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St. Teresa and St. Thérèse’s wisdom on prayer

St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux statues turned into illustration.

Lawrence OP - Catholic Church England | Flickr | Babin | Shutterstock | Altered by Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 09/30/23

If you want to take in the saints’ wisdom but you’re not quite ready to crack open a thick spiritual book, don't miss this inspiring video series.

Only four of the 37 doctors of the Church are women, but those four women certainly pack a spiritual punch in their writings! 

Their beautiful and profound works are full of incredible wisdom for our lives. In particular, they can guide us to learn how to pray, and pray well and deeply.

If you want to take in the saints’ wisdom but you’re not quite ready to crack open a thick spiritual tome, here’s some good news. 

You can learn about the Church’s rich spiritual tradition in an easy-to-watch form with a new video series, When You Pray: A Clear Path to a Deeper Relationship with God.

The latest release from theologian Dr. Edward Sri, When You Pray is designed to help ordinary people connect with the saints and the Church’s deep prayer tradition. You can read more about the series here.

The seven 30-minute videos would be perfect to watch with a group of friends or a parish study group. You can get a free preview that includes the first video, first session workbook info, a bonus video, and the first few chapters of the book.

Dr. Sri shared some of the saints’ wisdom for our prayer lives in an interview with Aleteia. You can learn much more about the saints and prayer in When You Pray.

What kind of prayer does St. Teresa of Avila tell us we need in our lives?

St. Teresa of Avila tells us there’s one kind of prayer we absolutely need if we want to go deeper into our interior lives and draw closer to Christ who dwells within us longing to transform our souls. This kind of prayer involves more than listening to a podcast or simply “saying prayers” (vocal prayers such as the Our Father or Hail Mary). It also entails more than reciting novenas or devotions such as the Rosary or reading good Catholic books. It even involves more than liturgical prayer like Morning and Evening Prayer. 

While all these kinds of prayers can enrich our spiritual lives, the saints invite us to take quiet time each day for intimate conversation with the Lord in what the Church calls meditation. In this prayer, we encounter God at a deeper level in our interior lives. Lectio Divina or Ignatian Meditation are two kinds of meditative prayer. The real graces of the Mass and the Sacraments will bear more fruit in our souls if they are met by an interior life cultivated by daily meditation.

What can we learn from St. Thérèse of Lisieux about prayer? 

St. Thérèse helps us to see our faults and failures not merely as frustrating parts of our lives, but as sacred places where God wants to meet us in prayer at a deeper level. Indeed, her “Little Way,” is all about humbly encountering God in our poverty and allowing him to change us. It’s about remembering that the first step up in the spiritual life is the step down in humility. 

We can see this in two key words from St. Thérèse that sum up her Little Way: surrender and trust. 

We must surrender to the truth about ourselves—our sins, weaknesses, and many imperfections. In our poverty, we become convinced of how much we need God, of how little we really can do on our own. Thérèse explained that what pleased God most in her soul was not her great works and desires, but that he saw her loving her littleness, surrendering to the truth of how incapable she is on her own and of how much she needs to rely on God. 

And in this low valley of humility, Thérèse invites us to trust that God can heal us of our many weaknesses — that God can do what we can’t do on our own. Only when we surrender to the truth of our littleness and learn to trust in God and not ourselves, does God do his most amazing work in our souls, lifting us to spiritual heights we could never reach by ourselves.

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