As we make our way with Jesus to Holy Week, perhaps a little spiritual pick-me-up is in order to push us through to Easter and beyond. Who better to help us than St. Theresa of Avila, that master of the spiritual life? Such is why Fr. David Endres, Assistant Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at the Athenaeum, spoke on St. Theresa’s book, The Way of Perfection, this past St. Patrick’s Day at Holy Cross-Immaculata church in Cincinnati. What follows is a modified transcript of his talk (Fr. Endres did the modifying!).
The Way of Perfection: An Introduction:
The collected works of St. Teresa span some 2,000 pages. But it’s not the extent of her writings that are important. It’s that they continue to offer perennial wisdom – fully consistent with the teachings of Christ and His Church – but also that her writings are so practical; even though they are nearly 500 years old (actually St. Teresa’s birth was 500 years ago this year – 2015). Her thoughts still resound in hearts and minds; they connect with our own spiritual struggles and aspirations. Her best-known work is probably the Interior Castle, from which we get insight into the stages of spiritual growth of the person – what St. Teresa calls the “mansions” of the spiritual life. But today we are going to focus on another significant work of St. Teresa – the Way of Perfection.
The Way of Perfection was written for her sisters in order to obtain as St. Teresa says “spiritual perfection” – it is a practical guide in her words to “the divine journey – “the royal road to heaven,” written during a time of discord (post-Protestant Reformation). St. Teresa says that during her day the world had little respect for Christ: “People try to condemn Christ once again” and burn his church to the ground.
It is during times like these that St. Teresa says we need to discover or re-discover the importance of prayer, redouble our efforts in prayer, and grow in virtue. She acknowledged that many souls are being lost in her day. She concludes the introduction to the Way of Perfection with the challenge: “This is no time to pray for things of little importance.” Salvation hangs in the balance. It is literally a question of life or death – spiritual life or death.
Continue reading The Way of Perfection.
Feature photo of St. Theresa at prayer. Creative Commons/Wikipedia.