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.
"God grant you may always find relief in loving Him."
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's excerpt comes from Day 7.
Salamanca, December 3, 1573
To the Father Master Domingo Bañez, Valladolid
The Saint’s loneliness. Advice for Mother Mary Baptist.
. . . I assure you, my Father, that I think my joys are no longer of this world, for I have not got what I want and I do not want what I have. My trouble is caused by my no longer being able to find comfort in my confessors—it must come from something higher than a confessor, for nothing that is less than the soul itself can satisfy its desire. It has been a great relief to tell you this—God grant you may always find relief in loving Him! Tell that insignificant little person, who is so very much concerned as to whether the nuns will vote for her or not, that she interferes too much and is wanting in humility, for both you and we who have the welfare of the convent in view are more interested than the sisters in the choice being a good one. It is truths of this kind that nuns must be made to understand.
Remember me most kindly to Señora Doña Maria when you see her, for it is a long time since I wrote to her. It is a great mercy that her health should be better in such bitterly cold weather. I believe that today is December 3.
Your Reverence’s daughter and servant,
Teresa de Jesus
Detachment: The more deeply we grow in the interior life, the less need we have of earthly consolations—those good feelings we get from having even the positive or pleasurable things that are worthy of having in this life.
This process of denudation begins with detachment from material wants and needs, and typically lessens our hold on places, things, and even people. Though we continue to love and appreciate people (always more deeply than before), we no longer need them. Instead, we love with a more pure love that has little self-interest or benefit.
Often in this process we begin to cling to pieces of heaven provided us here on earth: our time in prayer and the sacraments, our spiritual directors, our retreats and holy objects. But ultimately, even these things fail to bring us comfort as our hearts yearn for the ultimate reality that all of these created things lead us to, and that ultimate uncreated reality is God Himself.
Sometimes the absence of consolation in creation (even in the hearts of holy people) can cause distress. This distress comes in the form of aridity, loneliness, and other manifestations of a kind of longing. But when we understand the reasons behind this longing, we know, as St. Teresa knows, that we are ready to be tested in true love—a love that seeks nothing other than the will of the Beloved.
Only in this more perfect self-giving do we find some sense of true satisfaction that in some way mirrors the complete reality we will know in eternity. However, our longing will never be completely satisfied until we see Him face to face—until we fully love and we are fully loved because we “know as we are fully known” (1 Cor 13:12).
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.