It seems that Sixteenth Century religious writings can still be relevant today, and one does not have to be Roman Catholic to appreciate the spiritual wisdom of Teresa of Avila. In this book, which was originally part of a longer work written to guide the sisters in the Carmelite  order in Spain, Teresa addresses such issues as faith, prayer, sin, obedience and trust.

Breaking the “Our Father” into phrases and reflecting on the meaning and lesson inherent in the words, Teresa takes the reader through all of those issues as a way to a stronger faith and a closer relationship with God.

Some of the concepts put forth are strict and could be considered harsh in this era of “feel-good” religion. For instance the admonition to fear God. In the second section on “And lead us not into temptation…” Teresa writes about the gifts of love and fear (of God). “Love will quicken our pace; fear will make us careful on this our journey…” She is referring to a fear of God that will help a believer avoid sin, and something she considers a virtue. Popular thinking says one should not be afraid of a loving God, and should be compelled to avoid sin because of loving God, not fearing God.

In contrast, her message about bending to the will of God is very relevant to a modern Christian who is trying to live the gospel message. In the section on “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, Teresa writes,  “It is indeed easy to talk, but difficult to act.” That stuck me as a sixteenth century version of the popular “do you walk the talk?”

Teresa concludes that section by writing, “It appears very easy to say that one yields one’s will to the authority of another. But when the real test comes, one realizes that there is nothing in the world quite so difficult as to submit ones’ will as one ought.”

Because this was written for nuns, there is a strong focus on submission of self and obedience to a higher power, and this is not a book for the spiritual faint of heart.  But for those willing to accept the inherent challenges in what Teresa wrote, the book could be a first step toward a more disciplined life. And at a time when American society is on a moral decline, perhaps a bit of character building via some old fashioned self-discipline is a good thing.

Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582)  was a contemplative nun, religious reformer, spiritual writer, and a poet who lived during a period of reform and bitter religious rivalry in Western Europe. The current edition of this book originated in Father William J. Doheny’s book The Pater Noster of Saint Teresa which was published in 1942 by The Bruce Publishing Company. According to an editor’s note from Ave Maria Press, this edition was updated from Fr. Doheny’s translation, which employed archaic English.

Even with the update, however, the language is still somewhat archaic, but I think the messages for the most part are not.

The Way of Prayer
Learning to Pray With The Our Father
From the Timeless classic  The Way of Perfection
Teresa of Avila
Edited and translated by William J. Doheny, C.S.C
Ave Maria Press
ISBN: 0-87061-246-8
Paperback – $12.95

Maryann Miller –  Maryann’s Blog

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