Monday, 23 March 2015

Saint Teresa of Ávila: The Our Father

Words on the Lord’s Prayer from ‘The Way of Perfection’ by Saint Teresa of Ávila

“As we repeat the Our Father so many times … let us delight in it.” -- Saint Teresa of Ávila


What son is there in the world who would not try to learn who his father was if he had one as good and of as great majesty and dominion, as ours?

Were God not all this, it would not surprise me if we had no desire to be known as His children; for the world is such that, if the father is of lower rank than his son, the son feels no honour in recognizing him as his father.

Being our Father, God must bear with us however great our offences. If we return to Him He must pardon us, must comfort us in our trials, and must sustain us, as such a Father is bound to do, for He must needs be better than any earthly father.

We must talk to Him very humbly as we should to our father, ask Him for things as we should ask a father, tell Him our troubles, beg Him to put them right, and yet realize that we are not worthy to be called His children.


Do you suppose it matters little what Heaven is and where you must seek your most holy Father?

Wherever God is, there is Heaven … and GOD IS WITHIN US. Remember how important it is to understand this truth – that the Lord is within us. I assure you that for minds which wander it is of great importance not only to have a right belief about this but to try to learn it by experience … I knew perfectly well that I had a soul, but I did not understand then, as I do now, how this great King really dwells within this little palace of my soul, I should not have left Him alone so often. 

How wonderful it is that He whose greatness could fill a thousand worlds, and very much more, should confine Himself within so small a space, just as He was pleased to dwell within the womb of His most holy Mother.


Realize that you are doing much more by occasionally repeating a single petition of the Our Father than by repeating the whole of it many times in a hurry and not thinking what you are saying. He to Whom you are praying is very near you and will not fail to hear you; and you may be sure that you are truly praising Him and hallowing His name …


Let us understand this thing that we are asking for, and how important it is that we should pray for it without ceasing and do all we can to please Him Who will give it to us.

We, exiles, are making a sea-voyage and are still on the journey. But there are times when we are wearied with travelling and the Lord grants our faculties tranquillity and our soul quiet. The body experiences the greatest delight and the soul is conscious of a deep satisfaction. Persons in this state will spend a whole hour on a single repetition of Our Father … They are close to God … They are in the palace, near to the King, and they see that He is already beginning to give them His Kingdom on earth.

It looks as though I were saying that we must be angels to make this petition – ‘Thy Kingdom come.’ This would indeed be our Divine master’s wish, since He bids us make so sublime a petition. You must be quite sure that he never tells us to ask for impossibilities, so it must be possible, with God’s help, for a soul living in this state of exile to reach such a point …


Thy Will be done – Do people say this because everyone else says it and not because they want it to be done? That would not be right. The more we show Him by our actions that the words we use to Him are not word of mere politeness, the more and more does Our Lord draw us to Himself and raise us above all petty earthly things.

They Will be done  - that is, may the Lord fulfil His Will in me, in every way and manner which Thou, my Lord, desirest. If Thou wilt do this by means of trials, give me strength and let them come … The Lord knows what each of us can bear … When He sees a soul who loves Him greatly, He knows that soul can suffer much for Him …

Dispose of me as of that which is Thine own, in accordance with Thy Will – What power this prayer has. If it be made with due resolution, it cannot fail to draw the Almighty to become one with our lowliness …

(Holy Communion)

For the love of God let us realize the meaning of our good Master’s petition.

We know that until the accidents of bread have been consumed by our natural heat, the good Jesus is with us. If, while He went about in the world, the sick were healed by merely touching His clothes, how can we doubt that He will work miracles when he is within us, if we have faith? Or how can we doubt that he will give us what we ask of Him since He is in our house? His Majesty is not wont to offer us too little payment for His lodging if we treat Him well.


Notice that Our Lord does not say: “as we shall forgive.” The good Jesus might have said: “Forgive us, Lord, because we are doing a great deal of penance, or because we are praying often, and fasting.” But He has never said any of these other things He might have said. He simply says: “Because we forgive.”

It is such a serious and important matter that God should pardon us our sins, which have merited eternal fire, that we must pardon all …


Let us always beseech God that temptation may not be strong enough for us to offend Him.

From any sin, however small, committed with full knowledge, may God deliver us, especially since we are sinning against so great a Sovereign and realizing that He is watching us! Take this advice, which comes, not from me, but from your Master – Strive to walk with love and fear, and I guarantee your safety. Love will make you quicken your steps. Fear will make you look where you are setting your feet so that you may not fall.

It will be a great thing at the hour of death, when we are going we know not whither, to realize that we shall be judged by One Whom we have loved above all things. Remember the greatness of the gain which comes from this love, and of our loss if we do not possess it, for in that case we shall be delivered into the hands of the tempter … What will become of the poor soul when it falls into these hands after emerging from all the pains and trials of death? How it will be torn as it goes down to hell! A pampered person (and most of those who go to hell are that) can hardly bear to spend a single night in a bad inn. What, then, will be the feeling of that wretched soul when it is condemned to such an inn as this and has to spend eternity there?

What, then, Eternal Father, can we do but flee to Thee and beg Thee not to allow these enemies of ours to lead us into temptation?


If we try to banish bodily ills and trials is it not right that we should ask to be delivered from sin?

O my God and Lord, deliver me from all evil and be pleased to lead me to that place where all good things are to be found.

God’s will is for us to desire truth, whereas we desire falsehood; His will is for us to desire the eternal, whereas we prefer that which passes away; His will is for us to desire great and sublime things, whereas we desire the base things of earth; He would have us desire only what is certain, whereas here on earth we love what is doubtful.

What a mockery it all is, unless we beseech God to deliver us from all these perils forever and to keep us from evil!


By the word “Amen”, as it comes at the end of every prayer, I understand that the Lord is begging that we may be delivered from all evil for ever.

[Copied from a pamphlet published by the Carmelite Monastery, Newry, Co. Down, N. Ireland]

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