Saturday, June 21, 2014

St. Teresa of Avila and Perseverance in Prayer

"[Perseverance] is the most necessary thing here" (II Mansions, i; Peers, II, 214) proclaims Saint Teresa; and she never tires of repeating it. [...] It was through perseverance that she herself obtained her supernatural riches: "Not many days would pass without my spending long periods in prayer, unless I was very ill or very busy."

The greatest temptation of her life was to remain a year or more without praying, because to refrain from prayer seemed to her more humble (Life, vii; Peers, I, 42).

Perseverance will have for its object not only the exercise of prayer itself, but also the asceticism of recollection that must accompany it. We must keep a guard over the senses during the day, abstain from dissipating frivolities, and turn our minds and hearts to the Master as frequently as possible by ejaculatory prayers or acts of the theological virtues.

Distractions and dryness in prayer enlighten the soul. They show it its deep-seated weaknesses and the precise causes of its distractions. There may be some recurring attachment or antipathy; an impression that is troubling still; such or such an image that clamors for attention; or a memory that is hindering recollection. Better than by detailed examens, the soul thus discovers the exact point to which it must apply the efforts of its asceticism to acquire recollection.

Let the soul persevere, Saint Teresa assures us, and even though one be a sinner, God will be merciful:
I cannot conceive, my Creator, why the whole world does not strive to draw near to Thee in this intimate friendship. Those of us who are wicked, and whose nature is not like Thine, ought to draw near to Thee so that Thou mayest make them good. They should allow Thee to be with them for at least two hours each day, even though they may not be with Thee, but are perplexed, as I was, with a thousand worldly cares and thoughts. In exchange for the effort which it costs them to desire to be in such good company (for Thou knowest, Lord, that at first this is as much as they can do and sometimes they can do no more at all) Thou dost prevent the devils from assaulting them ... and Thou givest them strength to conquer. (Life, viii; Peers, I, 50-1)
In short, only perseverance can make sure of success in prayer.


Source: Fr. Marie-Eug√©ne, I Want to See God, trans. by M. Verda Clare (Notre Dame, IN: Christian Classics, 1953), 247–248.

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