Maxims of St. Teresa of Avila...
Maxims of St. Teresa of Avila...
St. Teresa of Avila is one of the great Saints of the Church, canonized for
her heroic life of virtue and holiness. A successful imitator of Christ. She and
all of the Saints were not born that way however; they were born like everyone
else in original sin, and had to be corrected by their parents. One particular
thing that they DID do was to have the "desire" to be a Saint. As St. Thomas
Aquinas said, if you want to be a Saint "will it".
The Saints willed it with a constant desire, and used the ordinary means given
to us by Our Lord - the Church and Her sacraments - which were instituted for
that very reason for all men. Above this the Saints followed their personal
vocation in life pointed out by God as would best secure their own salvation.
For a great many people the married life will best secure salvation. For Saint
Teresa, she was to enter the Carmelite order as a cloistered religious nun, and
work towards that pinnacle of perfection by taking the vows and devoting her
life to prayer and the imitation of the Saints.
For those who are called to remain in the world single or married, they must
also strive 'according their vocation' for spiritual perfection. According to
"The Spiritual Life" by A. Tanquerey, so often used as a text book in seminaries
this century, we read of the obligation that all Catholics have to make constant
progress in the spiritual life: "in the state of fallen nature, one cannot for
long remain in the state of grace without striving at the same time to make
progress in the spiritual life and to exercise oneself from time to time in the
practice of some of the evangelical counsels."
"It is evident that one who would merely aim at avoiding mortals sin would not
be living according to the standard of moral conduct outlined in the Gospel. Our
Lord proposes to us as the ideal of holiness the very perfection of Our Heavenly
Father: "Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect."
Hence, all having God for their Father must approach this divine perfection -
which evidently cannot be accomplished without progress." Saint Teresa of Avila
fought "the good fight". To help her fulfill her desire to become a Saint she
followed "maxims" which helped remind her what she must do according to Catholic
"MAXIM - A concise formulation of some fundamental principle or
rule of conduct."
Below are the "maxims of St. Teresa". Those who are
religious can follow these at face value since they pertain especially to those
who are in the "state of perfection" in the religious life. For those whose
vocation is single or married in the world, they can determine how to apply
these in their own state in life. Virtue is the mean between two extremes. It
takes desire, prayer and effort to follow these according to ones state in life
without going to extremes by excess or defect. For instance, when we look at #3
"Let thy words be few in the midst of many", we realize that a salesman or
politician must know how to speak-out when practicing his business without
failing to follow it to some degree at other times when he is not acting
THE MAXIMS OF ST. TERESA OF AVILA:
1. Untilled ground, however rich, will bring forth thistles and thorns;
so. also, the mind of man.
2. Speak well of all that is spiritual,
such as religious, priests, and hermits.
3. Let thy words be few when
in the midst of many.
4. Be modest in all thy words and works.
5. Never be obstinate, especially in things of no moment.
In speaking to others be always calm and cheerful.
7. Never make a
jest of anything.
8. Never rebuke any one but with discretion, and
humility, and self-abasement.
9. Bend thyself to the temper of
whomever is speaking to thee: be merry with the
mirthful, sorrowful with the sad: in a word, make thyself all things
to all, to gain all.
10. Never say anything thou hast not well considered
and earnestly commended to our Lord, that nothing may be spoken which shall be
displeasing unto Him.
11. Never defend thyself unless there be very good reasons for it.
mention anything concerning thyself which men account praiseworthy, such as
learning, goodness, birth, unless with a hope of going good thereby, and then
let it be done with humility, remembering that these are gifts of God.
Never exaggerate, but utter thy mind in simplicity.
14. In all talking and
conversation let something be always said of spiritual things, and so shall all
idle words and evil-speaking be avoided.
15. Never assert anything
without being first assured of it.
16. Never come forward to give thine own
opinion about anything unless asked to do so, or charity requires it.
17. When any one is speaking of spiritual things do thou listen humbly and
like a learner, and take to thyself the good that is spoken.
known to thy superior and confessor all thy temptations, imperfections, and
dislikes, that he may give thee counsel and help thee to overcome them.
19. Do not stay out of thy cell, nor go forth from it without cause, and
when thou goest forth beg of God the grace not to offend him.
20. Never eat or drink except at the usual times, and then give earnest thanks
21. Do all thou doest as if thou didst really see His Majesty: a
soul makes great gains thereby.
22. Never listen to, or say, evil of any one
except of thyself, and when that gives thee pleasure thou art making great
23. Whatever thou doest, offer it up to God, and pray it may be
for His honor and glory.
24. In thy mirth refrain from immoderate laughter,
and let it be humble, modest, kindly, and edifying.
