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St Teresa on Spiritual Warfare – Day 2, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila

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

30 Days with Teresa of Avila 600x334 spiritual warfare


Valladolid, February 19, 1569*
To Alonzo Ramirez
Cause of the delay in the journey to Toledo.
Encouragement in the difficulties likely to arise.


As regards the licenses, with the help of heaven I hope to get the king’s easily. There may be a certain amount of worry about it, as I know by experience that Satan cannot endure our houses and always persecutes us, but God is all-powerful and the evil one goes off with a broken head.

We had a great deal of trouble here from the leading men of the city but it is all over now. Do not suppose that you will have to offer God no more than you have planned; you will have to give Him much more. He rewards good works by sending us an opportunity for greater ones.  It is nothing to give coppers—they cost us little—but when people stone you and your son-in-law and all of us who have taken part in the matter (as they nearly did in Avila when St. Joseph’s was founded), then the project will succeed, and I believe that neither the convent, nor we who suffer in the cause, will be any the worse for it, but will gain greatly. May God direct the whole affair as He sees best! Do not feel at all anxious. . . .

Your unworthy servant,


Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite


Spiritual Warfare: One can almost see a smirk on the face of Teresa as she writes the last line of this paragraph, “Do not feel at all anxious.” After letting her victim know that he will have to give far more than he is prepared to give, and reflecting on the devil’s response to the advance of the kingdom, she seems to find a bit of fun in the battle.

Teresa was ever aware of the work of the enemy in and through people. But she was even more aware of the strength of God’s kingdom as it advances: “Satan cannot endure our houses.”

Many rightly quote Matthew 16:18 when speaking of the battle we face as we advance the kingdom of God:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

However, the common interpretation is often far from the meaning of Jesus’ words. He proclaims that He will build His Church on the confession and ordination of Peter, and that the gates of hell will not be able to hold back the advance of the kingdom as it breaks in and invades territory otherwise occupied by the enemy.

The mighty warrior mystic knows firsthand the proper interpretation of Jesus’ words in this passage. She rightly sees the establishment of her monasteries as an assault and occupation of enemy territory. As such, as when a beehive is disturbed, she also knows the consequences and the heavenly rewards as she reveals in The Way of Perfection, chapter 38:

I feel convinced that souls which have arrived at this degree of perfection in prayer do not ask God to deliver them from trials or temptations, nor from persecutions and combats. This is another unmistakable and noteworthy effect, showing that the contemplation and favors given to such people come from the Holy Ghost and are not illusions, for, as I said just now, these souls wish for and demand such troubles and love them instead of hating them. They are like soldiers—the more they fight, the better they like it, for thus they hope for a richer booty. When there is no war they live on their pay, but they know they will not grow rich on that. Believe me, sisters, the battle never comes soon enough for the soldiers of Christ. I allude to contemplatives, and people who practice prayer. They have little fear of open enemies, knowing them well already and being aware that such foes have little power against the strength given them by God through which they always gain the victory and come forth from the fray with great spoils and riches, so that they never beat a retreat.

With this faith-filled conviction and an extraordinary strength of will, she unhesitatingly disturbs the hive knowing she will be stung, but that the suffering—rather than weaken her—will only make her stronger and further establish the work of God in her heart and in her mission.

Her comfort comes not from any human ability to endure the assault, but from knowing that God is working in and through the assault, and that by her “yes” and His grace, she will conquer all the territory that He assigns to her.

*Teresa of Avila, Letters, vol. 1, excerpts.


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, which covers both Days 1 and 2. The conversation about Day 2 begins at 19:19 and is continued across two different shows, here and here.

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

    I like St.Teresa’s attitude about the devil, I like her “spunk.” Once when i was sitting in church and was not able to concentrate on the Mass I suspected Satan, so I mentally said, “Satan, get out of here! then I had a second thought and said,” Never mind, stay and listen to the Word of God, maybe you might learn something!” The rest of the Mass went smoothly for me as I did not have any more”interruptions!”

    • LizEst

      Yes, the devil hates to be mocked. Nevertheless, never, ever speak directly with the evil one. It’s very dangerous. When you direct your thoughts to someone, whether it be the devil, the angels and saints or God, you are speaking with them…even if you are only doing so in your mind.

