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October 15

St Teresa of Avila by François_Gérard - October 15

Saint Teresa of Ávila

Nun, Author, Foundress, Reformer

First Female Doctor of the Church

(1515 – 1582)

“There is more value in a little study of humility, and in a single act of it, than in all the knowledge in the world.

Saint Teresa of Ávila

Saint’s Life Story

Her Parents

Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in March 28, 1515 in Ávila, Spain. Her father, Don Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, was a successful wool merchant and one of the wealthiest men in Ávila. Previously married to Doña Catalina del Peso y Henao, with whom he had three children, in 1509, Sánchez de Cepeda married Teresa’s mother, Doña Beatriz de Ahumada y Cuevas.

Her Early Life

Teresa’s mother brought her up as a dedicated Christian. Teresa grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at “hermit” in the garden. Fascinated by reading the accounts of the lives of the saints, Teresa ran away from home at age seven, with her brother Rodrigo, to seek martyrdom in the fight against the Moors. Her uncle brought them home, when he spotted them just outside the town walls.  When Teresa was eleven years old, her mother died, leaving her grief-stricken. This prompted her to embrace a deeper devotion to the Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother. After her death and the marriage of her eldest sister, Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Avila. But owing to illness, she left at the end of eighteen months, Then, for some years, Teresa remained with her father. 

Carmelite Nun with Visions

Unable to obtain her father’s consent, Teresa left his house unknown to him on November 1535 and entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila. Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill. Her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received. Even after partial recovery through the intercession of Saint Joseph, her health remained permanently impaired. During these years of suffering, Teresa began the practice of mental prayer. She began receiving visions, and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits. Her confessor, Saint Francis Borgia, pronounced the visions to be holy and true. He reassured her of the divine inspiration of her thoughts. Teresa received a copy of the full Spanish translation of Saint Augustine of Hippo‘s autobiographical work Confessions, which helped her resolve and to tend to her own bouts of religious scruples.

Reformer

Over time, Teresa found herself increasingly at odds with the spiritual malaise prevailing in her convent of the Incarnation. Among the 150 nuns living there, the observance of cloister, designed to protect and strengthen spiritual practice and prayer, became so lax that it appeared to lose its purpose. The daily invasion of visitors, many of high social and political rank, disturbed the atmosphere with frivolous concerns and vacuous conversation. The incentive to take the practical steps inspired by her inward motivation was supported by the Franciscan priest, Saint Peter of Alcantara, who met her early in 1560 and became her spiritual adviser. A vision of the place destined for her in hell in case she should have been unfaithful to grace made her determined to seek a more perfect life.

Foundress – Discalced Carmelite Nuns

After many troubles and much opposition, Teresa founded the convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of Saint Joseph at Avila in August 24, 1562. After six months, she obtained permission to reside there. Four years later, Teresa received the visit of the General of the Carmelites, John-Baptist Rubeo (Rossi), who not only approved of what she had done, but he granted her leave to establish further houses of the new order. In rapid succession she established houses at Medina del Campo (1567), Malagon and Valladolid (1568), Toledo and Pastrana (1569), Salamanca (1570), Alba de Tormes (1571), Segovia (1574), Veas and Seville (1575), and Caravaca (1576). 

St Teresa of Avila monasteries founded - October 15
Map of St Teresa of Avila monasteries founded

As part of the original patent, Teresa was given permission to set up two houses for men who wished to adopt the reforms. She convinced two Carmelite friars, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Anthony of Padua to help with this. They founded the first monastery of Discalced Carmelite brothers in November 1568 at Durelo. During the last three years of her life, Teresa founded convents at Villanueva de la Jara in northern Andalusia (1580), Palencia (1580), Soria (1581), Burgos, and Granada (1582). In total, seventeen convents, all but one founded by her, and as many men’s monasteries, were owed to her reforms over twenty years.

Her Works

Her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus, The Interior Castle, The Book of Her Foundations, and The Way of Perfection, are enduring and invaluable contributions to the Church’s teachings on prayer. In her autobiography, written as a defense of her ecstatic mystical experiences, she discerns four stages in the ascent of the soul to God: Devotion of the Heart, Devotion of Peace, Devotion of Union and Devotion of Ecstacy. While in The Interior Castle, Teresa discuss seven mansions that equate to nine grades of prayer.

