It is about prayer that you asked me to say something, and I beg you that in recompense for what I am going to say you eagerly do what I have said up until now, and read it often. Before I say anything about interior matters, that is, about prayer, I shall mention some things that are necessary for those who seek to follow the way of prayer; so necessary that even if these persons are not very contemplative, they can be far advanced in the service of the Lord if they possess these things. And if they do not possess them, it is impossible for them to be very contemplative.
I shall enlarge on only three things, which are from our own constitutions, for it is very important that we understand how much the practice of these three things helps us to possess inwardly and outwardly the peace our Lord recommended so highly to us. The first of these is love for one another; the second is detachment from all created things; the third is true humility, which, even though I speak of it last, is the main practice and embraces all the others.
“There is nothing annoying that is not suffered easily by those who love one another” (St. Teresa of Avila).Tweet
About the first, love for one another, it is most important that we have this, for there is nothing annoying that is not suffered easily by those who love one another — a thing would have to be extremely annoying before causing any displeasure. And if this commandment were observed in the world as it should be, I think such love would be very helpful for the observance of the other commandments. But, because of either excess or defect, we never reach the point of observing this commandment perfectly.
It may seem that having excessive love among ourselves could not be evil, but such excess carries with it so much evil and so many imperfections that I don’t think anyone will believe this save the one who has been an eyewitness. The devil lays many snares here, for this excess is hardly noticed by persons having consciences that deal only roughly with pleasing God, and the excess even seems to them virtuous; but those who are interested in perfection have a deep understanding of this excessive love, because little by little it takes away the strength of will to be totally occupied in loving God.
Let us not condescend, oh daughters, to allow our wills to be slaves to anyone, save to the One who bought it with His blood.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection, Chap. 4
Note: Saint Teresa’s Constitutions, no. 28, written for her nuns, states:
After Compline and prayer, as was mentioned above, [no. 7, concerning seasonal time changes] in both winter and summer, the Mother may allow the Sisters to talk together, each one having her work, as was mentioned. The amount of time should be determined by the Mother Prioress. Let no Sister embrace another or touch her on the face or hands. The Sisters should not have particular friendships but should include all in their love for one another, as Christ often commanded His disciples. [John 15:12, 17] Since they are so few, this will be easy to do. They should strive to imitate their Spouse who gave His life for us. This love for one another that includes all and singles out no one in particular is very important.
Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.