25. Imagine thyself
always to be the servant of all, and look upon all as if they were Christ our
Lord in person; and so shalt thou do Him honor and reverence.
26. Be ever
ready to perform the duties of obedience, as if Jesus, in the person oft he
prior or superior, had laid His commands upon thee.
27. In all thy
actions, and at every hour, examine thy conscience; and, having discerned thy
faults, strive, by the help of God, to amend them, and by this way thou shalt
attain to perfection.
28. Do not think of the faults of others, but of what
is good in them and faulty in thyself.
29. Desire earnestly always to suffer
for God in every thing and on every occasion.
30. Offer thyself unto God
fifty times a day, and that with great fervor and longing after God.
31. Call to mind continually throughout the day the matter of the morning
meditation: be very careful herein, for it will do thee much good.
Lay up carefully what our Lord may say to thee, and act upon the desires He may
have filled thee with in prayer.
33. Always avoid singularity to the utmost
of thy power, for it does great harm in a community.
34. Read often the
rules and constitutions of the order, and observe in sincerity.
35. In all
created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give
36. Withhold thy heart from all things: seek God, and thou
shalt find Him.
37. Do not show signs of devotion outwardly when thou hast
none within, but thou mayest lawfully hide the want thereof.
not thine inward devotion be visible unless in great necessity: St. Francis and
St. Bernard used to say, "My secret is mine."
39. Never complain of the
food, whether it be well or ill dressed; remembering the gall and
vinegar of Jesus Christ.
40. Speak to no one at table, and lift not
thine eyes to another.
41. Think of the table of heaven, and of the food thereon - God Himself: think
of the guests, the angels: lift up thine eyes to that table, longing for
42. In the presence of thy superior - thou art to see Jesus Christ in
him - utter not a word that is not necessary, and that with great reverence.
43. Never do anything that thou canst not do in the presence of all.
Do not compare one person with another: it is a hateful thing to do.
When rebuked for anything receive the rebuke with inward and outward humility,
and pray to God for the person who gives the rebuke.
46. When one
superior bids thee do a certain thing, do not say that another superior has
given a contrary order; but obey in what thou art commanded, and consider
that the intentions of all are good.
47. Be not curious about matters that
do not concern thee; never speak of them, and do not ask about them.
48. Keep in mind they past life and present lukewarmness, to bewail them,
and what is still wanting to thee for thy going into heaven, that thou
mayest live in fear, which is a source of great blessings.
those in the house bid thee do, do always, unless it be against obedience; and
answer them humbly and gently.
50. Ask for nothing particular in the
way of food or raiment, unless there be great need.
51. Never cease to humble and mortify thyself in all things, even unto death.
52. Habitually make many acts of love, for they set the soul on fire and
make it gentle.
53. Make acts of all the other virtues.
54. Offer every
thing to the Father Everlasting, in union with the merits of His Son Jesus
55. Be kind to all and severe to thyself.
56. On the days kept
in honor of the saints consider their virtues, and beg the like of God.
Be very exact every night in thy examination of conscience.
58. The morning
of communion remember in thy prayer that thou art about to receive
God, notwithstanding thy wretchedness; and in thy prayer at night that thou
hast received Him.
59. Never when in authority rebuke any one in anger, but
only when anger has passed away; and so shall the rebuke bring forth good
60. Strive earnestly after perfection and devotion, and by the help
thereof thou shalt do all things.
61. Exercise thyself much in the fear of our Lord, for that will make the soul
contrite and humble.
62. Consider seriously how quickly people change, and
how little trust is to be had in them; and cleave fast unto God, who changeth
63. As to the affairs of thy soul, labor to have a confessor who is
spiritual and learned, make them known unto him, and abide by his judgment
64. Each time of communion beg some gift of God, by the
compassion wherewith He has entered thy poor soul.
65. Though thou hast
recourse to many saints as thine intercessors, go specially to St. Joseph, for
he has great power with God.
66. In time of sorrow and of trouble cease
not from the good works of prayer and penance which thou art in the habit of
doing, for Satan is striving to make thee uneasy, and then to abandon them; on
the contrary, do thou apply thyself thereunto more earnestly than before, and
thou shalt see quickly our Lord will come to thy succor.
67. Never make thy
temptations and imperfections known to those in the community whose progress is
the least, for that will hurt thyself and the others, but only to those most
advanced in perfection.
68. Remember that thou hast but one soul; that
thou canst die but once; that thou hast but one life, which is short, and
peculiar to thyself; that there is but one blessedness, and that for ever;
and thou wilt despise many things.
69. Let thy desire be the vision of
God, thy fear the loss of Him, thy sorrow His absence, and thy joy in that
which may take thee to Him; and thy life shall be in great peace.
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