How can we suffer well? 10 quotes from St. Teresa of Ávila

St Teresa of Avila Credit Bill Perry Shutterstock CNA Bill Perry/Shutterstock.

October 15 is the feast of St. Teresa of Ávila, when the Catholic Church remembers the Spanish Carmelite reformer and Doctor of the Church whose life of prayer serves as an example for many Catholics today.

Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada was born in the Castilian city of Ávila in 1515, the third child in a family descended from Jewish merchants who had converted to Christianity during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.  

As a child, Teresa was captivated by the thought of eternity and the vision of God granted to the saints in heaven. She experienced many profound hardships, including the loss of her mother at age 14, which caused her to develop a devotion to the Virgin Mary. She also suffered through many debilitating illnesses and physical pain, nurturing a life of deep contemplative prayer. 

Here’s what she had to say about suffering:

1. Remember your mortality.

“O my Lord, and my spouse, the desired hour is now come,” she stated. “The hour is at last come, wherein I shall pass out of this exile, and my soul shall enjoy in thy company what it hath so earnestly longed for.” 

2. We are called to suffer for truth.

“Truth suffers, but never dies.”

3. Suffering can serve as an active form of prayer, if we allow it.

“It shouldn’t be thought that he who suffers isn’t praying, for he is offering this to God. And often he is praying much more than the one who is breaking his head in solitude, thinking that if he has squeezed out some tears he is thereby praying.”

4. Even out of evil, God can work for our good and the good of others.

“God knows how to draw good from evil. And the good is all the greater in the measure that we diligently strive that he not be offended in anything.”

5. We act as instruments of Christ to bring aid and hope for those who suffer.

"Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

6. Every trial has a purpose, even if we won’t see it fulfilled on earth.

“Courage, courage, my daughters. Remember that God does not give anyone more trials than can be suffered and that his majesty is with the afflicted. For this is certain, there is no reason to fear but to hope in his mercy. He will reveal the whole truth; and some machinations, which the devil kept hidden so as to create a disturbance, will be made known.”

7. If someone in your life causes you to suffer, all the more reason to take them to prayer.

“I have taken particular care to pray to the Lord for those who think I am angry with them.”

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8. Suffering increases our humility if we allow it, thus drawing us closer to God. 

“The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.”

9. God is close to those who mourn. 

“We need no wings to go in search of him, but have only to look upon him present within us.”

10. The people God places in our life bear his image and often can help us to endure our own cross.

“What a great favor God does to those he places in the company of good people!”

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