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Santa Teresa, An Appreciation
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ON LEARNING AND INTELLECT

I always had a great respect and affection for intellectual and learned men.  It is my experience that all who intend to be true Christians will do well to treat with men of mind and books about their souls.  The more learning our preachers and pastors have the better.  For if they have not much experience themselves, yet they know the Scriptures and the recorded experiences of the saints better than we do.  The devil is exceedingly afraid of learning, especially where it is accompanied with humility and virtue.  For my own part, I bless God continually, and we women, and all such as are not ourselves intellectual or learned, are always to give God infinite thanks that there are some men in the world who take such great pains to attain to that knowledge which we need but do not possess.  And it delights me to see men taking the immense trouble they do take to bring me so much profit, and that without any trouble to me.  I have only to sit still and hear them.  I have only to come and ask them a question.  Let us pray for our teachers, for what would we do without them.  I beseech the Lord to bless our teachers, that they may be more and more a blessing to us.

When I spoke of humility, it must not be understood as if I spoke against aspiring after the highest things that mind and heart and life can attain to.  For though I have no ability for the wisdom and the knowledge of God myself, and am so miserable that God did me a great favour in teaching me the very lowliest truths: yet, in my judgment, learning and knowledge are very great possessions, and a great assistance in the life of prayer, if only they are always accompanied with humility.  I have of late seen some very learned men become in addition very spiritual and prayerful men.  And that makes me pray that all our men of mind and learning may soon become spiritual men and men of much prayer.

Let no one be admitted into this House unless she is a woman of a sound understanding.  For if she is without mind she will neither know herself, nor understand her teachers.  For the most part they that are defective in mind ever think that they understand things better than their teachers.  And ignorance and self-conceit is a disease that is incurable; and besides, it usually carries great malice along with it.  Many speak much and understand little.  Others, again, speak little and not very elegantly, and yet they have a sound understanding.  There is such a thing as a holy simplicity that knows little of anything but of how to treat with God.  At the same time commend me to holy people of good heads.  From silly devotees, may God deliver us!  While all that is true, in the very act of prayer itself there is little necessity for learning, for the mind then, because of its nearness to the light, is itself immediately illuminated.  I myself, who am what I am, even I am a different person in prayer.  It has often happened to me, who scarcely understand a word of what I read in Latin, when in deep prayer, to understand the Latin Psalms as if they were Spanish.  At the same time, even for prayer, let those who have to teach and preach take full advantage of their learning, that they may help poor people of little learning, of whom I am one.  Ministering with all learning and all intellectual ability to souls is a great thing, when it is done unto God.  I have many experiences in prayer that I do not understand, and cannot explain or defend.  Our Lord has not been pleased to give me the full intellectual understanding of all His dealings with me.  That is the truth.  Though you, my father, may think that I have a quick understanding, it is in reality not so.  Sometimes my advisers used to be amazed at my ignorance how God carried on His work within me.  It was there, but the way of it was a great deep to me.  I could neither wade out unto God, nor down into myself.  Though, as I have said, I loved to converse with men of mind as well as of heart.  At the same time, my difficulties but increased my devotion, and the greater my difficulty the greater the increase of my devotion.  Praise His Name.

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