St. Teresa’s Transformative Moment – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles
Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor explore Chapter 9 of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography in part one of a two-part episode, starting with her transformative encounter with a statue of the wounded Christ. This pivotal moment leads to deep conversion as Teresa, tired of a dual life, experiences tears of compunction, realizing Christ’s sacrificial love.
Dr. Lilles highlights the method of prayer Teresa adopts, particularly the importance of using one’s imagination to picture Christ during prayer and using that as a connection to the remembrance of Christ and the transformative power of returning to moments of grace through prayer.
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
Discerning Hearts reflection questions for this episode:
- How do external objects of devotion, like statues, aid your prayer life?
- In what ways can spiritual exhaustion manifest in your own journey, hindering genuine peace in prayer?
- Reflect on a moment when you felt spiritually vulnerable and encountered God’s love.
- Consider Teresa’s commitment not to backslide. How can you maintain spiritual progress amidst life’s challenges?
- Explore the role of tears in contrition and conversion. How has compunction (the gift of tears) played a part in your spiritual growth?
- Reflect on your prayer methods. How does your imagination contribute to your encounters with Christ?
- In what ways can you incorporate the remembrance of Christ into your daily prayer life for transformative effects?
An excerpt from Chapter 9, discussed in this episode:
“My soul was now grown weary; and the miserable habits it had contracted would not suffer it to rest, though it was desirous of doing so. It came to pass one day, when I went into the oratory, that I saw a picture which they had put by there, and which had been procured for a certain feast observed in the house. It was a representation of Christ most grievously wounded; and so devotional, that the very sight of it, when I saw it, moved me—so well did it show forth that which He suffered for us. So keenly did I feel the evil return I had made for those wounds, that I thought my heart was breaking. I threw myself on the ground beside it, my tears flowing plenteously, and implored Him to strengthen me once for all, so that I might never offend Him any more.
I had a very great devotion to the glorious Magdalene, and very frequently used to think of her conversion—especially when I went to Communion. As I knew for certain that our Lord was then within me, I used to place myself at His feet, thinking that my tears would not be despised. I did not know what I was saying; only He did great things for me, in that He was pleased I should shed those tears, seeing that I so soon forgot that impression. I used to recommend myself to that glorious Saint, that she might obtain my pardon.
But this last time, before that picture of which I am speaking, I seem to have made greater progress; for I was now very distrustful of myself, placing all my confidence in God. It seems to me that I said to Him then that I would not rise up till He granted my petition. I do certainly believe that this was of great service to me, because I have grown better ever since.”
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.