The Spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila Applied to the Five Marks of the Norbertine Order

The Five Marks of the Norbertine Order are
1) the Holy Eucharist
2) Marian Devotion
3) Liturgy of the Hours and  Personal Prayer
4) Penance
5) Zeal for Souls.

This study applies the writings and spirituality of St Teresa of Avila to these five marks.


Pope Benedict XIV stated that, in addition to heroic sanctity, a Doctor of the Church must have contributed to the Church such that “the darkness of error was scattered, dark things were made clear, doubts resolved, the difficulties of Scripture opened.”[1] In 1970 Pope Paul VI acknowledged these traits in St. Teresa of Avila declaring her the first woman Doctor of the Church.  Doctors of the Church are not declared so for their own glory but rather for the greater glory of God in that all the faithful are encouraged to study the lives and teachings of these saints for their own growth in holiness.

As a professed member of the Lay Order of Prémontré under the direction of the Canonry of St. Michael’s Abbey, one of the books recommended to novices in order to grow in the spirituality of St Norbert was Conversation With Christ; a small work summarizing the teaching of St Teresa of Avila about personal prayer. The purpose of this document is to go further by synthesizing the aspects of spirituality manifested in the life and writings of St. Teresa of Avila and applying them directly to the Five Marks of the Norbertine Order.  These marks are 1) The Holy Eucharist; 2) Prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours; 3) Marian Devotion, 4) Penance; 5) Mission or Zeal for Souls. The goal of this document is to help live out Norbertine Spirituality more fully by way of the advice of this great doctor of the Church, for the greater glory of God.

In addition to directly discussing the five marks of the Norbertine Order a brief overview of Teresa’s life will first be given along with addressing three areas of her spiritual growth: Scripture & Obedience, Influence of Saints/Good Books, and Spiritual Guidance/Good Companionship/Confession. These areas are also lessons for us.

The majority of this document is dedicated to the Norbertine Mark of Prayer emphasizing  a number of advice topics to help us grow our prayer life.  This paper is not an academic catechesis on Teresa’s teaching.  It does not explain the grades of prayer. Rather, it is meant to inspire at least one person to a greater prayer life (and hopefully be graded decently). There are excessive endnotes but I need to find the source of all these gems in the future. Teresa’s original intended audience was Carmelite nuns but sooner than later others read her works.  Once canonized and especially once declared a Doctor, her audience became all the faithful.  This paper recognizes that fact in statement such as “Teresa advices us . . .” and the like.

Biography of St Teresa of Avila

Teresa sums up her life as follows: “When I was young, I was told that I was pretty, and I believed it; later on people found me intelligent, and I believed that too; they tell me today that I am a saint.  But now I have no illusions.”[2] She was born in 1515, in Avila Spain. To the credit of how her parents must have inspired her in the faith, at the age of seven she ran away with her little brother to be martyred by the Moors. She loved the thought of heaven often chanting “forever and forever and forever.”[3] Her mother died when she was twelve at which time Teresa asked the Blessed Virgin to be her mother.

She became a Carmelite nun in 1534. She tells of many years in the convent where she was somewhat lukewarm, though, by today’s standards, I question the extent of her lukewarmness. After many years she experienced conversion and began to soar in holiness through prayer. Assisted by St. John of the Cross she established the Reform of the Discalced Carmelites. She lived in a time when overreaction to the Quietist heresy caused much suspicion of mental prayer and mysticism.[4] She was canonized in 1622 only forty years after her death. During her life she not only experienced the highest level of mysticism, she also experienced all manner of crosses from very extreme illness to persecution within the faith for her reform attempts as well as distrust of her writing.

Scriptures & Obedience

Teresa said “I always am and will be subject to the Church.”[5] She advises to always strive to proceed in conformity with what the Church says and that faith is what the Church holds, which are the truths of Sacred Scripture.[6] Advice not in close conformity with Scripture should be avoided as if heard from the devil himself.[7] There are over two hundred entries in the biblical index of her collected works which teaches us that Scripture was an integral part of her life and spirituality. Her meditations on the Song of Songs also show us her love of Scripture.

She submitted to Church authority. “I submit to Holy Mother Church. Make corrections or burn it I will not have lost anything by obeying these servants of God.”[8] She advises we do well in obeying, not to worry, and to obey those “who stand in the Lord’s place.”[9] “Our Master will allow us to make these reflections provided we submit in all things to what the Church holds.”[10] “Let us take care there be no lack of discretion in things that would go against obedience.”[11] Teresa tells us her soul made progress after she began to obey.[12]

The Lord told her to obey her confessor over him![13] We are not obliged to dispute with superiors but to obey[14] and by obedience we should not in any way go against what a superior commands.[15] We should strive to obey even if this be more painful, since the greatest perfection lies in obedience.[16] The strength given by obedience usually lessens the difficulty of things.[17]

Influence of Saints/Good Books

Teresa advises we learn through books to understand prayer and throughout her life she followed her own advice.[18] The Confessions of Saint Augustine ended her difficulties with prayer.[19] She was fond of Augustine and prayed to him when reading the Confessions.[20] The Letters of St. Jerome encouraged her to convince her father to let her become a nun.[21]

Speaking of The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna, reading good books helped her lose desire to read other books realizing the harm they can do.[22] Regarding Osuna’s book Teresa wrote “I did not know how to proceed in prayer nor how to recollect myself. I was therefore greatly pleased with this book and determined to follow the way of prayer with all my might. I began . . . to enter upon that way of prayer, taking this book as my guide.”[23]  Teresa’s use of this book is an example to us.  Her personal copy is preserved in the convent of Avila where “its yellow pages bear the traces of constant study. Whole passages are heavily scored and underlined, whilst in the margins, a cross, a heart, a hand pointing (her favorite marks) indicate the . . . thoughts, which seemed to her most worthy of notice.”[24] Based upon the many examples Teresa uses of Martha and Mary,[25] Osuna’s writings about these two New Testament saints[26] were likely very marked up in Teresa’s copy of his book.

