Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spiritual Direction with St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila)

Next week, Discalced Carmelites throughout the world will be celebrating the solemnity of St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) on October 15th. In light of her upcoming feast day here are some words of wisdom from our Holy Mother, St. Teresa. This excerpt is from her Way of Perfection.


What I would like to say a little about now is how this love for one another must be practiced. I would like to speak also of the nature of this virtuous love--which is the love I want practiced here--and how we know if we have this love; for our Lord recommended it so highly and so urgently to his apostles. What I say will be in conformity with my dullness of mind; and if in other books you find a detailed explanation don't take anything from me, for perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about.

Two kinds of love are what I'm dealing with: One kind is spiritual, because it in no way seems to stir sensuality or affect the tenderness of our nature so as to take away purity. The other is spiritual mixed with our sensuality and weakness or good love, for it seems to be licit, as is love for our relatives and friends. I have already said something about it.

I want to speak now about the love that is spiritual, that which is not affected by any passion; where passion is present the good order is thrown into complete disorder. And if we deal with virtuous persons discreetly and moderately, especially confessors, we will benefit...

May it please God that I understand this love; and even more, that I know how to speak of it, for I don't think I know which love is spiritual, or when sensual love is mixed with spiritual love, nor do I know why I want to speak about this spiritual love...

The persons the Lord brings to this state are generous souls, majestic souls. They are not content with loving something as wretched as these bodies, however beautiful they may be, however attractive...All other affections wearies these persons, for they understand that no benefit comes from it and that it could be harmful...

Now, note well that when we desire love from some person, there is always a kind of seeking our own benefit or satisfaction, and these perfect persons have already trampled underfoot all the good things and comforts the world has to offer them. 

It will seem to you that such persons do not love or know anyone but God. I say, yes they do love, with a much greater and more genuine love, and with passion, and with a more beneficial love; in short, it is love. And these souls are more inclined to give than to receive. Even with respect to the Creator Himself they want to give more than to receive. I say that this attitude is what merits the name "love," for these other base attachments have usurped the name "love."
Way of Perfection, Chap. 6, 2-7

In these excerpts from St. Teresa's Way of Perfection, we can get a feel for her difficulty in describing the soul who possesses perfect, pure love.  In the last excerpt she gets to the heart of the matter with her statement that many times our attachments and affections are under the guise of real love.

I once knew a nun, now deceased, who told me , " I love you with the same love that Jesus loved us with on the Cross." Wow! has anyone said anything remotely like that to you lately or ever?  This statement from good Sr. Agnes reminds me of another holy person we all know: Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, or "Mother Teresa" as she was affectionately known.  She is on record as saying, "There is not two loves, or three loves, there is only one love. And God is love!"

As Catholics, as Christians, as Carmelites, we should be striving to become Christlike in thought, word and deed.  Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of perfect charity. A charity that manifests itself in holy conversations with others. 

Based on St. Teresa's writings and description of these majestic pure souls who love purely, here are some of the qualities I believe these holy souls possess if one were to converse with them:

*The truth would be spoken with charity and kindness.

*They would not criticize others "behind their back."

*They would not offer empty flattery.

*They would bring God into the conversation-praising him or his 
   gifts they see in others.

*They would be free of sentimentality or drama.

*They would have no interest in discussing things "of the world."

*They would refrain from gossip.

*They would refrain from bragging-would not boast about 
  themselves or their accomplishments.

*They would not complain.

*They would be genuinely concerned about you. 

*You would leave their presence feeling spiritually uplifted and 
   inspired to serve God better.

Did you see yourself in any of these items?  If we make the effort to love others when we speak to them, God will help us and purify our motives so that we are not self-seeking-seeking to be loved with a selfish and worldly affection from others. This takes time. It takes humility to not seek praise and affirmation from others. Because these attachments and desires are part of our human nature. When we constantly make the effort to forget ourselves and seek to console and strengthen others, when we strive to be loving and kind and merciful, then we know we are on the right track to becoming Christlike and to love others with the same love that he loved us with as he died on the Cross for us.

God is love!

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, ocds

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