Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spiritual Direction with St. Teresa of Jesus

Photo: R. Massaro (C)2017 Spirit Singing-Regina Health Center Richfield, Ohio

Editor's Note: St. Teresa experienced an awakening in her soul that planted a desire in her heart to never again offend "His Majesty." She was desperate and tearful and resolved to not leave prayer until the Lord answered her.

In this excerpt from her life, she speaks of how she struggled to pray in her new resolve to gain virtue and serve the Lord more faithfully and the method she used at this difficult time. She explains how she used her imagination to pray.  Later, in her classic work, The Interior Castle, she will instruct us that in advanced prayer, one does not use the imagination in prayer, for the gift of contemplation frees the mind from working so that the heart may experience the love, joy, and peace God wishes to give the soul.

From the Book of Her Life:

Beseeching Him to strengthen me once and for all that I might not offend Him, I threw myself down before Him with the greatest outpouring of tears.

I was very devoted to the glorious Magdalene and frequently thought about her conversion, especially when I received Communion...I think I then said that I would not rise from there until He granted what I was begging Him for. I believe certainly this was beneficial to me, because from that time I went on improving.

This is the method of prayer I then used...I strove to represent Christ within me, and it did me greater good--in my opinion--to represent Him in those scenes where I saw Him more alone. It seemed to me that being alone and afflicted, as a person in need, He had to accept me. I had many simple thoughts like these.

The scene of His prayer in the garden, especially, was a comfort to me; I strove to be His companion there. If I could, I thought of the sweat and agony He had undergone in that place. I desired to wipe away the sweat He so painfully experienced, but I recall that I never dared to actually do it, since my sins appeared to me so serious. I remained with Him as long as my thoughts allowed me to, for there were many distractions that tormented me. Most nights, for many years before going to bed when I commended myself to God in preparation for sleep, I always pondered for a little while this episode of the prayer in the garden. I did this even before I was a nun since I was told that one gains many indulgences by doing so. I believe my soul gained a great deal through this custom because I began to practice prayer without knowing what it was; and the custom became so habitual that I did not abandon it, just as I did not fail to make the sign of the cross before sleeping.
The Book of Her Life, Chap. 9, No. 4

Let us follow the example of St. Teresa, who, after resolving to never again give up the practice of prayer, tried every means possible to unite herself to the Lord. As she teaches us, we must all begin with vocal prayer, advance to meditation, and if we are faithful, God will give us the gift of contemplation, where we are unable to form images in the mind, even of holy scenes. If we experience dryness in prayer and cannot meditate, it could be a sign that God is preparing the soul for the gift of contemplation. 

Let us be like St. Teresa and the Magdalene, let us remain at the feet of Jesus, with true sorrow for our sins-let us remain faithful to prayer.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

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