Job in St. Gregory’s Morals profited her in extreme illness.[27] Louis Granada’s Book of Prayer and Mediation,[28] St. Peter of Alcantra’s books on prayer,[29] and the Art of Serving God are recommended by her in such a way she surely read them herself.[30] St. Peter of Alcantra’s writings on the importance of prayer and meditation[31], his advice on spiritual reading during meditation[32], the value he places on solitude[33], and his views on venial sin[34] are all at least in agreement with Teresa. She read books on the life of Christ.[35] She relates that books on prayer say you must seek God, and cites Augustine.[36] She advises books can help in recollecting[37] and that there are “so many good books on prayer available.”[38] She spent fourteen years unable to practice meditation without reading.[39] Knowledge and learning were a great help in everything.[40] It is a great help to use a book to recollect one’s thoughts and to pray well.[41] She gives examples of Monica and Augustine[42] and tells us the saints’ council of fleeing the world is good.[43]

She strongly advises taking Mary and saints as intercessors[44] and to use saints as models to see how far we have to go.[45] The fourth dwelling places incites devotion to Mary and the saints.[46] Teresa herself took St. Joseph as her mediator[47] and advocate and obtained great favors.[48] She prayed much to St. Joseph and Our Lady.[49] She was devoted to King David.[50] She was devoted to Mary Magdalene especially at Communion.[51]

She invoked her “favorite saints” including Hilarion and Michael the Archangel and “many other saints.”[52] Hilarion’s life as hermit and founder surely helped Teresa in her vocation.[53] She prayed to St. Peter of Alcantra before he was canonized.[54] She prayed to Peter and Paul for protection against deceit.[55] She was devoted to St. Clare.[56] She reflected on saints involved in the Passion and in suffering and suggested we do the same.[57] In her Soliloquies, she prays to the entire Communion of Saints all at once asking that these “blessed heavenly souls” who “are always absorbed in praises of my God . . . be our intercessors before the divine mercy.”[58] Teresa is an example of one who truly makes use of the cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) we all have available to us in the Communion of Saints.

Spiritual Guidance/Good Companionship/Confession

Teresa pities souls who reach the second degree of prayer alone.[59] Her soul made progress after she began to obey and listen to the advice of holy persons.[60] She always consulted others, often learned, holy men even if it was difficult. Learned men are spokesman for what the Church holds and masters in the truths of Sacred Scripture. She sought out and conversed with holy priests[61], St. Peter of Alcantra for example.[62]

We should seek spiritual persons for consultation.[63] Do not believe just anyone but only those who walk in conformity with Christ.[64] Postpone having a master until a suitable person is found. Have a master who is a learned man and hide nothing from him.[65] “How many mistakes have been made in the world by doing things without council?”[66] She warns of the dangers of locutions without the opinion of a learned and prudent confessor.[67]

She warned we beware of lenient advice but also of extreme advice. Do not value friendships that take away from God. She liked to confess frequently and advise we do not fail to confess even venial sins, confess often, and avoid dangerous friendships.[68] She considered it a great evil for souls to be alone in the midst of many dangers. We should seek holy friendships which she says are extremely important.[69] We must do what our confessors tell us[70] as they stand so truly in the place of God.[71] Christ is fond of us speaking “as truthfully and clearly to the one who stands in His place as we would to Him and of our desiring that the confessor understand all our thoughts and even more our deeds however small they be.”[72]

Mark of the Norbertine Order #1: The Holy Eucharist

Much of The Interior Castle was written after receiving Communion. Witnesses say she wrote with joy.[73] Teresa rejoices in the Lord especially after communion.[74] After much sickness she went to communion and confession more.[75] Her spiritual director made her receive communion every fifteen days.[76] She often made visits to Blessed Sacrament in times of great affliction and darkness of soul.[77] She made promises to the Blessed Sacrament and the devil fled.[78] The Blessed Sacrament often made her feel so good in body and soul it surprised her.[79] She had an ardent desire to receive Communion[80] and experienced delight and consolation in the Blessed Sacrament.[81]  She suggests we have the Lord with us in the Blessed Sacrament as refreshment from contemplation on the Passion.[82]

Contemplation during elevation of the Host inspired her to write a doxology of praise too long to quote but well worth meditating upon.[83] She was devoted to the Vigil of Corpus Christi.[84] The Lord appeared to her as risen in the host[85] and she saw Christ during the elevation.[86] The Lord appeared to her after Communion[87] and St. Clare appeared to her during Communion.[88] A saint appeared while praying near the Blessed Sacrament whose order “was somewhat fallen” at the time. This unnamed saint told her in the latter times his order would be restored to holiness.  Many orders have suggested themselves so I would suggest the Norbertines were historically in a period of “uncertainty and retreat”[89] in the time of Teresa and I like to think that Norbert, the “Apostle of the Blessed Sacrament” could be this saint.[90]

She asked why live at time of Christ when we have him with us today in the Blessed Sacrament?[91]  The Real Presence is not imagination[92] and the love of Christ in the Eucharist exists for us regardless of the holiness of the priest.[93] The devil tries to get us to do other devotions instead of the Blessed Sacrament.[94] In her refutations of those who de-emphasized Christ’s humanity she warned it leads to loss of devotion to Blessed Sacrament.[95] She states that deep secrets are revealed to souls during communion but many times our faults “do not let us enjoy them.”[96] She deplored the Blessed Sacrament being “abused by Lutherans”[97] and other insults against the Blessed Sacrament.[98] She was horrified at the thought of receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin.[99]

