Tag Archives: Saint Teresa

7 March, Desert X: Fear 3.

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From The Life of Saint Teresa*

It must be carefully noted – and I say this because I know it by experience – that the soul which begins to walk resolutely in the way of mental prayer and can persuade itself to set little store by consolations and tenderness in devotion, and neither to be elated when the Lord gives them, nor disconsolate when he withholds them, has already travelled a great part of its journey. However often it may stumble, it need not fear a relapse, for its building has been begun on a firm foundation.

Yes, love for God does not consist in shedding tears, in enjoying those consolations and that tenderness which for the most part we desire and in which we find comfort, but in serving him with righteousness, fortitude and humility. The other seems to me to be receiving rather than giving anything.

As for poor women like myself, who are weak and lack fortitude, I think it fitting that we should be led by means of favours: this is the way that God is leading me now, so that I may be able to suffer certain trials which it has pleased his majesty to give me.

I have to admit to lacking fortitude at times, but Saint Teresa admits the same weakness, so I am in good company! But amid the circling gloom ‘God is leading me now.’ 

* In ‘The Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Tr E. Allison Peters, London, Sheed & Ward, 1944, p68.

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15 November: Light on the Christian Way.

Luminaries: Rowan Williams (author)

Luminaries: twenty lives that illuminate the Christian way.

by Rowan Williams

Published by SPCK 2, London 2019

ISBN 10: 0281082952

A review.



How do you choose just twenty shining saints for a little book like this? Dr Williams offers us four of his predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury – Augustine, Anselm, Cranmer and Michael Ramsey – in this selection of sermons and other extracts.

Williams is especially compassionate regarding his first predecessor, the reluctant and blundering Augustine in whom fear and humility grind together painfully. He never wanted to come to Kent, he tried to turn back; he was ‘almost endearingly nervous and  anxious’ (p23), but he stuck at it and made a difference. 

Doctor Williams himself is remembered in Canterbury with great affection too: ad multos annos!

An interesting juxtaposition occurs because the subjects are listed in chronological order, William Tyndale, whom we met yesterday, rubs shoulders with Saint Teresa of Avila. a man and a woman from very different backgrounds, both determined to bring about church reform.

it is possible to draw out similarities between them. Here is Tyndale: ‘Look, what thou owest to Christ, that thou owest to thy neighbour’s need. To thy neighbour owest thou thy heart, thyself and al that thou hast and canst do. The love that springest out of Christ, excludeth  no man, neither putteth difference between one and another.’ (p56-57)

Teresa was conscious that her Jewish ancestry put a difference between her and some others, but in the convent where she lived there were differences between sisters due to wealth and social standing of their families. This made her more and more uneasy: it was not true community life! True community life excluded no woman, but was based on friendship in shared poverty, which allowed Jesus to be present in friendship with each one. Friendship with Jesus is a big claim, but that friendship is to be cultivated in prayer; and Williams sketches out Teresa’s experience of the prayer of friendship with Jesus. A chapter to read and re-read.

Every subject is interesting and human, so the whole book is to be read and re-read. And since it is that time of year, a book to buy for a friend, since it may be some time before you get it back if you lend it out. Not that it will be gathering dust and forgotten: it will be read and re-read.



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Sunday 24th January – St. Francis de Sales


Born 30 miles south of Geneva in 1567, Francis de Sales had a crisis about where his life would end, when he was 19. He feared that he was destined for hell. But prayer and religious reading helped him to focus on free will alongside grace, and to keep in mind that Jesus is “the one who saves.” He came to emphasize our human capacity to love in the present moment and “the prior, unconditional goodness and love of God.” His writings about this won him the title of the Doctor of Divine Love. It is only because we have the power to love, he taught, that is, to go out to another for the other’s sake, that we humans can be the crowning point of creation (as in Col. 1:13 or Eph. 1.1). Through his friendship with Jeanne de Chantal, he set up the Visitation Sisters as a community of prayer, open to women whose health or age prevented them from joining an existing order.

