Monday, October 15, 2012

God's Will: St. Teresa of Avila

From the writings of St. Teresa of Jesus (The Way of Perfection 2, 136-138), as presented in A Word in Season: Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours, vol. II, Augustinian Press, 2001.

We can promise easily enough to give up our will to someone else, but when it comes to the test we find it the most difficult thing in the world to do perfectly. But God knows what each of us is able to bear, and when he finds a valiant soul, he does not hesitate to accomplish his will in that person.

So I want to warn you and make you understand what God’s will is, so that you may realize with whom you are dealing (as the saying goes) and what the good Jesus is offering on your behalf to the Father. I want to make sure you know what you are giving him when you say, “Your will be done.” You are asking that God’s will may be done in you; it is this and nothing else you are praying for. You need not be afraid he will give you wealth or pleasures or great honors or any earthly good thing; his love for you is not so weak as that. He sets a far greater value on your gift and desires to reward you generously, giving you his kingdom even in this life. Would you like to see how he treats people who make this petition without reserve? Ask his glorious Son, who made it genuinely and resolutely in the garden. Was not God’s will accomplished in him through the trials, the sufferings, the insults, and the persecutions he sent him until at last his life was ended on the cross?

You see then what God gave to the one he loved best of all, and that shows you what his will is. These things are his gifts in this world, and he gives them in proportion to his love for us. To those he loves most he gives more, to those less dear he gives less; his gifts are measured by the courage he sees we have and the love we bear his majesty. Fervent love can suffer a great deal for his sake, while lukewarmness will endure very little. I myself believe that love is the gauge of the crosses, great or small, that we are able to bear.

So if you have his love, think what you are doing. Do not let the promises you make to so great a Lord be no more than empty compliments, but brace yourselves to suffer whatever God wishes. Any other way of surrendering our will to him is like offering someone a precious stone, entreating him to accept it, and then holding onto it when he puts out his hand to take it. Such mockery is not for him who endured so much mockery for us. If for no other reason, it would be wrong to mock him in this way every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. Let us give him once and for all the precious stone we have offered him so many times – for he in fact first gave us the thing we now give back to the Father.
My whole aim in writing this is to encourage us to yield ourselves entirely to our creator, to submit our will to his, and to detach ourselves from created things. Since you understand how important this is, I will say no more on the subject, but will explain to you why our good Master wishes us to make this petition. He knows very well how we shall benefit by fulfilling the promise we have made to his eternal Father, for in a very short time we shall find ourselves at our journey’s end, drinking at the fountain of living water.


  1. God's will and only HiS will be done....I think a lot to times , I sometimes shrink from this .
    I still "hold on " to things that are not mine at my 4 adult children.
    I sometimes "panic" and I do not always TRUST the good God in this matter.
    Believe me , I call on St. Augustine and his mother Saint Monica for there conversion because they are all off doing there own thing just the way the want too . I don't say too much to them about their lives ...they don't want to hear it ....long story.
    But I need to TRUST the good God and keep my eyes fixed on HIM and keep praying : THY WILL BE DONE and the let go .
    St. Theresa of Avila , pray for us!

  2. Thanks for posting this, Jay. I just love reading St. Teresa. I've only read her Life and it was such a surprise to me how readable and accessible she is. I'd been intimidated by St. Teresa and put off reading any of the books in print of her writings. Turns out, her writing felt like she was sitting in my room with me, just talking. I love her! St. Teresa, pray for me.

  3. Elizabeth: "sitting in my room with me" made me think of my childhood. My parents acquired a Church-sized statue (nearly life size) of St. Teresa of Avila when I was younger. My mom placed her in the corner of our bedroom (shared by my sister). Looking back, the statue never frightened us. I guess we considered her family. : )

    I found this part very thought-provoking from the above post: "I want to make sure you know what you are giving him when you say, “Your will be done.” You are asking that God’s will may be done in you; it is this and nothing else you are praying for."

  4. I started to read St. Teresa a couple of times because she is my Confirmation saint, but I just couldn't get into it. Then one day, I picked up one or another of her works, and it all just "spoke" to me. I figured she was waiting for the right time. ;-) HSE, is the statue still in your family? How cool!

    I especially liked the part at the end where she encourages us to think about our Heavenly homeland - the prospect of which will face us in a "very short time".

  5. Jeanne, I often "panic" too at times. It is very hard for me to pray "Thy Will Be Done!" without cowering in the corner for fear of what will be exacted of me for having prayed it!

    More trust and confidence - we all need that.

    I often pray "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee!" even if I have to pray it through clenched teeth.

  6. Yes Jay, my folks still have the statue (among others throughout the house)! My husband says that every room is a religious experience! Some people change tablecloths seasonally, but my mom changes statues depending on their feast day. And if she has lost something? St. Anthony is typically standing front and center.

    That reminds me of a short story: A few years back, my mom had misplaced her relic of St. Anthony. She has such a close relationship with St. Anthony that she was too embarrassed to pray to him (to find himself)! Months went by. When my mom explained the situation to her sister, my aunt told my mom to swallow her pride and pray to St. Anthony anyway. Shortly after she began to implore him, my dad called out to mom from the bedroom. He had found the relic tucked in his dresser (apparently there for safe-keeping).


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