Mark of the Norbertine Order #3: Marian Devotion

On the surface, it can be argued that Teresa’s writings do not place much emphasis on devotion to the Blessed Mother but she does tells us how at the age of twelve she asked Our Lady to be her mother and wrote that “I have found favor with this sovereign Virgin in everything I have asked of her, and in the end she has drawn me to herself.”[100] She used the rosary[101] and recommended it for vocal prayer.[102] She prayed to our Lady.[103] She tells us to take Mary as intercessor when in the first dwelling place.[104] At the fourth dwelling one becomes devoted to Mary so she might appease her son.[105] Teresa and her initially intended audience by the nature of their vocation as Carmelites presuppose an intense Marian devotion so we must look beyond the surface for her Marian devotion. During a vision our Lord called her order “the order of the Blessed Virgin.”[106] Our Lady told Teresa she was happy because of her devotion to Joseph. Our Lady is beautiful.[107] Christ thanked Teresa for what she did for his mother.[108]

Mary is the perfect exemplar for Teresa.[109] Imitate humility of Mary whose habit they wear.[110] Wear the habit and observe the Carmelite rule[111] and its spirit.[112] Honor Mary whose habit Teresa wears.[113] Wear the habit of Carmel.[114] Anyone who wears the brown scapular or has consecrated themselves to Mary by methods such as those of St Louis de Monfort and/or St. Maximilian Kolbe can apply Teresa’s words and presuppositions to themselves. Those closest to Christ had greatest trials. Remember Mary.[115] Remember Mary when contemplating the Passion.[116] The only remedy is to trust in the merits of Jesus and Mary[117] Keep Mary’s sufferings in mind along with her Son.[118]

Mark of the Norbertine Order #4: Penance

Responding to a comment by a third order novice that the Passion was not a mark of the Norbertine Order, Father Gregory Dick O. Praem said that penance was the Passion put into practice. In that light this section is divided into Passion, Penance, and Crosses.

Passion: Keep humanity of Christ in mind.[119] Reflect on some phase of the Passion.[120] Reflect on the Passion and remain in Christ’s presence.[121] Teresa devoted herself to prayer each day on the Passion always beginning prayer with an event from the Passion.[122] The state of the wounded Christ awakened her soul and caused her to pray for conversion and strength.[123]

Thinking of the Passion moves us to compassion.[124] Reflecting on the Passion brings much good.[125] Who is it who sees the Lord covered with wounds who will not embrace them, love them, and desire them?[126] It is a favor to remain at the foot of the cross.[127] Those closest to Christ have greatest trials.[128] Because of her father’s devotion to Jesus carrying the cross, Teresa believes he shared in the passion with personal shoulder pain.[129] Thinking on the Passion draws great benefit.[130] No trial is too unbearable when compared against Jesus’ trial[131] Christ is our companion in trials because of his trial.[132] Life is long with many trials and we will always need the Passion to get us through.  Jesus and Mary are models and strength.[133] Fix your eyes on the Passion and all will be easy.[134]  “Fix your eyes on the crucified!”[135]

Penance: Teresa was anxious to do penance to merit good.[136] Do not be overly worried about health.[137] Some are too quick to think penance will harm them[138] though she does tell us to be careful about really adversely affecting your health.[139] True penance comes when the Lord takes away one’s health and strength for doing penance.[140] Peter of Alcantra practiced tremendous penance which merited him great reward in heaven.[141] Interior mortification makes everything meritorious. Force ourselves to do penance in this life and death will be sweet.[142] Giving up worldly things brings joy.[143] As Teresa grew in sanctity she grew more fond of penance.[144] The second dwelling place begins by desiring to do penance.[145] With the prayer of recollection there is greater desire for penance.[146] In the fifth dwelling weakness for penance is overcome.[147] The seventh dwelling leads to penance by those who had much in the world.[148]

Crosses: “Embracing the cross, come what may, is an important thing.”[149] There is lack of stability in this life of crosses. Teresa went so far as to suggest there is no reason for being, other than to suffer trials.[150] The Lord sent Teresa illness as preparation. The Lord gives patience to suffer illness.[151] Illness can gain merit or lose merit through one’s fault.[152] The devil discourages us during crosses. Resist him with the Passion.[153]  Abhor all for God, embrace the cross and the devil flees.[154] Persecution from good people can be a tremendous cross.[155] Blame and persecution strengthens the soul.[156] We want to enjoy the kingdom without the dishonor.[157] Take up the Cross! Do not mind being trampled upon.[158] Do not resist losing honor.[159]

Complaining nuns! Learn to suffer for love of God without having anyone know about it.[160] Accept crosses and pray for strength.[161] To gain freedom do not fear the cross.[162] Seek consolations in trials of love.[163] Whoever loves Christ much will be able to suffer much. Whoever loves little will suffer little.[164] The Lord grants favors of determination to suffer and desire trials.[165] Suffering over our sins increases the more we receive from God.[166] Those who reach perfection do not pray to be freed from crosses.[167]

In the fourth dwelling place desire is for crosses before consolation.[168] The sixth dwelling has greater trials, plus interior and exterior sufferings before entry.[169] Suffering purifies the soul to enter the seventh dwelling place[170] where there is pain in seeing how little we can do and how great are the favors received in a cross.[171] The soul fears nothing and will not be free of earthly trial.[172] Embrace the cross and suffer more for him when you can.[173] At high grades of prayer mundane activities are crosses. Paul and Mary Magdalene experienced this.[174] Mary Magdalene had trial before delight at the Lord’s feet.[175]

