Pope Starts Audience Series on Doctors of the Church

Begins With Teresa of Avila's "Profound and Complex" Spirituality

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI characterizes St. Teresa of Avila's spirituality as "profound and complex," but today he selected from it a few salient points to emphasize for the faithful.

The Pope did this during the general audience, announcing that he was beginning a brief series of catecheses on the doctors of the Church.

He recounted the life of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), highlighting her efforts to reform the Carmelites.

Regarding her spirituality, the Holy Father said it is "not easy to summarize in a few words," but he picked several points to highlight.

The Pontiff noted St. Teresa's emphasis on the evangelical and human virtues. The saint particularly stressed detachment and evangelical poverty, a virtue the Pope said "concerns all of us," as well as "love for one another as the essential element of community and social life; humility as love of the truth; determination as fruit of Christian audacity; theological hope, which she describes as thirst for living water -- without forgetting the human virtues: affability, veracity, modesty, courtesy, joy, culture."

Benedict XVI also noted St. Teresa's devotion to Scripture.

"She felt in consonance above all with the bride of the Canticle of Canticles and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with the Christ of the passion and with the Eucharistic Jesus," he said.

Prayer is another of Teresa's basic themes, the Pope observed.

She "stressed how essential prayer is," he explained. "Prayer is life and it develops gradually at the same pace with the growth of the Christian life: It begins with vocal prayer, passes to interiorization through meditation and recollection, until it attains union of love with Christ and with the Most Holy Trinity. [...]

"More than a pedagogy of prayer, St. Teresa's is a true 'mystagogy': She teaches the reader of her works to pray while praying herself with him; frequently, in fact, she interrupts the account or exposition to burst out in a prayer."

Personal relationship

Benedict XVI also noted the saint's focus on Christ's humanity, and her understanding of the spiritual life as a personal relationship with him.

Furthermore, she "lived an unconditional love for the Church," he continued. "She manifested an intense 'sensus Ecclesiae' in face of incidents of division and conflict in the Church of her time. She reformed the Carmelite Order with the intention of serving and defending better the 'Holy Roman Catholic Church,' and she was prepared to give her life for it."

"A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine that I would like to underscore is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole Christian life and the final end of it," the Holy Father said. "The saint had a very clear idea of 'fullness' in Christ, relived by the Christian."

In his greeting to the English-speakers at the audience, the Pontiff concluded in this way: "May the example and prayers of St. Teresa of Avila inspire us to greater fidelity to prayer and, through prayer, to greater love for the Lord and his Church, and more perfect charity towards our brothers and sisters."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-31644?l=english