BTP-LOT16 – The Nature of Spiritual Direction – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcast

The Nature of Spiritual Direction – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor delve into the topic of spiritual direction, using insights from the experiences of St. Teresa of Avila. The significance of spiritual guidance and the challenges that can arise when seeking direction for one’s spiritual life, the importance of deep listening and discernment in spiritual direction, all highlighting the need for directors to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals’ lives.

Through the example of St. Teresa of Avila, they illustrate how effective spiritual direction can lead to greater spiritual freedom and growth, and provide practical advice for those seeking spiritual guidance.

St. Teresa of Avila Interior Castle Podcast Anthony Lilles Kris McGregor

For more episodes in this series: The Life of St. Teresa of Avila; with Dr. Anthony Lilles

For an audio version of the book  “The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus” by St. Teresa of Avila

For other audio recordings of various spiritual classics, you can visit the Discerning Hearts Spiritual Classics page.

Discerning Hearts reflection questions for this episode:

  1. Understanding Spiritual Direction: How does this episode deepen your understanding of the role of spiritual direction in the Catholic faith?
  2. Importance of Deep Listening: Reflect on the significance of deep listening in the context of spiritual direction. How can deep listening enhance the effectiveness of spiritual guidance?
  3. Recognizing the Work of the Holy Spirit: Discuss the importance of recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals’ lives during spiritual direction. How can spiritual directors cultivate the ability to discern the movements of the Holy Spirit?
  4. Learning from Saint Teresa of Avila: What insights can we glean from the experiences of Saint Teresa of Avila regarding spiritual direction? How does her journey exemplify the principles discussed in the podcast?
  5. Seeking Spiritual Guidance: Reflect on the practical advice provided in the episode for those seeking spiritual guidance. How can individuals discern the right spiritual director or resources for their spiritual journey?
  6. Fostering Spiritual Freedom and Growth: Explore how effective spiritual direction can lead to greater spiritual freedom and growth. How does this align with your own experiences or aspirations in your spiritual life?
  7. Utilizing Online Resources: Consider the role of online resources like Discerning Hearts in providing spiritual guidance. How can these resources complement traditional forms of spiritual direction in today’s digital age?
  8. Application in Personal Spiritual Life: Reflect on how the insights shared in the podcast can be applied to your own spiritual life. What steps can you take to deepen your spiritual journey and seek guidance in your relationship with God?

An excerpt from Chapter 23, discussed in this episode:

“But if I was a little distracted, I began to be afraid, and to imagine that perhaps it was Satan that suspended my understanding, making me think it to be good, in order to withdraw me from mental prayer, hinder my meditation on the Passion, and debar me the use of my understanding: this seemed to me, who did not comprehend the matter, to be a grievous loss but, as His Majesty was pleased to give me light to offend Him no more, and to understand how much I owed Him, this fear so grew upon me, that it made me seek diligently for spiritual persons with whom I might treat of my state. I had already heard of some; for the Fathers of the Society of Jesus had come hither; and I, though I knew none of them, was greatly attracted by them, merely because I had heard of their way of life and of prayer; but I did not think myself fit to speak to them, or strong enough to obey them; and this made me still more afraid; for to converse with them, and remain what I was, seemed to me somewhat rude.

I spent some time in this state, till, after much inward contention and fear, I determined to confer with some spiritual person, to ask him to tell me what that method of prayer was which I was using, and to show me whether I was in error. I was also resolved to do everything I could not to offend God; for the want of courage of which I was conscious, as I said before, made me so timid. Was there ever delusion so great as mine, O my God, when I withdrew from good in order to become good! The devil must lay much stress on this in the beginning of a course of virtue; for I could not overcome my repugnance. He knows that the whole relief of the soul consists in conferring with the friends of God. Hence it was that no time was fixed in which I should resolve to do this. I waited to grow better first, as I did before when I ceased to pray,—and perhaps I never should have become better; for I had now sunk so deeply into the petty ways of an evil habit,—I could not convince myself that they were wrong,—that I needed the help of others, who should hold out a hand to raise me up. Blessed be Thou, O Lord!—for the first hand outstretched to me was Thine.

When I saw that my fear was going so far, it struck me—because I was making progress in prayer—that this must be a great blessing, or a very great evil; for I understood perfectly that what had happened was something supernatural, because at times I was unable to withstand it; to have it when I would was also impossible. I thought to myself that there was no help for it, but in keeping my conscience pure, avoiding every occasion even of venial sins; for if it was the work of the Spirit of God, the gain was clear; and if the work of Satan, so long as I strove to please, and did not offend, our Lord, Satan could do me little harm; on the contrary, he must lose in the struggle. Determined on this course, and always praying God to help me, striving also after purity of conscience for some days, I saw that my soul had not strength to go forth alone to a perfection so great. I had certain attachments to trifles, which, though not very wrong in themselves, were yet enough to ruin all.”

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefited from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity.