Monday, September 12, 2016

The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Volume 1 (ICS Publications)

St. Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun and mystic during the time of the Counter Reformation. Within the Carmelite Order, she was also a reformer and the initiator of the movement that eventually led to the Discalced Carmelites. She was joined in this movement by St. John of the Cross, but in reality, neither of them were alive when the Discalced Carmelites separated from the regular Carmelite Order. She died in 1582 and was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.  In 1970, she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Some of her best known works include The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle. However, she wrote much more than this. ICS Publications has published a three-volume set of her collected works. Today, I am going to tell you about Volume One.

The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume One is a 500+ page translation by Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh and Fr. Otilio Rodriguez. The book contains the following three works - The Book of Her Life, Spiritual Testimonies, and Soliloquies. The Book of Her Life begins with a very thorough introduction by Fr. Kavanaugh. This introduction contains background information on her, the times she lived during, her first spiritual directors, the style and nature of her book, main ideas of the book, and information on the new translation. The basic structure of the book consists of four parts - 1. Sins, graces, and vocations (10 chapters), 2. Treatise on degrees of prayer (12 chapters), 3. Mystical life (9 chapters), and Effects (9 chapters). Her autobiography is very personable and conversational in tone.

The Spiritual Testimonies are arranged chronologically and serve to complement her autobiography. In these writings, we get a glimpse into her soul and spiritual character at different points in her life. However, the section of this volume that spoke to me the most was her Soliloquies. I know I should have read through this section more slowly, but I could not put it down. This section is very intimate and focuses on topics such as separation from God, longing for God, wounds of love, and how people who withdraw from God are sick. After reading through them once, I immediately decided to slow down and read them more slowly the second time through.

Reading through the words of the saints is always an eye-opening experience. It always reveals to me how close they were to God and how far away I am. The remarkable thing is that due to their extreme humility they did not see themselves as saintly or close to God. I look forward to reading the next volume in this series.

This book was provided to me for free by ICS Publications in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!