In this excerpt from the writings of St. Teresa, she instructs us to be on guard against the false experience of peace that comes from a conscience that has no sense of sin and no remorse when it has fallen into sin. It is the awful predicament of a soul without self-knowledge. St. Teresa teaches us that prayer and contemplation bring us to self-knowledge. In this blessed state, we have the light of the Holy Spirit to guide us and convict us when we have fallen into sin.
St. Teresa is also wary of souls who never seem disturbed or suffer trials. In these cases, with her nuns, she tested them to see if this was the fruit of prayer or due to spiritual carelessness.
In this excerpt, look for St. Teresa's distinction between the false peace and the false sense of quiet of those in sin and the genuine peace and quiet of the soul who has reached the place of perfect contemplation. Perfect contemplation and peace of soul are the gifts that the Lord bestows on the soul who has been faithful to prayer.
St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila):
God deliver you from the peace of many kinds that worldly people have. May He never allow us to try it, for it brings perpetual war. When such persons of the world remain quiet, while going about in serious sin, and so tranquil about their vices, for their consciences don't feel remorseful about anything, their peace, you have read, is a sign that they and the devil are friends. While they live, the devil does not wage war against them. For bad as they are they would then return to God somewhat, not out of love for Him but so as to flee from this war. Those who would act in such a way would never persevere in serving God. Soon, since the devil understands this, he would again give them delight in their pleasure and they would return to their friendship with him until he has them in that place where he shows them how false their peace was. There is no reason to speak of these persons here; let them worry about it, for I hope in the Lord that so much evil will not be found among you. But the devil could begin to offer you another peace in small things and always, while we live, daughters, we must fear...
I tell you that even though in prayer the Lord grants you favors and gives you what I shall speak of later, when you leave prayer you will meet with a thousand little obstacles, a thousand little occasions to break one rule carelessly, or not to carry out another well, interior disturbances and temptations. I don't say that this war must be going on always or habitually; but it is a wonderful favor from the Lord. By this means the soul advances. It's impossible for us to be angels here below because such is not our nature. In fact, a soul doesn't disturb me when I see it with great temptations. If love and fear of our Lord are present, the soul will gain very much; I'm certain of that. If I see a soul always quiet and without any war--for I've run into some like this--I always fear even if I do not see it offending the Lord. Never do I finish seeking to assure myself; and trying and tempting such persons, if I can, since the devil doesn't do so, in order that they may know themselves. I have met a few; to be without war is possible, once the Lord has brought the soul to an abundance of contemplation.
Meditations on the Song of Songs, Chap. 2, No. 1-3.
It takes great wisdom to discern the gifts of the Spirit in our lives. Let us be very careful not to enjoy a false sense of peace when we know we have become careless and lazy in our spiritual life and in charity with others. If we are not experiencing any type of interior trial for a long period of time, this could be a warning sign that we are not growing in virtue. Let us be mature Christians, not always looking for the sweetness of consolation but ready to be purified by the crosses and trials the Lord wishes to send us. He is very merciful to allow us to be purified and made holy in this life.
Let us pray for each other, that we be constantly on guard against the lion who wishes to devour our soul. Let us be faithful to prayer that brings self-knowledge through the light and intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit. The Bridegroom of our soul is on guard to keep our hearts set on Him. He is the One who offers the genuine peace and quiet of soul that the world cannot give.
Peace be with you!
Rosemarie of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, ocds