The experience of the 16th-century Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila, still shows people that time in prayer opens “the way to life,” loving God and his Church, and showing genuine charity on earth, said the Pope during the general audience.
On Feb. 2, Pope Benedict XVI added another installment to his now long-running series of general audience teachings examining the spirituality of female saints and mystics. He focused his message this time on a saint with whom his predecessor had a very close spiritual connection.
Born in 1515, Teresa de Ahumada entered the Carmelite convent in her hometown of Avila at 20 years old. She learned the basis for a life of prayer and meditation in her adolescence and struggled through years of weakness due to physical ailments. At the pinnacle of her difficulties, she reached maturity in her interior life.
Despite her conditions, nearing the age of 40, she was inspired to bring about reform in the Carmelite order.
Teresa of Avila went on to establish 17 new convents with the help of the local bishop. Then, after meeting St. John of the Cross, she founded the first convent of the "Discalced Carmelites."
She died in 1582 and was canonized St. Teresa of Avila in 1622. Pope Paul VI proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
Despite not being an academic, she held the teachings of theologians, scholars and her spiritual advisers in great esteem, Pope Benedict recalled during the Feb. 2 audience. She penned several books, including "The Interior Castle," which examines the route to "perfection" as the ultimate goal for Christians.
Pope Benedict admitted that it is difficult to sum up her spirituality in few words, but said that, for her, Christian life was founded on the solid base of the evangelical and human virtues.
"She presents prayer as an intimate friendship with Christ leading to an ever greater union of love with the Blessed Trinity," he said.
Prayer was an ever important part of her spirituality. Through her books, he said, "she teaches readers of her works to pray, and she herself prays with them."
In addition to these things, her love for the Church was "unconditional," said the Pope.
"St. Teresa of Avila is an authentic teacher of Christian life for the faithful in all times," he added.
"In our society, often lacking in spiritual values, St. Teresa teaches us to be tireless witnesses of God, of His presence and His work. She teaches us to really feel this thirst for God that exists in the depth of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with Him and to be his friends."
Pope Benedict prayed that her example would "encourage us to dedicate adequate time to daily prayer, to openness to God in order to discover His friendship and so to discover true life."
"Time spent in prayer is not lost," he concluded. It is “a time in which we open the way to life, learning to love God and His Church ardently, and to show real charity towards our brothers.”