contemplation, but possessed a keen wit.
In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and on 27 September 1970 was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Like many of these theologians, whose words at first might be considered dry and dusty, her utterings have a surprisingly modern ring. Here are a few of them:
'Prayer and comfortable living are incompatible.'
'It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.'
'I believe, unless I had a new book, I was never happy.'
'Many people are good at talking and bad at understanding.’
'souls without prayer are like people whose bodies or limbs are paralysed: they possess feet and hands but they cannot control them.'
'Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.'
'I would write a thousand foolish things that one might be to the point, if only it might make us praise God more.'
'It is love alone that gives worth to all things.'
'Thank God for the things that I do not own.'
'Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God.'
'Love turns work into rest.'
'I cannot understand how humility exists, or can exist, without love, or love without humility.’
'You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.'
'To reach something good, it is useful to have gone astray.'
'The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.'
'Trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.'
'All the way to heaven is heaven.'
'Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.'
'The important thing is not to think much, but to love much.’
'He has borne with thousands of foul and abominable sins which you have committed against Him, yet even they have not been enough to make Him cease looking upon you. Is it such a great matter, then, for you to avert the eyes of your soul from the outward things and sometimes to look at Him?'
'God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.'
'Untilled ground, however rich, will bring forth thistles and thorns; so also the mind of man.'
'Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.’
'It is of great importance, when we begin to practise prayer, not to let ourselves be frightened by our own thoughts.'