Mark of the Norbertine Order #5: Zeal for Souls

The Lord esteems the love we have for one another.[176] We will not go to heaven alone; we will take others with us. [177]We are not to hide our talents since God chooses them to bring profit to others.[178] Love of neighbor is part of perfection.[179] If we fail in love of neighbor we are lost.[180] Teresa refers us to Mat 25:41 final judgment with the sheep and goats.[181] She ponders what souls inflamed with Christ can accomplish in someone else’s life.[182]

Teresa had the desire to persuade all to be devoted to the Lord.[183] She gave away books and helped others even at times of her own spiritual lukewarmness.[184] She does warn of the temptation in the beginning to see everyone be spiritual and advises discretion is necessary.[185] At higher levels the soul becomes obsessed with serving the Lord not just a little but as much as it can.[186] Teresa prays that those who read her writings “abandon completely everything for God.”[187]  She tells us that when the Lord granted her the favor of persuading some soul to advance in perfection she herself was rewarded by consolations in prayer.[188]

She exhorted her readers to strive to be of service to God and Church.[189] She was worried for the salvation of heretics[190] and for all souls due to heresy. She knew prayer will work[191] and the Ecclesiastical arm will save us.[192] Righteousness in the kingdom will prevail. Harmony and love of neighbor would end strife.[193] The Interior Castle ends with prayers for Lutherans.[194]

We are to worry about souls going to hell and must do all we can.[195] Teresa would “give one thousand lives to save one soul” and wished those asking for prayers would ask for more efficacious, important things. She mentioned cloistered prayer for those in the world and advises to keep petitions for others continuously in our hearts. She expresses grief to the Lord for the “many there are who don’t want these consolations over those will lose them forever! So the soul looks for ways to find company, and willingly sets aside its joy when it thinks it can be of some help that others might strive to enjoy it.”[196]

We are to pray for the right things.[197] Pray for others to come to God. All she desires is to see other souls rich with blessing.[198] Have others pray for us and we pray for others. Help others by setting aside our own intentions.[199] Be affable and understanding to all so those you talk to will desire to increase in holiness themselves.[200]

In the seventh dwelling prayers are for those in mortal sin.[201] There is desire to live many years and suffer trials to help the Lord be praised.[202] Those in the seventh dwelling suffer torment to see others go astray.[203] We are to look how we can please and serve others[204] and do penance to draw souls to God.[205] These samples show not only Teresa’s zeal for souls, but the zeal for souls of those progressing in prayer which is the next Norbertine Mark to be discussed.

Mark of the Norbertine Order #3: Liturgy of the Hours and Personal Prayer

Determination: Teresa writes of the trend (Quietist backlash) during her time that was suspicious of mental prayer.[206] Progress in prayer can take years and is different for each individual. Persevere! The greatest labor is in the beginning. Beginners must be determined. We must begin to cultivate the garden that is at first only barren weeds.[207] She likens prayer to chess. We must know how to play then play often to improve. If we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, we will not fall. Take our eyes off and obstacles, falls, and loss of way results.[208]

Believe in God. Keep trying and little by little progress will come.[209] One can make progress in six months that could take another person years. The Lord gives gifts when he wants and to who is better disposed.[210]  She repeatedly stresses the beginning is important.  We must keep praying. Practice makes perfect. Resolute determination to persevere is all important.[211] Be determined not to go back regardless of trials, contradiction, dryness. “No one knows how important determination is.” Determination helps beginners struggle courageously and not turn back.[212] Draw near the Lord with determination and the reward will be great.[213] Pray without ceasing is the most important Carmelite rule.[214]

It is necessary our foundation be prayer and contemplation. If we don’t strive for virtues and practice them then we will always be less holy than we could be, and should be.[215] To perform mental prayer with determination regardless of consolations is great progress. Do not turn back.  She deplores what today would be referred to as “whiners”.  Do not be a whiner! [216] The importance of perseverance is such that those who entered the first dwelling but don’t have determination will not get to the second dwelling place.[217]

Prayer is necessary in battles between friendship with God and with the world.[218] There are so many dangers and distractions. Solitude is a great help in prayer.[219] Perseverance is so necessary and so loved by the Lord.[220] The Devil will call on all of hell to get the soul back out. Determination each day keeps the devil away![221] The aim of any person beginning prayer: work and prepare with determination. “Don’t forget this” conform with God’s will.[222]

Favors: Prayer is the door to favors; do not close it.[223] God does not tire of giving.[224] The Lord frees you by prayer. When Teresa began to avoid occasions of sin and instead pray, God granted favors.[225] She believed all good came to a certain man from favors granted during prayer.[226] Regarding recollection, she admonishes that we must make the effort. Practice recollection for some days, get used to it and gain will be made. Souls who practice prayer walk so much more securely than those who take another road.[227]

Dryness: She writes of dryness in prayer and forcing oneself to pray anyway.[228] We are to draw water from the well regardless of how painful and weary dryness makes it.[229] The Lord is walking in the garden of our soul. Drynesss is his weeding, pruning, and pulling for the good of the garden.[230] The Devil will temp the soul with other goods.  Do not listen.[231]

Keep Christ Present: Keeping Christ present with you is very beneficial.[232] God gave her no talent for discursive thought or imagination. She kept in her mind the presence of Christ and this helped her.[233] Christ stays our companion as we do our worldly duties.[234] We should begin prayer with recollection of mind, examination of conscience, act of contrition, the sign of the cross and having Christ present with us. He will not abandon us if we ask. Take on emotions of Christ. Use words that come from your heart. We need not always use ready-made prayers.[235]

Vocal Prayer: Teresa came out of her long period of lukewarmness when she began reciting many vocal prayers.[236] In prayer she says the soul should to enter into itself. The door to entry into the castle is prayer and reflection. Inattentive prayer is just moving lips, not prayer.[237] Vocal prayer should be joined to mental prayer.[238] Do not say mental prayer is not necessary! Vocal prayers such as the rosary require a good amount of mental prayer. Consider and understand who you are speaking to. Vocal and mental prayer go together. Pay attention! Do not think of other things. Recite vocal prayer with perfection and mental prayer with it. Understand what you are saying.[239]

