St. Teresa of Avila begins, at 23 years old, to learn and profit from mental prayer

November 1, 2021 • 2 min

From Life of St. Teresa of Avila written by Herself, page 21

From the very beginning, God was most gracious unto me. Though I was not so free from sin as the book required, I passed that by; such watchfulness seemed to me almost impossible. I was on my guard against mortal sin—and would to God I had always been so!—but I was careless about venial sins, and that was my ruin.

Yet, for all this, at the end of my stay there—I spent nearly nine months in the practice of solitude—our Lord began to comfort me so much in this way of prayer, as in His mercy to raise me to the prayer of quiet, and now and then to that of union, though I understood not what either the one or the other was, nor the great esteem I ought to have had of them. I believe it would have been a great blessing to me if I had understood the matter.

It is true that the prayer of union lasted but a short time: I know not if it continued for the space of an Ave Maria; but the fruits of it remained; and they were such that, though I was then not twenty years of age, I seemed to despise the world utterly; and so I remember how sorry I was for those who followed its ways, though only in things lawful.

I used to labour with all my might to imagine Jesus Christ, our Good and our Lord, present within me. And this was the way I prayed. If I meditated on any mystery of His life, I represented it to myself as within me, though the greater part of my time I spent in reading good books, which was all my comfort; for God never endowed me with the gift of making reflections with the understanding, or with that of using the imagination to any good purpose: my imagination is so sluggish that, even if I would think of, or picture to myself, as I used to labour to picture, our Lord’s Humanity, I never could do it.

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