Friendship with Jesus – Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila on friendship with Jesus as the key to contemplation and the spiritual life and how all blessings, particularly contemplative prayer, come through the humanity of Christ. This selection is read on the Feast or liturgical memorial of Saint Teresa of Avila on October 15. 

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.

Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.

What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.

This selection from the writings of St. Teresa of Avila on friendship with Jesus (Opusc. De Libro vitae, ap. 22, 6-7, 14) is used in the Roman Catholic Office of readings for the Feast or liturgical memorial of Saint Teresa of Avila on October 15.  It makes clear that authentic Christian contemplative prayer always seeks access to God through the humanity of Jesus Christ.

St. Teresa of Avila

The woman who came to be known as St. Teresa of Jesus was descended from an old Spanish family and was born in 1515. At the age of 20 Teresa entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation at Avila, Spain. She lived a rather lax life for many years. But finally, when praying before a statue of Christ scourged at the pillar at age 40, St. Teresa committed herself to pursue a life of spiritual perfection. In 1560, she began to receive spiritual counsel from St. Peter of Alcantara. In order to lead a life of stricter penance and deeper prayer, she founded a convent where the primitive Carmelite rule would be strictly observed. The “Discalced” Carmelite convent of St. Joseph was founded in Avila in 1562, against the strong opposition of many in the Carmelite order. Here St. Teresa wrote her famous book The Way of Perfection, having recently completed her Life, a spiritual autobiography written under obedience. The years from 1567 to her death were occupied with the establishment of Discalced Carmelite communities of both nuns and friars. In this, St. Teresa received much assistance from St. John of the Cross. In the midst of all this outward activity, her inner life progressed until she reached the stage of “spiritual marriage” in 1572.

St. Teresa also wrote the Interior Castle, the Foundations, and several smaller books. She died at Alba de Tormes on October 4, 1582, was canonized in 1622 and, in 1970, was ranked by Pope Paul VI amongst the Doctors of the Church. St. Teresa was a woman of strong character, prudence, and practical ability. Her growth in mystical prayer amidst all the responsibilities incumbent upon any foundress of a new religious community demonstrates that contemplation and action are not incompatible.  (bio by Dr. Italy)