St. Teresa of Avila’s Former Friends

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The Doctor is In

Sacramento, California… Phoenix, Arizona… This song is going to be stuck in my head all day!

As I descended the stairs into the laundry room I realized the catchy tune my children had been using to learn the state capitals was proving effective for me, too!

As I transferred the wet clothes into the dryer, I examined the pictures of saints on the wall. October 15, the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila.

St. Teresa, pray for me, I feel stuck.

To my surprise, St. Teresa replied,

“Hang on. It wasn’t until I was about forty and had been a nun for a while that I was awakened spiritually and began the path to a real conversion. In looking back, I realized there were obstacles to my spiritual progress.”

You mean, you were stuck too?

“Oh yeah. Most followers of Jesus get stuck in their spiritual journey. I had four friends who kept me spinning my wheels. When I realized what was happening, I cut my relationship with them so I could advance forward.”

I’m all ears.

That little prayer began a conversation for me – a little spiritual road trip with this Doctor of the Church about some of the not-so-good friends and out-of-the-way destinations that may get us off track on the road to holiness.


I have read that St. Teresa had a good sense of humor. In one instance Teresa fell off her donkey, landed in the mud, and soiled her Carmelite habit. With her fiery Spanish temper, Teresa looked up to heaven and said to God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many.” 

There in my laundry room, I was about to learn more of that famous wit. She held up four fingers, enumerating four former friends on her journey in the spiritual life. With a twinkle in her eyes she said, “They hail from places you may not have heard of before.”

The first former friend was Carelessness About Sin from Okay, Oklahoma.

 “As for venial sins, I paid little attention to them; and that is what destroyed me.”

Venial or small sins are not really “little” because they are affronts to God. Make a decision never to freely choose to commit even a small sin. Some sins are inadvertent, committed out of our weaknesses and those are part of our fallen nature as humans. We must live with our weaknesses and hope in the mercy of God. However, we need never commit even the smallest intentional sins. These are those things we know to be wrong but choose to do anyway; for example the “little white lie.”

The second former friend was Not Avoiding the Near Occasion of Sin from Atomic City, Idaho. 

“The whole trouble lay in not getting at the root of those occasions. If my confessor told me of the danger I was in and that I had the obligation to avoid those friendships, without a doubt I would have remedied the matter.”  

Here is where we often get stuck spinning our wheels, lacking the wisdom to avoid those occasions that contribute to our sins. Exposing ourselves to certain people, places or situations weakens our resolve not to sin. We need to ask God for the wisdom to identify those situations that undermine our resolve or resistance to commit sin and avoid them.

The third former friend was Self-Reliance from Independence, Iowa. 

“When we are more determined, we are less confident in ourselves – confidence must be placed in God. When we understand this…there will be no need to go about so tense and constrained …we will go about with holy freedom. . .  With simplicity and humility, which will achieve everything, say: fiat voluntas tua (Your will be done).”

Relying on our own strength we won’t get very far. Consider traveling by foot compared to driving a car. Then multiply that difference by infinity and you’ll get some idea of the difference in relying on our own strength vs relying on God.

Finally, the fourth former friend was Not Valuing the Graces of God from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. 

“If the Lord sees that after He places the kingdom of heaven in the soul’s house, and this soul turns to earthly things, He will not show it the secrets that are in His kingdom. . .  There are persons, and I have been one of them, who make themselves deaf when the Lord gives them holy inspirations.”

Promptness in responding to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit at all times is part of living a holy life – that’s doing God’s will.


At the close of our little conversation St. Teresa made sure to recommend one good friend for the journey. Our mother Mary, who St. Teresa adopted as her own mother at the age of thirteen.

Hmmm, let me see. Is she from Humble, Texas? I joked.

St. Teresa returned my smile. “Actually, she’s from …”  

NAZARETH,” we said simultaneously. “in . . .” she continued. ISRAEL!” we said in unison again.

“Mom!” Our laughter was interrupted by the children thundering down the stairs to the laundry room. “We have new neighbors and they have kids! Can we make them cookies? You will never guess where they came from.”

“Santa Claus, Indiana?” I ventured.

“No, Mom, don’t be goofy, they’re from Popejoy, Iowa!”

“Great, let’s get baking.”

Note: Only St. Teresa, her feast day, her quotes from her autobiography, and places mentioned in this post are non-fictitious. The writings from St. Teresa come from St. Teresa of Avila: Her Life in Letters by Teresa of Avila, translated by Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D.

Copyright 2020 Nannet Horton

Nannet Horton is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, NFP teacher, and CGS catechist. She enjoys being a student of the Catholic faith and teaching it to others. Her first book, “Missionary Parenting – Cultivating the 6 Key Relationships Essential to Your Domestic Church,” is co-written with her husband, Bob.

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