St. Teresa of Avila

We dare to pray

For though now—glory be to God!—I had no desire after vanities, I saw clearly in the vision how all things are vanity, and how hollow are all the dignities of earth; it was a great lesson, teaching me to raise up my desires to the Truth alone. It impresses on the soul a sense of the presence of God such as I cannot in any way describe, only it is very different from that which it is in our own power to acquire on earth. It fills the soul with profound astonishment at its own daring, and at any one else being able to dare to offend His most awful Majesty.  –The Life of St Teresa of Avila



It is not a brilliancy which dazzles, but a delicate whiteness and a brilliancy infused, furnishing the most excessive delight to the eyes, never wearied thereby, nor by the visible brightness which enables us to see a beauty so divine.  It is a light so different from any light here below, that the very brightness of the sun we see, in comparison with the brightness and light before our eyes, seems to be something so obscure, that no one would ever wish to open his eyes again.  It is like most pellucid water running in a bed of crystal, reflecting the rays of the sun, compared with most muddy water on a cloudy day, flowing on the surface of the earth.  Not that there is anything like the sun present here, nor is the light like that of the sun: this light seems to be natural; and, in comparison with it, every other light is something artificial.  It is a light which knows no night; but rather, as it is always light, nothing ever disturbs it.  In short, it is such that no man, however gifted he may be, can ever, in the whole course of his life, arrive at any imagination of what it is.  God puts it before us so instantaneously, that we could not open our eyes in time to see it, if it were necessary for us to open them at all.  But whether our eyes be open or shut, it makes no difference whatever; for when our Lord wills, we must see it, whether we will or not.  No distraction can shut it out, no power can resist it, nor can we attain to it by any diligence or efforts of our own.  –The Life of St Teresa of Avila


Proper authority

I saw that, though He was God, He was man also; that He is not surprised at the frailties of men, that He understands our miserable nature, liable to fall continually, because of the first sin, for the reparation of which He had come. I could speak to Him as to a friend, though He is my Lord, because I do not consider Him as one of our earthly Lords, who affect a power they do not possess, who give audience at fixed hours, and to whom only certain persons may speak. If a poor man has any business with these, it will cost him many goings and comings, and currying favour with others, together with much pain and labour before he can speak to them. Ah, if such a one has business with a king! Poor people, not of gentle blood, cannot approach him, for they must apply to those who are his friends, and certainly these are not persons who tread the world under their feet; for they who do this speak the truth, fear nothing, and ought to fear nothing; they are not courtiers, because it is not the custom of a court, where they must be silent about those things they dislike, must not even dare to think about them, lest they should fall into disgrace. O King of glory, and Lord of all kings! oh, how Thy kingly dignity is not hedged about by trifles of this kind! Thy kingdom is forever. We do not require chamberlains to introduce us into Thy presence. The very vision of Thy person shows us at once that Thou alone art to be called Lord. Thy Majesty is so manifest that there is no need of a retinue or guard to make us confess that Thou art King.  –The Life of St Teresa of Avila


God Alone

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things pass away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

– Teresa of Jesus, and her handwriting


Gratefulness realized

O my God, I amazed at the hardness of my heart amidst so many succors from Thee. I am filled with dread when I see how little I could do with myself, and how I was clogged, so that I could not resolve to give myself entirely to God. When I began to read the ‘Confessions’, I thought I saw myself there described, and began to recommend myself greatly to this glorious Saint. When I came to his conversion, and read how he heard that voice in the garden, it seemed to me nothing less than that our Lord had uttered it for me: I felt so in my heart. I remained for some time lost in tears, in great inward affliction and distress. O my God, what a soul has to suffer because it has lost the liberty it had of being mistress over itself! and what torments it has to endure! I wonder now how I could live in torments so great: God be praised Who gave me life, so that I might escape from so fatal a death! –Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila



The memory remains free—both it and the imagination must be so—and when they find themselves alone one would never believe what a turmoil they make and how they try to upset everything.  Personally, I get fatigued by it and hate it; often I beseech the Lord, if He must upset me so much, to let me be free from it at time like these.  “My God,” I say to Him sometimes, “when shall my soul be wholly employed in Thy praise, instead of being torn to pieces in this way, and quite helpless?”  This makes me realize what harm is done to us by sin, which has bound us in ways so that we cannot do as we would—namely, be always occupied with God.  –St Teresa of Avila autobiography.



Teresa had always loved water. It was at once useful, mysterious and beautiful. “What would become of the world if there were no water for washing?” she exclaims in the ‘Way of Perfection’ when considering the properties of water…Besides all else water is a symbol of God’s grace. It is the image she uses more than any in all her writings. Discoursing in the ‘Life’ on the four degrees of prayer she describes the ways in which an orchard can be watered. The water can be brought from a well at the cost of much toil. Or it can be drawn by a windlass—she remembers having drawn this way herself. Or there may be a stream nearby—which means less labor. But best of all when the Lord sends down the rain from heaven, soaking the earth. In the ‘Way of Perfection’ she writes of the source of Living Water at which all are invited to drink while flowing from its streams and rivulets, some great, some small, and little pools for children who else would be frightened at the sight of so much water remained with her the whole of her life. Writing to Gracian in June 1581she envies him for being at the Salamanca monastery which has a view on to the Tormes. In a letter of the following September to Don Jeronimo Reinoso, a friend who helped her with the Palencia foundation, she says that her journeys are “dreadfully tiring,” yet the one from Palencia to Soria had been the reverse (she called it recreation) because all the way along the road there were glimpses of the river keeping her company: que me hacian harta compania. –‘A Journey in Spain: Saint Teresa’ by Elizabeth Hamilton

Travelling down a Spanish river, the Sil, to the Santo Estevo Monastery.

Travelling down a Spanish river