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Saint Teresa of Avila

1515–1582
Civilization: Christian — Castile
   Field of Renown:  saint — Mystic
Era:  Early Modern

Avila
ST. TERESA OF AVILA
St. Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun who reformed the Carmelite Order, and wrote a number books on prayer during the period of the Counter Reformation. Her writings on Prayer and Meditation are recognized as extraordinarily valuable and she was made a Doctor of the Church in 1970. She is best known, however for her work founding and reforming convents. The convents of her age had slipped into very lax practices and she symbolized desire for genuine reform with the institutions of the Catholic Church.

Teresa was brought up in a pious family in central Spain. A story is told that she ran away from home at age seven to seek Martyrdom among the Moors, so that she could "be with God". Against her families wishes, she entered a convent at the age of twenty. During her early years in the convent she became ill due to poor medical care, underwent considerable long-term suffering. During this period she dedicated herself to prayer and meditation. She came under the Dominicans, and later, the newly formed Jesuit order, and read the works of well known mystical ascetics.

In 1560 St. Teresa began her active ministry of reform. Influenced by others involved in the Counter Reformation, Teresa recognized that many converts had adopted lax standards in contrast to the monastic principles on which they were founded. In some convents women lived in relative luxury with few restrictions, and little attention to spirituality. In 1562 she succeeded in founding a new convent, dedicated to poverty, and strict adherence to monastic rules. She took up took up her residence there and spent much time in writing books for the benefit of the sisters. Five years later she received permission to continue her work fouding other houses and for the next nine years established numerous convents. Working with John of the Cross, she help also to establish monasteries also based on strict orders. This order was later referred to as the Discalced, or barefoot Carmelites.

Not surprisingly, the established order of Carmelites opposed many of these reforms and made charges against her. In 1576 she was ordered to stop founding new convents, but after appealing to King Philip II, and Pope Gregory XIII, the complaints against her were dropped, and she was allowed to continue her work. In her last four years of life, she founded six more convents, for a total of seventeen. She died en route to Salamanca.


Key events during the life of St. Teresa of Avila:


Year
Event
1515
Born near Avila, Spain
1522
Ran away from home to find martyrdom with the Moors.
1535
Entered convent of the Incarnation in Avila.
1560
Began working to reform the convents.
1562
Established a reformed convent, based on absolute poverty.
1566
Wrote The Way of Perfection.
1567
Authorized to establish new houses
1575
Condemned to involuntary retirement by her adversaries.
1579
Proceedings against her dropped and she was allowed to continue ministry.
1580
Wrote The Interior Castle.
1582
Died on a journey from Burgos.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Theresa of Avila  in  Historic Girls  by  E. S. Brooks


Image Links


So, runaways, we have found you.' cried brother
 in Historic Girls

St. Teresa in Youth
 in Life of Teresa

The apparition of the Holy Child to St. Teresa
 in Life of Teresa

St. Teresa from the painting by Brother John de la Miseria
 in Life of Teresa

The last communion of St. Teresa
 in Life of Teresa

St. Teresa
 in Church - Early Modern Times


Contemporary
Short Biography
Saint John of the Cross Carmelite priest, poet and author associated with St. Teresa of Avila.
Philip II Catholic king of Spain and the Netherlands. Great enemy of Protestant Reformers.
St. Francis Borgia Early Jesuit priest, spiritual director of St. Teresa, and Superior General of the Jesuits.