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St. Teresa convinces her father to pray, though she does not pray herself

5 min • Digitized on November 22, 2021

From Life of St. Teresa of Avila written by Herself, page 47
By St. Teresa of Avila

In those early days, when I was ill, and before I knew how to be of use to myself, I had a very strong desire to further the progress of others: a most common temptation of beginners. With me, however, it had good results. Loving my father so much, I longed to see him in the possession of that good which I seemed to derive myself from prayer.

I thought that in this life there could not be a greater good than prayer; and so, by roundabout ways, as well as I could, I contrived to make him enter upon it; I gave him books for that end. As he was so good—I said so before—this exercise took such a hold upon him that in five or six years, I think it was, he made so great a progress that I used to praise our Lord for it. It was a very great consolation to me.

He had most grievous trials of diverse kinds, and he bore them all with the greatest resignation. He came often to see me, for it was a comfort to him to speak of the things of God.

And now that I had become so dissipated, and had ceased to pray, and yet saw that he still thought I was what I used to be, I could not endure it, and so undeceived him. I had been a year and more without praying, thinking it an act of greater humility to abstain.

This—I shall speak of it again [Ch. xix. 9. 17.]—was the greatest temptation I ever had, because it very nearly wrought my utter ruin; for, when I used to pray, if I offended God one day, on the following days I would recollect myself, and withdraw farther from the occasions of sin.

When that blessed man, having that good opinion of me, came to visit me, it pained me to see him so deceived as to think that I used to pray to God as before. So I told him that I did not pray; but I did not tell him why.

I put my infirmities forward as an excuse; for, though I had recovered from that which was so troublesome, I have always been weak, even very much so; and though my infirmities are somewhat less troublesome now than they were, they still afflict me in many ways; specially, I have been suffering for twenty years from sickness every morning, so that I could not take any food till past midday, and even occasionally not till later; and now, since my Communions have become more frequent, it is at night, before I lie down to rest, that the sickness occurs, and with greater pain; for I have to bring it on with a feather, or other means. If I do not bring it on, I suffer more; and thus I am never, I believe, free from great pain, which is sometimes very acute, especially about the heart; though the fainting-fits are now but of rare occurrence.

I am also, these eight years past, free from the paralysis, and from other infirmities of fever, which I had so often. These afflictions I now regard so lightly, that I am even glad of them, believing that our Lord in some degree takes His pleasure in them.

My father believed me when I gave him that for a reason, as he never told a lie himself; neither should I have done so, considering the relation we were in. I told him, in order to be the more easily believed, that it was much for me to be able to attend in choir, though I saw clearly that this was no excuse whatever; neither, however, was it a sufficient reason for giving up a practice which does not require, of necessity, bodily strength, but only love and a habit thereof; yet our Lord always furnishes an opportunity for it, if we but seek it.

I say always; for though there may be times, as in illness, and from other causes, when we cannot be much alone, yet it can never be but there must be opportunities when our strength is sufficient for the purpose; and in sickness itself, and amidst other hindrances, true prayer consists, when the soul loves, in offering up its burden and in thinking of Him for Whom it suffers, and in the resignation of the will, and in a thousand ways which then present themselves. It is under these circumstances that love exerts itself; for it is not necessarily prayer when we are alone; and neither is it not prayer when we are not.

With a little care, we may find great blessings on those occasions when our Lord, by means of afflictions, deprives us of time for prayer; and so I found it when I had a good conscience. But my father, having that opinion of me which he had, and because of the love he bore me, believed all I told him; moreover, he was sorry for me; and, as he had now risen to great heights of prayer himself, he never remained with me long; for when he had seen me he went his way, saying that he was wasting time. As I was wasting it in other vanities, I cared little about this.

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