Pray vocal prayer in solitude as Christ teaches and did. We cannot speak to God and the world simultaneously. Do not let the mind wander without making an effort to control it. Do not grow anxious from inevitable distractions. Mental prayer cannot be separated from vocal prayer recited well.[240] The Lord may raise you to perfected contemplation during vocal prayer.[241]

Mental Prayer: Mental prayer and vocal prayer are joined “if while speaking I thoroughly understand and know I am speaking with God and I have greater awareness of this than I do of the words I am saying.” We cannot speak the words while thinking of the world. Be polite to whom you are speaking![242] First we must make effort to gain virtues or God will not come. Mental prayer is sharing with God. We must not let the devil trick us into abandoning prayer.[243] Teresa discussed her problems with meditative and discursive prayer such that she advises reading books as a good way to go.[244] If we cannot practice mental prayer turn to vocal prayer and reading. Do not abandon prayer in common.[245]

Self-Knowledge:  We must wait for God as we advance in prayer. The Lord will suspend the intellect when the time comes.[246] Never abandon the path of self-knowledge. No stage of prayer is so sublime we need not return to our sins and faults to gain self-knowledge.[247]

It is a shame and unfortunate that through our faults we do not understand ourselves.[248] To not acknowledge gifts from God is false humility.[249] The devil deceives regarding humility. He makes out our desire to appear holy and desire to progress to be pride and since we are sinners we should be content.[250] Fears and pains from false humility are from imperfections and not from being mortified.[251] There is a room of self-knowledge. Discover our lowliness by discovering God. Nothing is more important on earth than humility. Learn self-knowledge then fly to the other rooms.[252]

Caution & Fear of the Lord: Much harm is done by considering our actions unimportant. Guard against displeasing the Lord.[253] Be careful and attentive until we see we are determined not to offend the Lord. This fear should be impressed within our souls.[254] We should fear and understand that more harm can come from one venial sin than from all hell. A soul should only be intimidated by fear of offending God.[255] Once a soul has reached contemplation, fear of offending God increases.

Fear of the Lord will advance a soul to God.[256] The evil of offending God is seen more clearly in the sixth dwelling place.[257] The more favored, the more fearful of themselves.[258] Walk with fear and caution. The devil can deceive transformed to the angel of light.[259] Those who go to the highest levels must fear the most.[260]

Humility: If there is no progress in humility all else will be ruined.[261] By placing little value on the nothing we are, the soul gains from humility.[262] In the presence of God a little humility is worth more than all the knowledge in the world. The Lord humbles himself to be with us in spite of what we are. “We must be humiliated for our own good so we might not become careless since the one who goes the highest must fear the most and trust less in self.”[263]

God is very fond of humility[264] because God is supreme truth and to be humble is to walk in truth and the truth is we have nothing good ourselves.[265] The soul has deeper humility as it sees plainly that gifts are received through no diligence of its own. The soul sees it is most unworthy.[266] The whole groundwork of prayer is based on humility and the more a soul lowers itself in prayer the more God raises it up.[267] Contemplatives should take the lowest places.[268] If we are advanced we are most wretched of all. Deeds done for reasons other than consolations are most rewarded.[269]

Trials in prayer are put in our way so we can learn humility.[270] Making as issue of dryness is lacking humility. With humility present, we will progress.[271] Strive for humility as we are unworthy of favors. The devil can harm us by making us think we have virtues we do not have.[272] Desire to be given what we do not deserve and we will not get it.  We cannot be so bold as to choose our path.[273] The little progress we make on our own is God’s way to humble us. Do not worry about the progress others make compared to you.[274]

Pride: Teresa once enjoyed being esteemed.[275] The devil tricks those who see themselves close to God with confidence[276] and he does great harm by making us think we have virtues which we do not have. A truly humble person walks in doubt of his own virtues. The devil gives false humility to keep you from prayer and the Eucharist.[277]

Do not think we can arrive at perfection by our own power. If we do we will grow cold.[278] God does not grant favor because the sanctity of recipients is great.[279] Lack of humility wants to raise the soul up before God raises it up; we want to be Mary before having worked with Martha.[280] Many souls who want to fly before God gives them wings are deceived.[281]

Some demand favors from God as if they were their due.  They are not ready.[282] They cannot accept the door to where the King dwells is closed when they consider themselves his vassals.  Many mistake their own imperfections as suffering for God. They feel they are so well advanced as to have no imperfections.[283]

Many souls want to fly before God gives them wings and are deceived. If they cannot progress on their own they are dejected.[284] Those who think they deserve higher places will not reach them.[285] We want to reach God through union but are worried about our honor and reputation.[286] We run away from opportunities to be despised or lose honor.[287] The devil knows how to stir up tempests. Look to our own faults and not those of others.[288] Many at prayer want humiliation but shun it when it presents itself.[289]

Abandonment to Christ: The main disposition for life in the way of perfection is the desire to rejoice only in Christ. Our will should be one with him alone.[290] Abandon entirely to the Lord who knows best what is fitting for us.[291] Follow Paul. I no longer live but Christ lives in me.[292] At the highest levels the soul wants nothing for itself but wants its actions to be in conformity to God’s will and is obsessed with serving the Lord. The souls laughs at when it esteemed things of this world. All the good it has is directed to God.  Really dying to self closes itself to the world for God’s glory.[293] Third level is almost a complete death to all earthly things and an enjoyment of God. Abandon completely to God’s will. Give up your soul to God.[294]

