Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) was a Spaniard, a Catholic, a nun, a mystic, a saint, and a Doctor of the Church.
Teresa of Ávila was born in 1515 a.d., near the walled city of Avila in Spain. At that time, her country was the greatest power on earth. She came from a family of ten children. They were Catholics, but had Jewish ancestors.
In 1535 she ran away from home and entered the Carmelite monastery in Ávila. She led a prayerful life over the next 20 years but felt she had not surrendered fully to God.
In 1554, at 39 years of age, she experienced a powerful conversion. She entered into a new life where the mystical experience of passive quiet, and often of union, became habitual for her.
After a terrifying vision of hell, Teresa became determined to establish convents that were less luxurious and more contemplative. She founded her first reformed monastery in 1562 in Ávila. It was the first of 14 she would eventually found.
In 1595, she completed the writing of “Life written by herself.” We know that book as the Life of Teresa of Jesus.
In 1567 she met a newly-ordained priest who would later be known as John of the Cross. John was going to leave the Carmelites for a more heavenly-minded order, but Teresa convinced him to remain. In fact, she talked him into helping her establish reform monasteries.
In 1573 P. Álvarez becomes her confessor.
In 1577 Teresa began writing a great masterpiece called The Interior Castle. This is one of the truly great Christian books of all time. Renovaré includes it in their list of 25 Books Every Christian Should Read.
Teresa thoroughly mixed the quiet, contemplative life with a life of active service to others. She emphasized the “gift” nature of mystical phenomenon. She advised many in the ways of the spiritual life.
Teresa died in 1582, was beatified in 1614 and was canonized a saint in 1622. In 1970, Pope Paul VI named her a Doctor of the Church, that is, one of the all-time greatest teachers of the faith in the entire history of the faith.
The Memorial of Thérèse of Lisieux is observed each year on October 15.
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