St. Teresa has had a profound effect on my own spirituality and prayer life. If I could choose one saint whose teachings and influence could be re-presented to our modern world I would choose St. Teresa. How I pray that this five-hundred-year celebration of her birth would inspire more people in the same Spirit that animated that down-to-earth, humorous-but-no-nonsense, approachable, practical, tender-but-tough, and holy woman.
St. Teresa's most well-known work is her book, The Interior Castle. It is a classic guide to prayer and the spiritual life. In the book Teresa imagines the soul as being drawn by God ever more deeply into a castle containing seven mansions.
Her analogy illustrates for us that most people have spiritual lives that never progress beyond the superficial. They merely scratch the surface, entering only as far as the outer courtyard of the castle, never growing beyond ordinary or lip-service prayer. Teresa inspires us to know that God desires far greater spiritual delights for us. He longs to draw us into a more contemplative prayer and deeper intimacy with Him – a prayer that leads ultimately to divine union.
St. Teresa reminds us that our greatest pains are not bodily but spiritual. We moan and are consumed with desires every day without realizing that what we really want is nothing less than union with God. Here is one of St. Teresa's most well-known quotes:
Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee:
All thing pass;
God never changes.
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
May the celebration of St. Teresa’s 500th birthday inspire us to set aside some of our more petty pursuits to discover the great joy of prayer and communion with God. St. Teresa of Ávila, pray for us!
Here is a link to a virtual choir, a beautiful devotion by Carmelite sisters around the world, to St Teresa on her 500th birthday. They are singing "Nada Te Turbe" -- the Spanish translation of the first line of Teresa's quote above. Very lovely.