Quote of the day, 5 April: St. Teresa of Avila

I say that no one who has begun to practice prayer should become discouraged by saying: “If I return to evil, matters will become worse should I continue the practice of prayer.” I believe matters become worse if one abandons prayer and doesn’t amend one’s evil ways. But if people don’t abandon it, they may believe that prayer will bring them to the harbor of light.

The devil carried out a great assault upon me in this matter. Since I was wretched, I spent so long a time in thinking it was a lack of humility to practice prayer that, as I have already said, I abandoned it for a year and a half—at least for a year; I don’t remember well about the half. And doing this was no more, nor could it have been, than putting myself right in hell without the need of devils to urge me on.

Oh, God help me, what great blindness! And how right the devil is to direct his attacks so that the soul give up prayer! The traitor knows that he has lost the soul that practices prayer perseveringly and that all the falls he helps it to take assist it afterward, through the goodness of God, to make a great leap forward in the Lord’s service. No wonder he’s so concerned!

What terrible blindness mine was! Where, my Lord, did I think I could find a remedy save in You? What folly; to flee from the light so as to be always stumbling! Such proud humility the devil invented in me: withdrawing from the column and the staff which were my support against a fall so great!

Now I make the sign of the cross with amazement, and it doesn’t seem to me that I underwent any danger as bad as with this invention the devil taught me under the pretext of humility. He put the thought in my head to question how, since I was so wretched and had received so many favors, I could engage in prayer; and the thought that it was enough for me to recite, like everyone else, my obligatory vocal prayers; and the question about how I could pretend to do more since I didn’t even say my vocal prayers well; he suggested that engaging in prayer showed a lack of reverence and little esteem for the favors of God.

It was right to think about and understand these things; but to give up the practice of prayer was the greatest evil. May You be blessed, Lord, who came to my rescue.

It seems to me that this was the way the devil began to tempt Judas, except that in my case this traitorous devil did not work so openly; but little by little he did to me what he did to Judas. For the love of God let all those who practice prayer observe this. Let them know that during the time in which I was without prayer, my life was much worse.

Saint Teresa of Avila

The Book of Her Life, chap. 19

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.

Featured image: A fruit seller pauses to pray during a busy day in downtown Cali, Colombia. Image credit: Cindy Muñoz via Flickr

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