Understanding St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross


#1

Now, after reading the Papal Encyclical Love Conquers All : vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html about the necessity of, like Moses, entering the tabernacle with the Lord and being born aloft by the Lord through contemplation, I am very interested in learning from the masters of Mysticism, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. I mean who wouldn’t want to read the works of a saint who reached the highest levels of Heaven while on earth as did St. Teresa of Avila. :eek: However, although The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila was a ** clear ** awesome, amazing guide, the rest of their works are a bit intimidating :o When I read Dark Night of the Soul for the first time, I suspect that I barely grasped more than the surface of the meaning. I started Living Flame of Love and am afraid that I’m doing it all wrong, that I’ve missed a book in the sequence or I’m not starting off at the beginner’s level :confused:

Please if anyone has worked through these authors, might you advise on how best to approach these authors? Advice on order or reading the books, important themes to keep in mind, other websites with critical commentary, reflection, and advice? Any thoughts would help :slight_smile: :stuck_out_tongue: :slight_smile:

Thank you so much in advance for your time and consideration!

St. John of the Cross
Ascent of Mount Carmel: ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/ascent.ii.vii.html

Dark Night of the Soul: ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.html

Spiritual Canticle: karmel.at/ics/john/cn.html

The Living Flame of Love: karmel.at/ics/john/fl.html

St. Teresa of Avila
The Life of St. Teresa of Avila: catholicfirst.com/TheFaith/CatholicClassics/StTeresa/life/teresaofavila.cfm

The Way of Perfection catholicfirst.com/TheFaith/CatholicClassics/StTeresa/way/wayofperfection.cfm

Interior Castle: sacred-texts.com/chr/tic/index.htm

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *

Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse.

For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world! For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world! For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *


#2

Please if anyone has worked through these authors, might you advise on how best to approach these authors?

I, too, would love to hear from anyone out there with tips on achieving a deeper spirituality.

The best advice I picked up from St. Teresa were daily Mass, two hours of prayer a day, and joining a group or making friends with other people who are interested in growing spiritually.

I can’t say I understand St. John of the Cross very well. Anybody out there with more information?

God bless, Annem


#3

Hi AveSantaMaria and Annem,

I found that I needed someone to break those works down in a way I could digest. I found the book Fire Within helpful (you can read most of it online at that link).

I am almost finished with the book The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints by Ralph Martin. This book explains the entire spiritual journey from initial conversion through the spiritual marriage, and it is even easier to follow than Fire Within, IMO.


#4

Hi,

Personally, I don’t think you can understand those two saints until you’re ready to understand them, personally. In fact just knowing about the “dark nights” before my time really seems to have put a cramp in my own spiritual growth, because I heard about them and though “oh no, I really don’t want to go through that but now that I know I don’t think it would be right to avoid them!” This caused quite a bit of torment to me, until I realized that where I am in the spiritual life, there’s not much danger of going through them yet anyway! And besides, the whole thing’s under God’s control so it’s not something to worry about.

In other words, don’t worry about it. Just read the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola instead, they’re more practical :wink:


#5

Generally, if you begin to read the books before you are ready, they will be difficult to understand, at least this was the case for myself.

In OCDS formation, we always start people with "The Way of Perfection, then the Interior Castle.’ St. John of the Cross Ascent of Mt Carmel comes after.

If you have started reading any of these books, I would affirm Becky’s advice, to get a copy of “The Fire Within.” Fr. Dubay does an excellent job of putting into our modern understanding, what St Teresa and St. John of the Cross wrote.

However, the key to understanding any of it, is prayer. Without the experience of prayer, these works will be dry.

And by all means, do not try to force your spiritual growth.

St. Teresa says for most, it takes a life-time and only a few, reach divine union with Christ while still here on earth.

So be patient. There are no milestones to measure yourself against, don’t even try. Detach yourselves from such ideas.

This is a journey of love, in faith, which will take you into eternity. It doesn’t end here on earth, after you cross some imaginable finish line.

God Bless
Jim


#6

Best advice I have:

1 - PRAY - ask, seek, knock. Ask God to increase your faith and lead you to deeper spirituality. In my experience this prayer always gets answered.

2 - Concentrate on remaining in Christ. “If you remain in me, you will become my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” If you do this, you will quickly get to the need for obedience (if you haven’t already).

3 - Give up control - this can be difficult. Start with simple things - that you may be worried about. Just put them in God’s hands and trust him with all your heart.

4 - Understand that God controls this process. You can’t bang spirituality in your head. The mindset I’m concentrating on is making myself available to God, so he can build me into the person he wants me to be.

I’ve committed to these four things in the last year, and it has resulted in great things.


#7

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