Translated from the original by Ana Giménez.
Teresa´s love for books of spirituality were of great help in her life even since her early times of reading as a child. As she was getting deeper in Christian life, she had a transition in her liking for books from books of chivalry to books of spirituality. It can even be said that there is a book behind every search, a confessor, some friends and a theologian friend. She finds the answer to the need of the moment in every book she reads. Some of these books are so important for her that she begs the prioresses of her monasteries to have them always in the library of their convents:
“The prioress should see to it that good books are available, especially by the Carthusians, the Flos Sanctorum, Contemptus Mundi, The Oratory of Religious, and those books written by Fray Luis de Granada and by Father Fray Pedro de Alcántara. This sustenance for the soul is in some way as necessary as is food for the body.” (The Constitutions 2.7)
On the other hand, books will be of great help to learn meditation prayer. In Life 4 she gives us some advice from her experience when mental prayer is not possible:
“I used to try to think of Jesus Christ, our Good and our Lord, as present within me, and it was in this way that I prayed. If I thought about any incident in His life, I would imagine it inwardly, though I liked principally to read good books, and this constituted the whole of my recreation. For God had not given me talents for reasoning with the understanding or for making good use of the imagination: my imagination is so poor that, even when I thought about the Lord’s Humanity, or tried to imagine it to myself, as I was in the habit of doing, I never succeeded”. (Life 4.7)
After her illness: “In order that it may be seen what mercy He showed me and what a great blessing It was for me that I did not give up prayer and reading” (Life 8.10)
For many years she could not understand what she was reading. Once she could understand, she started reading several lives of saints. She spent fourteen years without being able to practise mental prayer.
“I myself spent over fourteen years without ever being able to meditate except while reading. There must be many people like this, and others who cannot meditate even after reading, but can only recite vocal prayers, in which they chiefly occupy themselves and take a certain pleasure. Some find their thoughts wandering so much that they cannot concentrate upon the same thing, but are always restless, to such an extent that, if they try to fix their thoughts upon God, they are attacked by a thousand foolish ideas and scruples and doubts concerning the Faith.”(Way of Perfection 17.3)
In conclusion, she will tell us: “So practise mental prayer, sisters; or, if any of you cannot do that, vocal prayer, reading and colloquies with God” (Way of Perfection 18.4)
What is marvellous is her discovering, with a bit of patience, is her evolution from “reading” to meditation and even to contemplation:
“Time seems to me too short, and that I have not enough for my prayer, for I should never be tired of being alone. I am always wishing I had time for reading, for I have been always fond of reading. I read very little, for when I take up a book I become recollected through the pleasure it gives me, and thus my reading is turned into prayer: and it is but rarely, for I have many occupations; and though they are good, they do not give me the pleasure which reading would give. And thus I am always wishing for more time, and everything becomes disagreeable, so I believe, because I see I cannot do what I wish and desire.” (Relations 1.7)
At the beginning of our mental prayer, to read Saint Teresa and Carmelite masters will be our spiritual nourishment. The reading of the Bible and its method will be approached tomorrow.
Hugs to the “servants of love”.