In her autobiography, Teresa of Ávila shares her life story, the four degrees of mystical prayer, the story of the Discalced Carmelites, and her own mystical experiences.
Here are our notes:
CHAPTER 1. Teresa of Ávila describes how the Lord began to awaken her soul in childhood to a love of virtue, and what a help it is to have good parents.
CHAPTER 2. Teresa shares how she gradually lost her virtuous behaviors during her teen years, and how important it is for children to associate with people of virtue.
CHAPTER 3. Teresa shares how a spiritual friendship with a nun helped to re-awaken her desires for eternal things.
CHAPTER 4. Teresa shares how the Lord helped her to force herself to become a nun. She read spiritual books. She experience the Prayer of Quiet, and sometimes Union.
CHAPTER 5. Teresa shares the terrible illness she suffered from for three years. She was misled by many confessors who downplayed the seriousness of sin.
CHAPTER 6. God gave Teresa great perseverance in the midst of her intolerable sufferings. She was given deliverance through the intercession of Saint Joseph.
CHAPTER 7. Teresa shares her fault of inordinate pride. It led her astray. Eventually, she stopped praying. She found her way back thanks to praying friends.
CHAPTER 8. God gave Teresa the courage for contemplative prayer. It was a joy. It gave her intimate friendship with God. She experienced his loving-kindness.
CHAPTER 9. In the midst of her spiritual darkness, Teresa was given a spiritual breakthrough. She no longer trusted herself. The Lord gave her light and strength.
CHAPTER 10. Teresa begins to share her mystical experiences. She was aware of the presence of God. She experienced suspension of the soul.
THE FIRST DEGREE OF PRAYER:
CHAPTER 11. Teresa says we must be open to greater mystical blessings. She maps out four degrees of prayer. She describes the first degree, which is that of beginners.
CHAPTER 12. Teresa explains more fully the first degree of prayer, which is of beginners. Their progress is partly their own achievement, and partly God’s workings.
CHAPTER 13. Beginners should be happy and free and confident. They should attempt great things. Their spiritual director should be prudent, experienced, and learned.
THE SECOND DEGREE OF PRAYER:
“THE PRAYER OF QUIET”
CHAPTER 14. Teresa begins to describe the second degree of prayer. It is called the Prayer of Quiet. It is a prayer-state that borders on the supernatural.
CHAPTER 15. Teresa continues to describe the second degree of prayer, which is called the Prayer of Quiet. Many people are given this, but few people go beyond it.
THE THIRD DEGREE OF PRAYER:
CHAPTER 16. Teresa describes the third degree of prayer. Your faculties are sleeping. You are absorbed in union. The delight is far greater than in the Prayer of Quiet.
CHAPTER 17. Theresa expands on the third degree of prayer. It is a union of the entire soul with God. Joy and delight fill us. Memory and imagination can make trouble.
THE FOURTH DEGREE OF PRAYER:
CHAPTER 18. Teresa describes the fourth degree of prayer. Our human faculties are suspended and we become one with the Lord.
CHAPTER 19. Teresa continues describing the fourth degree of prayer. The treasure chest is opened. The benefits are numerous and sublime.
CHAPTER 20. Teresa says during rapture, the Lord raises the soul out of the body and above all created things. The body can hardly move. Or it levitates.
CHAPTER 21. Teresa says God selects some people to have the ecstatic experience of rapture. It is highly transformative and advances them in holiness.
CHAPTER 22. Some people say contemplation is entirely spiritual and you must withdraw from Jesus Christ. But Teresa says to anchor yourself in Jesus Christ.
CHAPTER 23. Having finished her explanation of the four stages of mystical prayer, Teresa resumes telling the story of her own life.
CHAPTER 24. Francis Borgia told Teresa she was being led by the Spirit of God. After a day in prayer, she had a powerful experience of transport and great freedom.
CHAPTER 25. In a locution, a message is imprinted within you. You easily remember it. It has a good effect. It is not from self or the devil. Teresa had many of them.
CHAPTER 26. Through her many experiences of locutions, the Lord gave Teresa courage. Great courage. It strengthened her for combat against devils.
CHAPTER 27. Teresa had powerful experiences of Jesus Christ beside her. She talks about her friend the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara. He was a true hero of the faith.
CHAPTER 28. Teresa shares what she learned by experience about imaginary visions. They are from God and not from our own imagination.
CHAPTER 29. Teresa shares more of her mystical experiences. They include visions, vehement impulses of love, the wounding of the soul, and the piercing of the heart.
CHAPTER 3o. Teresa consults with blessed Fray Peter of Alcántara. Unlike other spiritual directors, he understood her. She faces trials and temptations and illness.
CHAPTER 31. The devil tried to make Teresa afraid. He appeared to her, physically tortured her, and made paranormal sounds & smells. She says he has very little power.
THE DISCALCED CARMELITES
CHAPTER 32. Teresa is given a mystical experience of Hell. It was worse than anything imaginable. She decides to launch a new religious order of Discalced Carmelites.
CHAPTER 33. People spoke evil of Teresa. And then her confessor stabbed her in the back. Much later, she got a new confessor. Then she began her new convent.
CHAPTER 34. An influential women named Doña Luisa asked Teresa to come visit her. In that city, Teresa had spectacular mystical experiences and met a godly cleric.
CHAPTER 35. Teresa wants her new order to be based in deep poverty. Most people disgree, except for a saintly pilgrim woman named María de Jesus.
CHAPTER 36. Word got out that Teresa was founding a new convent. The whole city becomes enraged. People fight against it. They persecute Teresa and her colleagues.
CHAPTER 37. A mystical experience is genuine if it produces good effects in your life. Teresa knew the Lord Jesus as her friend. Clerics are consumed with trivialities.
CHAPTER 38. Teresa shares more of her more mystical experiences and visions. They were powerful and transformative.
CHAPTER 39. Teresa shares even more of her more mystical experiences and visions. These too were powerful and transformative.
CHAPTER 40. Teresa concludes sharing her mystical experiences and visions. Her motive has been that God be praised. This is the end of her book.
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