Teresa begins her book Interior Castle with the following description of the soul:

“I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions [dwelling places]. Now if we think carefully over this, sisters, the soul of the righteous man is nothing but a paradise, in which, as God tells us, He takes His delight. For what do you think a room will be like which is the delight of a King so mighty, so wise, so pure and so full of all that is good? I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of a soul and its great capacity. “(I.I #2)

St Teresa of Avila statue in Mafra National Palace - October 15
St Teresa of Avila statue in Mafra National Palace

Her Death

Her final illness overtook her on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes. At the age of 67, Teresa died in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca on October 4, 1582, just as Catholic Europe was making the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, which required the excision of the dates of October 5 -14 from the calendar. She died either before midnight of October 4, or early in the morning of October 15, which is celebrated as her feast day.  Her last words were: “My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another.”  Her body is incorrupt, her relics are preserved in Avila, Spain. Her heart shows signs of Transverberation (piercing of the heart), and is displayed, too.

Teresa was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on September 27 1970 by Pope Paul VI – the first of only four female saints declared Doctors of the Church.

 

Born:                   March 28, 1515 in Avila, Spain

Died:                   October 4, 1597 (October 15 Feast Day) age 67 in Alba de Tormes, Spain

Beatified:           April 24, 1614 by Pope Paul V

Canonized:        March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV

Feast Day:         October 15

Patron Saint:    Against Bodily Ills; Avila, Spain; Headache Sufferers; Lacemakers; Loss of Parents; People In Need Of Grace; People Ridiculed For Their Piety; Pozega, Croatia; Sick People; Spain

Source:

Reflection

I can’t imagine what it takes to start a new order or found a convent or a monastery. Saint Teresa of Avila founded 17 houses in her lifetime in multiple locations all over Spain in the 1500’s. Before that, she started her own new order, Discalced Carmelite Nuns, because she thought things were too lax in her current convent. In addition, she wrote some of the most enduring and invaluable contributions to the Church’s teachings on prayer (The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection) as well as her own autobiography – The Life of Teresa of Jesus. 

What acts can you do today? While you may not found convents or write books, with God’s help through prayer, you can accomplish anything in the Lord’s name.

Prayers

The prayer Nada te turbe (Let nothing disturb you) is written by Saint Teresa of Ávila.

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God, you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

Saint Teresa of Ávila, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – St. Teresa of Ávila: Virgin, Mystic, Author, Reformer, Foundress, First Female Doctor of the Church by Susan E. Wills

All Saints & Martyrs – Quotes on Prayers

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 15 October – Saint Teresa of Avila OCD (1515-1582)

Angelus – Saint of the day: Teresa of Avila

A Reason2BCatholic – Saints Alive! | St. Teresa of Ávila (of Jesus)

Catholic Culture  – St. Teresa of Jesus

Catholic Exchange – Why St. Teresa of Avila Cherished the Intercession of St. Joseph by Constance T. Hull

Catholic Fire – St. Teresa of Avila: Virgin and Doctor

Catholic Ireland – Oct 15 – St Teresa of Avila 1515-82 Reformer and Discalced Carmelite Nun

Catholic News Agency – How can we suffer well? 10 quotes from St. Teresa of Ávila

Catholic Online – St. Teresa of Avila

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Teresa of Ávila

CatholicSaints.Info – The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila

CatholicSaints.Info – The Life of Saint Teresa of Jesus, by Herself

Catholic Stand – A New Film: “SAINT”, Teresa of Ávila

Discalced Carmelite Nuns – Carmelite Monastery of Seattle

Franciscan Media – Saint Teresa of Avila

Independent Catholic News – St Teresa of Avila

Loyola Press – Saint Teresa of Jesus (Ávila) Feast day October 15

My Catholic Life – St. Teresa of Ávila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

My Catholic Life – The Interior Journey Towards God: Reflections from Saint Teresa of Avila by John Paul Thomas

New Advent – Zimmerman, B. (1912). St. Teresa of Avila. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Teresa of Avila’s Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Saint of the Day – October 15 St. Teresa of Avila

Sanctoral – Saint Teresa of Avila

uCatholic – After Saint Teresa of Avila Died, 10 Days Were Lost to the World. Heres Why…

Wikipedia – Teresa of Ávila

Video Links

St. Teresa of Avila – YouTube Video (Catholic Online)