St. Teresa of Avila


The woman who came to be known as St. Teresa of Jesus was descended from an old Spanish family and was born in 1515. At the age of 20 Teresa entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation at Avila, Spain. She lived a rather lax life for many years. But finally, when praying before a statue of Christ scourged at the pillar at age 40, St. Teresa committed herself to pursue a life of spiritual perfection. In 1560, she began to receive spiritual counsel from St. Peter of Alcantara. In order to lead a life of stricter penance and deeper prayer, she founded a convent where the primitive Carmelite rule would be strictly observed. The “Discalced” Carmelite convent of St. Joseph was founded in Avila in 1562, against the strong opposition of many in the Carmelite order. Here St. Teresa wrote her famous book The Way of Perfection, having recently completed her Life, a spiritual autobiography written under obedience. The years from 1567 to her death were occupied with the establishment of Discalced Carmelite communities of both nuns and friars. In this, St. Teresa received much assistance from St. John of the Cross. In the midst of all this outward activity, her inner life progressed until she reached the stage of “spiritual marriage” in 1572.

St. Teresa also wrote the Interior Castle, the Foundations, and several smaller books. She died at Alba de Tormes on October 4, 1582, was canonized in 1622 and, in 1970, was ranked by Pope Paul VI amongst the Doctors of the Church. St. Teresa was a woman of strong character, prudence, and practical ability. Her growth in mystical prayer amidst all the responsibilities incumbent upon any foundress of a new religious community demonstrates that contemplation and action are not incompatible.  (bio by Dr. Italy)