St. Teresa’s Teaching on the Grades of Prayer

Teresa of Ávila

by Jordan Aumann, O.P.

When Pope Paul VI proclaimed St. Teresa of Ávila the first woman Doctor of the Church on September 27, 1970, he selected one of her many titles as the basis for conferring that honor on her: Teresa of Ávila, Teacher of Prayer. The same sentiment was expressed by Pope John Paul II in a letter to the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelite Friars to mark the fourth centenary of the death of Teresa:

Teresa considered that her vocation and her mission was prayer in the Church and with the Church, which is a praying community moved by the Holy Spirit to adore the Father in and with Jesus “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23).... Saint Teresa considered the life of prayer to be the greatest manifestation of the theological life of the faithful who, believing in the love of God, free themselves from everything to attain the full presence of that love (L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, November 9, 1981).

In all of her major works—The Life, The Way of Perfection, The Interior Castle—St. Teresa explains the practice of prayer. And it is noteworthy that she did not begin to write until she was 47 years old, after her second conversion and when she was already well-versed in the practice of prayer. Her teaching....

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The Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary is a religious community of men in the Church, whose members, responding to the hunger for God in themselves and in the world, answer an interior call to prayer, community, and ministry.