Pope Benedict XVI believes that 16th-century St. Teresa of Avila is a model for current efforts to launch the New Evangelization.
“The ultimate goal of Teresa’s reform and the creation of new monasteries in a world lacking spiritual values was to protect apostolic work with prayer,” the Pope said July 16.
“Today, too, as in the 16th century, in the midst of rapid transformation, it is important that trusting prayer be the heart of the apostolate, so that the redeeming message of Jesus Christ may sound out clearly and dynamically,” he added.
Pope Benedict made his comments in a letter to Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila, Spain, for the 450th anniversary of St. Teresa founding the Monastery of St. Joseph, which marked the beginning of her Carmelite reform.
In promoting a “radical return” to a more austere form of Carmelite life, St. Teresa sought “to create a form of life which favored a personal encounter with the Lord,” the Pope explained.
Rather than harking back to the past, however, St. Teresa presented “a new way of being Carmelite” to “a world which was also new,” Pope Benedict observed. He quoted the Spanish saint’s own writings to her religious sisters in which she summed up the “difficult times” in which they lived.
“The world is on fire,” wrote St. Teresa of post-Reformation Europe. “Men try to condemn Christ once again. They would raise his Church to the ground. No, my sisters, this is no time to treat with God for things of little importance.”
“Does this luminous and engaging call, written more than four centuries ago by the mystic saint, not sound familiar in our own times?” asked Pope Benedict in response.
In the “exhilarating task” of the New Evangelization, he said, the example of St. Teresa should inspire all Christians because she “evangelized unhesitatingly, showing tireless ardor, employing methods free from inertia, and using expressions bathed in light.”
“This remains important in the current time,” said the Pope, “when there is a pressing need for the baptized to renew their hearts through individual prayer in which, following the guidance of St. Teresa, they also focus on contemplation of Christ’s blessed humanity as the only way to reach the glory of God.”