To say we abandon to another’s will seems easy until we experience it.  It is very hard to do.[295] Within ourselves lies the obstacles to peace and tranquility.[296] It is impossible without a powerful love to give up everything for God.[297] Do not strive to please those of the world. Keep your eyes on the Lord who will sustain you.[298] Not all who think they are detached are.  Do not be careless. Those who want to advance but are concerned about honor must pray and cooperate with God to break this fault.[299] All is of little benefit if we do not lose our trust in self and place all our trust in God.[300] We are miserly in giving ourselves to God, we leave some for ourselves and we lose what we gained if we don’t’ give all to God.[301] Even when high levels are reached a soul must not trust in itself or place occasions of failing in front of itself. The devil plays tricks on souls that consider themselves close to God not via pride, but via confidence without discretion.[302] The devil will not deceive a soul that does not trust in itself.[303]

God does not force our will. He takes what we give him but does not give us completely unless we give ourselves completely. We must disengage from everything to approach God interiorly and even in the midst of occupations, withdraw ourselves.[304] Do not allow your will to be slaves to anyone but Christ, who bought us with his blood.[305] Souls surrendered to his will trust in his greatness and remain at the feet of Christ like Mary Magdalene.[306]

Self-detachment: A great aid to going against will is to bear in mind how all is vanity and how quickly all comes to an end. We must rid ourselves of love of our bodies and love of comfort.[307] Doing our own will is usually what harms us.[308] Try hard to go against your will in everything. The perfect soul can be humble and detached anywhere.[309] While interiorly it takes time to become totally detached and mortified exteriorly it must be done immediately.[310] God never permits any loss to come to a person truly mortified save for a greater gain.[311]

Run one thousand miles from such expressions as “I was right” or “that person did me wrong.”[312] Not making excuses for oneself is a habit characteristic of high perfection.[313] It takes great humility to be silent at seeing oneself condemned without fault.[314] Even if we are blamed falsely we are not entirely innocent as Jesus was.[315] Saints were pleased with the wrongs and persecutions they suffered because they had something to offer the Lord.[316]

Carefully avoid wasting your thoughts at any time on what you will eat.  Care about pleasing the Master in everything.[317] Beginners must detach from satisfaction. God will try us, abandons us, humiliate us for our own good.[318] We must gain self-knowledge and to enter the second dwelling place give up unnecessary things and business affairs.[319] Few of us dispose ourselves that the Lord may communicate with us.[320]

Responsibility & Priorities: Teresa pities spiritual people who are obliged to live in the world.[321] Once while Teresa was lamenting that being involved in business affairs can hinder spiritual progress and lead to faults, she heard: “It cannot be helped, daughter; strive to have the right intention and to be detached in all things, and look at Me so that what you do might be done in conformity with what I did.”[322]

We must use the treasures God gives or he will take them from us leaving us poorer.[323] We must love, be detached from all created things and possess true humility.[324] Remember that all will come tumbling down on the Day of Judgment. Much is required to deal with the world, engage in business, converse while interiorly remaining its stranger, its enemy.[325] It must always be understood we must go forward in the service of our Lord and love of neighbor [326] The Lord does not look much at the greatness of our works as at the love with which they are done.[327] Once when Teresa had anxieties over the progress of her order the Lord told her: “Do what lies in your power; surrender yourself to me and do not be disturbed about anything.”[328]

Backsliding: As sins increase, joy in prayer is lost. Neglecting prayer gets easier as you do it, allowing yourself to get lost.[329] Paying no attention to venial sins is another danger.[330] Too much distress over the sins and failings of others hinder one’s own prayer life.[331] Even after progress is made in prayer, attachment to worldly things will cause lack of gratitude and loss of progress.[332] People entering the castle too consumed with the world do not advance.[333]

False humility leads to despair and lack of esteem for the favors of god.[334] Life is much worse without prayer.[335] Overconfidence leads to putting oneself in occasions of sin.[336] Falling into bad habits festers so that one does not consider them bad.[337] If we could understand what great harm is done when a bad habit is begun we would rather die than be the cause of it.[338]

God’s favors are impeded because we cling to earthly things and this is why there are not many spiritual persons.[339] Teresa writes “sinners like myself clothed in weakness, lukewarmness, lack of mortification” should ask the Lord for help.[340] If you fall do not be discouraged. Relapse can be worse. Trust in the mercy of God. There is no other remedy for giving up prayer than resuming prayer.[341]


Members of the Lay Order of Prémontré are to strive for Christian perfection and to share in the evangelization of the world in union with the Order of Prémontré and under its direction. Part of that direction is to grow in prayer and St. Teresa of Avila is one of the saints lay members are given to help in this growth. With the help of the Lord, may her writings and example lead us to give greater glory to God. Amen.


 Addis, William. A Catholic Dictionary Containing Some Account of the Doctrine, Discipline, Rites, Ceremonies, Councils and Religious Orders of the Catholic Church Part One(Virtue and Company Limited, 1916)

Ardura, Bernard. The Order of Prémontré: History and Spirituality(Paisa Publishing Co., 1995)

De Osuna, Fancisco The Third Spiritual Alphabet (The Newman Bookshop, 1948)

St. Peter of Alcantra.Life and Select Works (Revelation Insight Publishing Co., 2010)

St. Teresa of Avila. The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume 1

The Book of Her Life

Spiritual Testimonies


(ICS Publications, 1987)

St. Teresa of Avila. The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume 2

The Way of Perfection

Meditations on the Song of Songs

The Interior Castle

(ICS Publications, 1987)

Thurston, Herbert ed. Butler’s Lives of the Sants Vol IV(Christian Classics, 1996)

Rengers, Christopher. The 33 Doctors of the Church(Tan Books, 2000)

Undeclared Author Statutes of the Lay Order of Prémontré (St. Michael’s Abbey,2001)


