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St Teresa on Detachment – 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Day 1

What does St Teresa of Avila have to say about detachment? Find out in today’s excerpt and reflection from 30 Days with Teresa of Avila.

30 Days with Teresa of Avila 600x334 gifts impediments

Day 1


Valladolid, December 28, 1568*
To Doña Inès Nieto, at Madrid
On the admission of a postulant into the recently founded convent at Valladolid.


May the grace of the Holy Spirit be with you!

Although I have not written before, you may be sure that I have not forgotten you in my poor prayers to our Lord and that I shared your happiness. May He permit you to enjoy it in His service for many years, for I hope your happiness will not impede this service, whatever obstacles may arise. For the so-called goods of this miserable life are impediments, and your having spent your past years for God will have repaid you by teaching you to estimate things rightly and so to care nothing for what is fleeting. . . .

Your unworthy servant,

Teresa de Jesus, Carmelite


Detachment: Ever growing union with God consists both in an elevation of the entire person through contemplative wisdom, and a cleansing of the heart through detachment. Detachment is:

the withholding of undue affection for creatures for the sake of the Creator. When mortal sin is involved, detachment is imperative for salvation. Detachment from  creatures  that  are  an obstacle to complete service of God is a normal condition for growth in holiness.**

The “undue affection” of attachment is simply a disordered occupation of the heart. Not every movement of heart is noble, and many ignoble attachments can cause us to betray ourselves and those who are counting on us, especially God Himself. Any loving, desiring, or clinging to some person, place, or thing that is not purely for the glory of God renders the soul incapable of giving that same love to God or others to whom, for the glory of God, it is owed. At the same time, precisely because our affections are misdirected, we are not as open or vulnerable to the blessings that God might otherwise desire to pour out on us.

Because God, in a certain sense, relies on our faithfulness to Him and His loving plan for us, we have an obligation to order our affections in accord with His wisdom for our lives. It is a matter of saving our strength and internal resources for the Lord and His purposes. It is a matter of letting go of our own whims and earthly dreams to make room in our hearts for heavenly things and the will of the Father.

The great mystic recognizes that Doña Inès Nieto has a difficult lesson to learn. Teresa herself came to estimate material things rightly only after many difficult setbacks in her own walk with Christ. It is always futile and a waste of energy to place one’s security in anything that is not God. The Saint knows that even one’s own happiness can become an obstacle, an impediment. Indeed, every form of self-satisfaction blocks us from receiving even greater blessings than we might otherwise know.

This kind of wisdom comes many ways. To some, it comes through physical or emotional suffering, others the traumatic experience of the death of a loved one, and still others the deep sadness that invades the heart when what is desired is gained but fails to satisfy the desire that only God can satisfy. The answer? Shed as much as we can as quickly as we are able. Give to anyone who asks. Love nothing in this life but God. Pursue only God and His will. This is the only hope of true and lasting peace in this life, and joy in the ascent to God.

*Teresa of Avila, The Letters of Saint Teresa, trans. Benedictines of Stanbrook (London: Thomas Baker, 1919), vol. 1. Excerpts from a longer letter. Hereafter: Letters, vol. 1.
**Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary.


If you would like to read all of these letters and reflections, please click here and purchase 30 Days with Teresa of Avila from Emmaus Publishing.

Listen to the conversation on Divine Intimacy Radio.

Teresa of Avila’s signature courtesy of Carmelite Monastery, Terre Haute, Indiana.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Diana Marie Winkler

    Reading, “detachments from creatures that are an obstacle to complete service of God is a normal condition for growth in holiness.” gave me another confirmation of the Path I am on is part of my growth. I have learned that detaching oneself from the world and even some people who can be “toxic” does not mean I do not care. I can still be caring and compassionate,but to not let anyone or anything get in the way of His Plan for my life. What I have learned with the “toxic” people is they are in the end still going to do what they want to do and can be envious of the changes made in my life. It comes down to choices…..I have been in the “dark” side and had to make a choice to stay there or to take His Hand to walk in the “Light” Walking with Him, allowing the Holy Spirit to help with discerning what to keep and what to get rid of is so much easier! I am excited to be signing on for The Spiritual Formation courses starting this fall. I feel this is one of those “nudges” from the Holy Spirit to help understand even more of detachment and focusing on God’s will for my life. God bless.

  • Patricia

    From today’s post: “Love nothing in this life but God. Pursue only God and His will. This is the only hope… the ascent to God.”

    How does love of neighbor fit in here?

    • LizEst

      ??? It’s hard to believe that, after all the posting you’ve done on site, you don’t know that God’s will is that we love our neighbor. Please see/reread our Frequently Asked Questions. Thank you…and God bless you, Patricia.

      • Patricia

        I do know that God’s will is that we keep His two great love commandments. The heading says that the so called gifts of this life are impediments, and the rest of the posting talks about “creatures” ( people created by God)’ not wealth, or possessions etc. The posting says “Detachment from creatures that are an obstacle to complete service of God is a normal condition for growth in holiness.” St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa’s spiritual director says, “Charity, too, causes a void in the will regarding all things since it obliges us to love God above everything. We have to withdraw our affection from all in order to center it wholly upon God.” The basic idea is to detach in order to seek God. I know these postings are not just for cloistered religious… I thought some practical discussion about this might be helpful.

        • LizEst

          OK. So, now I understand better. In this sense, we are to love our neighbor as Christ would love. It’s kind of a dis-interested love–though that might not be the best description.

          We love our neighbor completely as God would love them, fully, totally, but we do not become invested in, or attach ourselves to them, or to the outcome of our love for them (this does not preclude the normal love and care we give to others as we raise them, teach them, work with them, care for their welfare). In other words, we do not make them gods.

          It’s why many marriages go bad. Husbands and wives can believe, subconsciously, that their spouses should perfect, that they should be gods. It also happens with children and parents. Kids sometimes, subconsciously, make their parents gods. When any of these people fail, as they are bound to do because they are not God, then the relationship gets into trouble.

          So, this business of not attaching ourselves to someone does not mean that we are not interested in someone’s welfare, or that we can’t care for them as in the case of family members, or members of religious or lay community, or love them as spouses and family members love each other. We are just not to attach ourselves to them in a way that consciously or subconsciously makes them gods in our minds. It’s simply the first commandment: I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

  • Gloria Lopez

    I’ve learned that you must love people through the eyes of Our God…Jesus on the Cross in particular…it doesn’t matter how badly they’ve hurt you. But that’s the only way to love people.

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