  • Judy Silhan

    Not being a person of prayer prior to coming to the Avila Institute, I was not aware of the Spiritual battle that would begin soon after learning of the beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours and making it a part of my morning routine upon rising. This spiritual warfare lasted for over a year, almost daily. Someone mentioned to me that Satan hates the word of Christ, which is the Liturgy of the Hours, and this may have been part of the reason for the spiritual warfare. I am not advanced in the prayer life as St. Teresa was, so I wonder if praying the Liturgy of the Hours can actually initiate Satan’s contempt and disdain for my attempting to get closer to Christ?

    • LizEst

      Any time one draws closer to the Lord directly, through Mary or the saints, through decreased sin or increased virtue, an increased prayer life, Bible study, any of that makes the devil more determined to thwart your good intentions. So, yes, the spiritual battle you experienced could very well have something to do with taking up the practice of the LOTH. Once Satan sees that you cannot be dissuaded, he will desist on that point. But, remember, he is long practiced in getting people off track. So, he will come at you in a different way. Trust in the Lord, be faithful and humble, and obedient to God through the Church he established…and when the winds come and the house is buffetted, it will not fall, because you have built it on the solid rock which is Christ our Lord. God bless you, Judy! Be stouthearted and trust in the Lord; He never abandons us.

      • Judy Silhan

        Thank you Liz for the warning about Satan coming at me in a different way. Because of this I realized what happened last Friday through Monday morning as just that. I was ready to give up on everything, school, serving at my parish, even my pastor, all because of the thoughts of “is all of this really worth it”? Thank you for this, Liz.

        • LizEst

          Oh yeah! That’s a common one. And, if he can get people to vocalize that to you, that’s another level of bad. Expect it. When this happens, strengthen your resolve and say to yourself–as a wise saint did, who said something like: I didn’t start this because of Satan…and I’m not going to finish it because of Satan.

          • Judy Silhan

            I won’t keep this going, Liz. One final thought – the pastor, who I see nearly every day as a Sacristan, in the office, etc., this past Sunday, he walks right past me without acknowledging my presence and goes up and speaks with another parishioner. It was not that he said anything bad. It was by his silence that culminated the days of feeling that all of this is useless when even the priest, who you constantly try to please, ignores you and cements the idea that all of this is pointless. I have tried to refocus and think more about what you said, I’m doing all I do for God, not Satan and I won’t let myself finish it because of him. God bless you, and thank you.

          • LizEst

            Judy–I can understand how you would feel having this after “happen” after days of the temptation that serving the Lord is useless. I don’t know the situation, but I’m guessing it’s likely that the priest wasn’t ignoring you on purpose.

            Try to keep in mind Blessed Mother Teresa’s words, which were something like: We can do no great things, but we can do little things with great love. When she was visiting one of her convents, and found a bathroom particularly sparkling clean, she used to say that someone there really loved Jesus.

            Know that God sees and knows your every intention and every move, and where they proceed from. This is at least a two pronged (a pitchfork) attack, if you will. When the devil tempts us like this, besides attacking our good intentions, he is also attacking the pride we feel when we are doing something beautiful for God. For that, I would recommend this prayer:

            Then, I would take all these experiences with me and tell the whole story to my spiritual director the next time we met so that the devil is unmasked. It can also be brought up in the confessional. Remember, not to omit any information. To tell everything is to unmask the devil, who will stop this tactic because he hates for his work to be known. We need God’s grace for spiritual combat. And, the Holy Spirit is at work not only in the confessional, but also is spiritual direction.

            God bless you, Judy! No doubt, the Lord is very pleased with your service…or, the devil would not be so interested in it.

          • Judy Silhan

            Thanks, so much, Liz, for your needed help. I printed out the Litany of Humility and will keep it with me for times like the ones I have mentioned. I actually have not seen my spiritual director since the end of May. He is due back at the end of this month or first of August. Thanks for the suggestion to go over all of this with him. I like your last comment about Satan being so interested in what I do and Jesus being pleased with me. Lately, I am not always so sure about Jesus being pleased with what I do. Thanks for the reassurance. God bless you, Liz.

  • Estefania

    Thank you so much for doing this 30 day series! I am learning so much and am in such awe of St. Teresa of Avila, she was truly a soldier for Christ. This is also right in line with what my spiritual director has been telling me so it couldn’t be more perfect at the moment. I have realized that what you fear (ie trials) will continue to grow and take on a life of its own if you do not start to look at them as oppurtunities for growth in the spiritual sense. Of course this is easier said than done. But this is definitely helping me so once again thank you! I look forward to the next post.
    I also love the interpretation of Matthew 16:18, I had never thought of it as the Kingdom of God continually growing.
    God bless!!!

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