[1] Addis 277

[2] Rengers 435

[3] Rengers 444

[4]Osuna xxiii

[5] Teresa, Castle 282

[6] Teresa, Perfection 20-21

[7] Teresa, Castle 372

[8] Teresa, Perfection 38-39

[9] Teresa, Life248

[10] Teresa, Perfection 151

[11] Teresa, Perfection 69

[12] Teresa, Life209

[13] Teresa, Life226

[14] Teresa, Castle 313

[15] Teresa, Perfection 105

[16] Teresa, Perfection 190

[17] Teresa, Castle 281

[18] Teresa, Life205

[19] Teresa, Life20

[20] Teresa, Life103

[21] Teresa, Life 63

[22] Teresa, Life66

[23]Osuna xxvii

[24]Osuna xxviii

[25] Teresa, Life153,195 Perfection 155,100 Castle 431 Soliloquies 447

[26] Osuna 278, 283

[27] Teresa, Life74

[28] Teresa, Perfection 31

[29] Teresa, Life253

[30] Teresa, Life120

[31] Alcantra 54-6

[32] Alcantra 130

[33] Alcantra 161

[34] Alcantra 164

[35] Teresa, Life333

[36] Teresa, Life356-357

[37] Teresa, Life102

[38] Teresa, Perfection 106

[39] Teresa, Perfection 99

[40] Teresa, Castle 318

[41] Teresa, Perfection 136

[42] Teresa, Perfection 67

[43] Teresa, Perfection 75

[44] Teresa, Castle 293

[45] Teresa, Castle 307

[46] Teresa, Life167

[47] Teresa, Life76

[48] Teresa, Life79

[49] Teresa, Life256

[50] Teresa, Life149

[51] Teresa, Life101

[52] Teresa, Life227

[53] Butler 163

[54] Teresa, Life236

[55] Teresa, Life248

[56] Teresa, Life290

[57] Teresa, Castle 445

[58] Teresa,Soliloquies 456

[59] Teresa, Life136

[60] Teresa, Life210

[61] Teresa, Life211

[62] Teresa, Life234-235

[63] Teresa, Life21

[64] Teresa, Perfection 121

[65]  Teresa, Life219

[66] Teresa, Perfection 57

[67]  Teresa, Castle 375

[68] Teresa, Life71-79

[69] Teresa, Life92-93 Perfection 74

[70] Teresa, Life286

[71] Teresa, Life325

[72] Teresa, Castle 414-415

[73] Teresa, Castle 267

[74] Teresa, Life192

[75] Teresa, Life78

[76] Teresa, Life90

[77] Teresa, Life313

[78] Teresa, Life314

[79] Teresa, Life260

[80] Teresa, Life351

[81] Teresa, Perfection 169

[82] Teresa, Life193

[83] Teresa, Life337

[84] Teresa, Life258

[85] Teresa, Life247

[86] Teresa, Life335

[87] Teresa, Castle 432

[88] Teresa, Life290

[89] Ardura 149

[90] Teresa, Life359

[91] Teresa, Perfection 171

[92] Teresa, Perfection 172-174

[93] Teresa, Life338

[94] Teresa, Perfection 175

[95] Teresa, Castle 404

[96] Test 415

[97] Teresa, Perfection 176

[98] Teresa, Perfection 167

[99] Teresa, Life339

[100] Teresa, Life56

[101] Teresa,


[102] Teresa, Life329

[103] Teresa, Life256

[104] Teresa, Castle 293

[105] Teresa, Life167

[106] Teresa, Testamonies 389

[107] Teresa, Life291

[108] Teresa, Life320

[109] Teresa, Perfection 25

[110] Teresa, Perfection 86

[111] Teresa, Life321

[112] Teresa, Perfection 26

[113] Teresa, Perfection 38

[114] Teresa, Castle 335

[115] Teresa, Castle 445

[116] Teresa, Castle 399

[117]  Teresa, Castle 305

[118] Teresa, Castle 397

[119] Teresa, Castle 397

[120] Teresa, Life67

[121] Teresa, Life133

[122] Teresa, Life208-210

[123] Teresa, Life100

[124] Teresa, Life119

[125] Teresa, Life129

[126] Teresa, Life226

[127] Teresa, Castle 445

[128] Teresa, Life193

[129] Teresa, Life90

[130] Teresa, Castle 415

[131] Teresa, Life194

[132] Teresa, Life196

[133] Teresa, Castle 403

[134] Teresa, Life225

[135] Teresa, Castle 446

[136] Teresa, Life279

[137] Teresa, Castle 312

[138] Teresa, Perfection 78

[139] Teresa, Castle 333

[140] Teresa, Castle 437

[141] Teresa, Life234-236, 319

[142] Teresa, Perfection 195

[143] Teresa, Life64

[144] Teresa, Life209

[145] Teresa, Castle 299

[146] Teresa, Castle 332

[147] Teresa, Castle 344

[148] Teresa, Castle 448

[149] Teresa, Life196

[150] Teresa, Life360-361

[151] Teresa, Life69

[152] Teresa, Life74

[153] Teresa, Life 62-63

[154] Teresa, Life223

[155] Teresa, Life255

[156] Teresa, Castle 362

[157] Teresa, Perfection 86

[158] Teresa, Perfection 135

[159] Teresa, Castle 311

[160] Teresa, Perfection 79-80

[161] Teresa, Perfection 163

[162] Teresa, Life119

[163] Teresa, Life197

[164] Teresa, Perfection 162

[165] Teresa, Castle 369

[166] Teresa, Castle 397

[167] Teresa, Perfection 185

[168] Teresa, Castle 326

[169] Teresa, Castle 359

[170] Teresa, Castle 424

[171] Teresa, Castle 436

[172] Teresa, Castle 360

[173] Teresa, Castle 301

[174] Teresa, Life187-188

[175] Teresa, Castle 449

[176] Teresa, Perfection 180

[177] Teresa, Life112

