US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A little guide to thoughtful prayer

Take steps toward a more prayerful life by immersing yourself in Teresa of Avila's words.

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The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book
By Vinita Hampton Wright (Paraclete Press, 2015)

Teresa of Avila was a 16th century Carmelite nun, mystic, and reformer of convent life. Today she is a canonized saint and doctor of the church. She regularly experienced visions and ecstasies. But do her teachings have anything to offer those of us whose spirituality is in the realm of the more ordinary?

Author Vinita Hampton Wright says, “Yes!” She unfolds Teresa’s legacy of practical wisdom and doable approach to prayer, and very subtly disabuses readers of thinking otherwise. 

After a helpful introduction to prayer as Teresa practiced it, the core and bulk of this book is a guide to daily and weekly prayer following the pattern of the divine office. For each of the hours, Wright includes a text from Teresa’s own writings, brief passages from scripture, pauses for reflection, and some written prayers. 

Teresa said that just as there are differing ways to water a garden, there are various ways to pray—one of them as simple as reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The book’s arrangement reflects this, offering ample flexibility for adapting any of its components to whatever form best serves the user’s preference or need: meditation, contemplation, or wordless or oral prayer.

The author provides enough background information to capture the aura of Teresa: her basic biography, her understanding of prayer, what shaped her spiritual life, and her advice on praying. Teresa lived at a time when the figure of “the devil” was commonly used as the personification of evil. Hence, frequent mentions in this book of “his” attempts to sabotage prayer should not be off-putting to readers. They may reword such passages using more contemporary expressions, with no loss of meaning.

Simple, concise, minimalist: This little guide should serve any person serious about engaging in a disciplined prayer life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016