Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the Executive Director and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
"Peace of body will restore peace of soul." - St. Teresa of Avila
The purpose of the newest book in the Navigating the Interior Life book series, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, is to reveal the unique personality, wisdom, and insight that often emerges out of the letters of the saints. These letters are a window into Saint Teresa’s genuine humanity, witness, and pragmatic advice for pursuing an intimate friendship with God.
I’ll be sharing some of the letters here, in the hope that you’ll be inspired to spend time prayerfully reflecting on them. Today I'm sharing Day 10 from the book.
Segovia, June, 1574
To the Most Illustrious
Señor Don Teutonio de Braganza, Salamanca
Congratulations on his safe return. The Saint’s health. Confirmation of the Apostolic Visitors. Projected foundation of a priory at Salamanca.
May the grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence!
The news that you are well was very welcome and a great comfort to me. But after so long a journey, yours seemed a very short letter and you do not even tell me whether the object of your expedition was attained.
It is nothing new for you to be discontented with yourself, but do not be distressed if the fatigues of your travels and the disturbance of your ordinary routine should make you feel rather tepid: peace of body will restore peace of soul. . . .
Your Lordship’s unworthy servant and subject,
Teresa de Jesus, Carmelite
Aridity: Feeling “tepid” as St. Teresa notes is akin to feeling luke-warm or even experiencing spiritual aridity. It can also refer to a sense of being out of tune, scattered, and unable to recollect oneself in prayer. Often this state can originate in very simple causes that are easy to identify or eliminate.
It is always wise to first look to natural causes before exploring elsewhere for answers to this potentially frustrating experience. Sometimes, time off from work, a few good nights of longer rest, or a retreat to silence can restore the soul to a state of peace that was lost to the bane of fatigue, busyness and the incessant noise of modern living.
The state of our physical bodies, how much sleep we have had, how well we are feeling, fatigue and illness, often have significant impact on our spiritual or psychological health and resilience. Like Teresa we can, by the grace of God, often push through these difficulties and even use them to the benefit of our spiritual growth and that of others through redemptive suffering. However, in this case, she prudently recommends rest.
Because it can interrupt our discipline of prayer, we should also be on guard against any travel that is not for the glory and honor of God. In fact, developing and sticking to a good routine in our prayer life (this can also be called a plan of life) helps us stay more recollected and focused on the Lord. Sometimes after travel, before we return to our routine, it is also very important to take the time we need for physical rest.
“Peace of body will restore peace of soul.” This wise phrase is worthy of frequent consideration by those of us who tend to push ourselves to our physical limits.
Note: If you would like to read all of these letters and reflections, please click here and purchase 30 Days with Teresa of Avila through the EWTN Religious Catalogue and support the worldwide efforts of EWTN.