Br. Stephen: Saint Teresa of Avila: An Interior Castle

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Photo by Rita Burza on Unsplash

By Br. Stephen, MIC, Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M, OCT 12 2021

When the name of Teresa of Avila comes to mind, many people think first of her great spiritual work, The Interior Castle. Teresa herself, with her high degree of mental prayer, seems like a kind of interior castle: She is hidden, concealed from the average Catholic by high and fortified walls which are (more obscurely still) spiritual walls. Even St. Therese of Lisieux, her fellow Carmelite, was initially put off by the grand portrayal she was given of Teresa of Avila, choosing instead her well-known “little way.”

The saint’s biography almost consistently furthers this impression. As a child, she and her brother attempted to flee to Africa to convert the Muslims, hoping to be martyred. When that flight was foiled by their watchful parents, the two tried instead to construct hermitages, but this, too, failed. Later, Teresa enjoyed “playing nuns” with her friends — hardly a common pastime in our day. To be sure, after actually joining the Carmelites, she went through a period of spiritual laxity that most of us would mistakenly call “being human.” After this, however, she was impelled by grace to the heights of sanctity, and became a Doctor of the Church on the subject of prayer. This honor, the highest conceivable “doctorate” in the created order, is shared by a bare 35 others in the Church’s 2,000-year history. …

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