Mystic of the Month: Teresa of Avila

Whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord not to go without so great a good. There is nothing here to fear but only something to desire.

Saint Teresa of Avila desired to seek God at a very young age.  She loved to learn of the Saints while pursuing a life of prayer and blessing the poor.  At the age of 14 her mother passed and in this lose of a loving and encouraging role model she found herself being distracted with things of the world. She was 14 when these distractions started…at what age are American kids distracted by things of this world?

She was encouraged by her father to enter into a local convent in hopes to rekindle her passion for the Lord.  She fell sick and returned home.  After recovering she knew that she wanted to become a nun and left home against her fathers will to enter into the Incarnation of the Carmelite nuns in Avila.  Again she fell ill (malaria) and experienced tremendous pain and suffering.  Through this time of her illness she was in a coma for three days and was not able to use her legs for three years.

It was in this time of pain and suffering when her prayer life increased to phenomenal levels of ecstasy in the Presence of the Lord.  She spent many hours in meditation with what she called, “prayer of quiet” and the “prayer of union”. These encounters continued to take place even though she never sought after these “mystical experiences”, but kept herself to the will of God and counted the experiences as “divine blessings”.

As you could imagine, many of those around her found her, “experiences”, to be bizarre and not from the Lord.  Regardless, her encounters were revealed from the Lord in her passion and pursuit of constantly going deeper in prayer with the Lord.  History has revealed to us that those with lifestyles of prayer often hear and encounter the Lord in mysterious ways, beyond that of the average believer (if there could be such a thing???).

One vision that Teresa had was described as this, “I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it…

WHOA!!!  Truly incredible and mind blowing!  “So surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it“??? Think about that!

While St. Teresa continued in this way of unceasing prayer she was also founding convents that focused on this same way of life.  She joined with like-minded “mystic”, John of the Cross and they started reforming the order for men as well.  This new “reform” of the Carmelite order became known as the “Discalced” or barefoot, Carmelites.  Of course her radical lifestyle for the Lord and the influence that she brought into the Catholic sphere was eventually persecuted to the point of her being forced to “retire”.  During these times she also wrote some inspiring books that I hope to read soon, “The Way of Perfection”, “Life” (autobiography), and “The Interior Castle”.

In the midst of the persecution she continued to seek after the Lord, all the while being brought into new levels of trances, levitations, visions, and much more.  She knew that prayer is the place to hear and experience the Lord; so she did that continually, not to receive these things but to get closer to Him!

And I will leave you with this, “Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.” St. Teresa

(sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_Ávila

http://www.karmel.at/eng/teresa.htm )

Stay tuned for next months Mystic: Augustine of Hippo

Thanks for reading,

Patrick Judah

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