The Christian life is a grand journey. And like any pilgrimage along unfamiliar roads, we can benefit from having experienced guides and trustworthy companions along the way.
Through their classic spiritual texts, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross offer valuable maps of tried paths along the way. At the same time, they were both experienced and sought-after spiritual companions for many others. Their timeless insights into the qualities that should mark a good spiritual director—learned, experienced, and discerning—are the fruit of their own prayer, reflection, and rich personal experience as guides and as people guided by others.
Mark O'Keefe, OSB, is professor of moral theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. Among his most recent books are In Context: Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Their World (2019); The Way of Transformation: Saint Teresa of Avila on the Foundation and Fruit of Prayer (2016); and Love Awakened by Love: The Liberating Ascent of Saint John of the Cross (2014). An experienced spiritual guide and retreat director, he also currently serves as resident chaplain of the Carmelite Nuns of Terre Haute, Indiana.
“Many persons seeking a deeper encounter with God have heard of ‘spiritual direction.’ O’Keefe appeals to the Carmelite mystics Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross to offer a road map into what spiritual direction is and what it is not. Spiritual directors will find in it a helpful guide for inquirers. For those already in spiritual direction, O’Keefe’s insights will enrich their journey.”
Craig Morrison, OCarm, Pontifical Biblical Institute
“Mark O’Keefe gives us a concise and masterful synthesis of the thought of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross on spiritual directors and spiritual direction. There is wisdom here for those new to the practice of direction and for those long experienced in giving or receiving it. Learned, Experienced, and Discerning witnesses to how contemporary practice benefits by drawing from the classic works of these two Carmelite reformers.”
Raymond Studzinski, OSB, School of Theology and Religious Studies, The Catholic University of America
"This little book is a gem. Mark O'Keefe, OSB, has culled the writings of two eminent doctors of the Church and presented the most important segments of their thought on spiritual direction. Whether one has great familiarity with the Catholic Church and spiritual writers within it, or barely a notion of the importance of the assistance of another person in one's pursuit of meaning in any tradition, this book has something for you."
Catholic Books Review
“A masterful exploration of the contributions of two Carmelite ‘doctors of the church’ to the understanding and practice of spiritual guidance, in their own time and ours. Gathering and skillfully explaining key passages, O’Keefe both focuses on and exemplifies the three interconnected qualities that Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross consider ’essential in a good spiritual director,’ namely, learning, experience, and prudence (or discernment). This book is a wonderful and very readable resource for contemporary spiritual directors and those they serve.”
Steven Payne, OCD, author of The Carmelite Tradition: Spirituality in History
"Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross are uncommonly wise spiritual guides. O'Keefe shares with readers his profound grasp of their wisdom in a book that is a major contribution to the contemporary literature on spiritual direction."
Keith J. Egan, Guest Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame and Aquinas Chair in Catholic Theology Emeritus at Saint Mary's College