Pilgrimpace's Blog

teresa of avila
March 31, 2014, 9:52 am
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As regular readers will know, I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on the connections between estate ministry and the Spanish Carmelite Mystics – St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.


I have been skirting around and crossing paths with them for many years.  There’s is a spirituality and way of living that I find deeply attractive and which has grounded me through some tough and challenging times.  I am relishing the chance now to explore them more deeply, to go – as it were – through an open door.

Next year is the fifth hundredth anniversary of Teresa’s birth.  Among other celebrations is this major Conference in London.  I am lucky enough to be going.  I hope also to be giving a short paper on some of the connections between Teresa and ministry in English outer council estate parishes (white working class housing projects for US readers).

I will be exploring the following:

Teresa shows the potential grandeur and dignity of human beings.  Structural injustices in society mean that it can be difficult for people living in my parishes to live this out. 

My paper proposes to explore some of the ways in which people have been helped to grow and embody their gifts and potential from a Teresian perspective.  It reflects on:

the roots of this transformation in the relationship of the person to God in prayer

the essentially corporate nature of this life (which counters the dangers of self-absorption)

how this way of living is underpinned by a spirituality of the long haul which enables a ministry to flourish in the face of the dangers of burn out and discouragement.

I will be drawing particularly on The Interior Castle and, initially, on some of the thought of Vilma Seelaus and Maximiliano Herraiz Garcia.

I would be really interested if anyone has any insights or thoughts on this.


6 Comments so far
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I am no expert on Teresa of Avila and look forward to future reflections here. I like your phrase, “spirituality for the long haul”. Sometimes I reflect on the moment when I realised that, if I wanted to recover, I had to give up drinking alcohol for the rest of my life. “For the rest of my life. Never again!” That was the hardest point of all.
Until then I don’t think I’d committed myself fully to anything, including my marriage. That complete abandonment into the unknown was terrifying for me.
Spirituality, since then, has meant leaving behind much more than alcohol: such things as my pride in being a good provider, a perfect parent, a genius – my false idea of self. All and more have to go, to be let-go-of, for ever.
There is no short-term spirituality for the thirsty soul any more than there is short-term sobriety for the alcoholic.

Comment by freescot

Thank you – this resonates a lot. Certainly discovering who we really are is a key part of the journey – and it is a scary part too!

Someone recently recommended a book ‘O Blessed Night’ by Nemeck and Coombs which looks at the 12 Steps through the lens of St John of the Cross and of Teilhard de Chardin. I’ve not read it yet, but trust the person who recommended it.


Comment by pilgrimpace

Thanks, Andy, It looks good. Rohr’s “Breathing Under Water” is also full of gems.

Comment by freescot

Thanks – another book I haven’t read!
There are good links between Teresa and Franciscan traditions of praying – she was very influenced by Francesco de Osuna and Bernardino de Laredo


Comment by pilgrimpace

Not a comment on the specific points you raise but Julienne McLean’s book is excellent (much of it from a depth psychology perspective), certainly helped a simple-minded ‘civilian’ (!) like me to understand Teresa of Avila.

Comment by ben_m71 (@ben_m71)

thank you – I’ll look out for this too. Exploring the connections between Teresa and Jung seems to one of the themes folk are looking at


Comment by pilgrimpace

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