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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

XV

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

JESUS!

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,

TeresaOfJesus(TeresaOfAvila)signature3
Teresa de Jesus, Carmelite

Reflection

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.

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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 SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, the High Calling Seminary Preparation Program, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. In 2018, he launched the annual Avila Summit held at Hanceville, Alabama. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband, father of four, and grandfather of one, the President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc., a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer, speaker and pilgrimage director 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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