[178] Teresa, Life141

[179] Teresa, Castle 296

[180] Teresa, Castle 351-353

[181] Teresa, Castle 412

[182] Teresa, Life300

[183] Teresa, Life80

[184] Teresa, Life89

[185] Teresa, Life126

[186] Teresa, Life182

[187] Teresa, Life190

[188] Teresa, Life266

[189] Teresa, Life360

[190] Teresa, Perfection 22

[191] Teresa, Perfection 47

[192] Teresa, Perfection 48

[193] Teresa, Life184-185

[194] Teresa, Castle 452

[195] Teresa, Life278-279

[196] Teresa, Soliloquies 444

[197] Teresa, Perfection 41-51

[198] Teresa, Perfection 66

[199] Teresa, Perfection 65-69

[200] Teresa, Perfection 199

[201] Teresa, Castle 429

[202] Teresa, Castle 439

[203] Teresa, Castle 444

[204] Teresa, Castle 447

[205] Teresa, Castle 448

[206] Teresa, Life97

[207] Teresa, Life110-113

[208] Teresa, Perfection 94-97

[209] Teresa, Life123

[210] Teresa, Life346

[211] Teresa, Perfection 115-117

[212] Teresa, Perfection 126-127

[213] Teresa, Perfection 137

[214] Teresa, Perfection 53

[215] Teresa, Castle 447

[216] Teresa, Life117

[217] Teresa, Castle 297

[218] Teresa, Life95

[219] Teresa, Perfection 56

[220] Teresa, Castle 298

[221] Teresa, Castle 300

[222] Teresa, Castle 301

[223] Teresa, Life99

[224] Teresa, Life172

[225] Teresa, Life201

[226] Teresa, Life299

[227] Teresa, Perfection 191

[228] Teresa, Life98

[229]  Teresa, Life114

[230] Teresa, Life137-138

[231] Teresa, Castle 357

[232] Teresa, Life120

[233] Teresa, Life67

[234] Teresa, Life196

[235] Teresa, Perfection 133-135

[236] Teresa, Life61

[237] Teresa, Castle 286

[238] Teresa, Perfection 25

[239] Teresa, Perfection 122-128

[240] Teresa, Perfection 130

[241] Teresa, Perfection 129-131

[242] Teresa, Perfection 121

[243] Teresa, Life95-96

[244] Teresa, Life68

[245] Teresa, Perfection 103

[246] Teresa, Life121

[247] Teresa, Life129-130,

[248] Teresa, Castle 284

[249] Teresa, Life106

[250] Teresa, Life124

[251] Teresa, Life270

[252] Teresa, Castle 291-292

[253] Teresa, Life60

[254] Teresa, Perfection 197-198

[255] Teresa, Life222-223

[256] Teresa, Perfection 196-200

[257] Teresa, Castle 419

[258] Teresa, Castle 443

[259] Teresa, Life136-137

[260] Teresa, Life145

[261] Teresa, Life120

[262] Teresa, Life138

[263] Teresa, Life143-145

[264] Teresa, Castle 451

[265] Teresa, Castle 420

[266] Teresa, Life164-165

[267] Teresa, Life196

[268] Teresa, Perfection 99

[269] Teresa, Perfection 104

[270] Teresa, Life116

[271] Teresa, Castle 307-313

[272] Teresa, Perfection 186

[273] Teresa, Castle 416

[274] Teresa, Life116

[275] Teresa, Life70

[276] Teresa, Life171

[277] Teresa, Perfection 186-189

[278] Teresa, Perfection 165

[279] Teresa, Castle 285

[280] Teresa, Life195

[281] Teresa, Life271

[282] Teresa, Perfection 104

[283] Teresa, Castle 307-309

[284] Teresa, Life271-272

[285] Teresa, Life349

[286] Teresa, Life274

[287] Teresa, Castle 311

[288] Teresa, Castle 315

[289] Teresa, Castle 352

[290] Teresa, Life322

[291] Teresa, Life79

[292] Teresa, Life81

[293] Teresa, Life182-184

[294] Teresa, Life148-152

[295] Teresa, Perfection 161

[296] Teresa, Castle 321

[297] Teresa, Life347

[298] Teresa, Perfection 43

[299] Teresa, Life273

[300] Teresa, Life100

[301] Teresa, Life111

[302] Teresa, Life170-171

[303] Teresa, Life218

[304] Teresa, Perfection 145-147

[305] Teresa, Perfection 55

[306] Teresa, Life197

[307] Teresa, Perfection 76-77

[308] Teresa, Castle 314

[309] Teresa, Perfection 83

[310] Teresa, Perfection 88

[311] Teresa, Perfection 101

[312] Teresa, Perfection 85

[313] Teresa, Perfection 90

[314] Teresa, Perfection 91

[315] Teresa, Perfection 92

[316] Teresa, Perfection 177

[317] Teresa, Perfection 170

[318] Teresa, Life145

[319]  Teresa, Castle 294

[320] Teresa, Castle 336

[321] Teresa, Life329

[322] Teresa, Testamonies 388

[323] Teresa, Life107

[324] Teresa, Perfection 54

[325] Teresa, Perfection 47-49

[326]  Teresa, Castle 348

[327] Teresa, Castle 450

[328] Test 388

[329] Teresa, Life82-89

[330] Teresa, Life94

[331] Teresa, Life127

[332] Teresa, Life165,166

[333] Teresa, Castle 287

[334] Teresa, Life169

[335] Teresa, Life170

[336] Teresa, Life172

[337] Teresa, Life202

[338] Teresa, Perfection 87

[339] Teresa, Perfection 159

[340] Teresa, Perfection 201

[341] Teresa, Castle 302

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