His spirituality took some of its direction from Teresa of Avila, preferring gospel relationships to ecstasies or revelations. But his focus was also on friendship (using Augustine’s Confessions and Aelred of Rievaulx). Since peace should extend from the heart into all aspects of life, loyalty, generosity, respect and frank counsel would always be most valued. Peaceful joy makes us more affable and humble, more able to be a friend. Franciscan writers, Raymond Llull and Duns Scotus, also taught him to see that Christ not only begins our friendships but keeps them alive.



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14/12 Saint John of the Cross

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Yesterday’s readings could not have been bettered for today’s Saint, John of Cross. Like his namesake, the Baptist, he suffered imprisonment unjustly. We have witnessed, in our own day, the emotions aroused by change in the Church, in the Catholic, Anglican, or any other branch; we have witnessed resistance to the ministry of women who perceive that the skills and talents given to them and honed by diligent study and training, should be deployed where new needs and opportunities arise.

Welcome to the world of John of the Cross.

This collaborator of St Teresa of Avila  worked to revive the apostolic poverty that had been a mark of the Carmelites, but had been lost awhile as convents became luxurious homes for rich unmarried women. John and Teresa perceived that – of course – there were challenges for the brothers of the order as well if they were to be true to their calling, and – of course – they knew that prophets would be rejected in their own communities.

John may have been dismayed and suffered the dark night of his soul, but he escaped his cell and returned to his work.

These lines, written in prison on smuggled paper, link him to Dylan Thomas in trusting the dark:

Oh, night that guided me,

Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,

Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,

Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Let us pray that we may trust the Beloved to guide us all through the night, till the angel faces smile upon us.


More posts about Saint Teresa.

Like Little Children, 15th October 2015

Whose Angel Faces Smile? 16th October 2015

Therese, her Parents and Other Saints, 17th October 2015

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Thérèse and her Parents and Other Saints

Soon after his story of Jesus telling his disciples to be like children, Matthew makes clear that they have not understood:

Then were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.    Matthew 19:13-14

So how do we forbid, or prevent, or hinder little children from coming to Jesus? How should we enable them to do so? Jesus warns us not to scandalise them, and to remember that

their angels  in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 18:10-11.

Teresa, Newman and Blake recall a youthful vision of glory, lost a while. Thérèse shares memories of her early days and remarks that with her character, if she had been raise by Parents lacking in virtues she would have been hindered from coming to Jesus: ‘I would have become very naughty and possibly I would have lost my soul.’ But Jesus was able to use her faults to ‘help her grow in perfection’.

Those parents are now to be officially recognised as truly virtuous when Pope Francis canonises them as Saints Louis and Zélie Martin. May the rest of us parents have the grace to help our children grow in perfection by encouraging the qualities that are the sunny side of their faults.

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Whose Angel Faces Smile?

We read Saint Teresa yesterday saying:

But even now it gives me a feeling of devotion to remember how early God granted me what I lost by my own fault.

This reminds me of Newman’s words:

And with the dawn, those Angel faces smile,

Which I have loved long since, and lost a while.

Whose were the angel faces smiling on Newman? I suggest we read in another place:

Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3.

Childhood should be time for play, for loving those angel faces which smile lovingly on us. William Blake may have seen angels in London and Sussex, but even without his eyes, we can see the messengers sent to us wherever we are; flesh and blood angels though they may be. I am not sentimental about calling children angels, for they are sent to us to call us to love and respect as God’s image. Blake saw children in London oppressed, sent up chimneys, doing dangerous work for paltry pay, and not playing. We have changed some things for the better in Britain, but our children are numbered among the least happy in the world.

How can we support children? Let us get to know our children through spending time, rather than money, with them. There are many elsewhere doing dangerous work for paltry pay, missing education, stranded from families for many reasons. Please visit http://www.streetchildafrica.org.uk/ to learn what is being done to reduce the number of children on the streets in many African cities.

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