Teresa of Ávila

Teresa of Ávila

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Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, (March 28, 1515 October 4, 1582) was a prominent Spanish mystic
Spanish mystics
The Spanish Mystics are major figures in the Catholic Reformation of 16th and 17th century Spain. The goal of this movement was to reform the Church structurally and to renew it spiritually...

, Roman Catholic saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

, Carmelite
Carmelites
The Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel or Carmelites is a Catholic religious order perhaps founded in the 12th century on Mount Carmel, hence its name. However, historical records about its origin remain uncertain...

 nun
Nun
A nun is a woman who has taken vows committing her to live a spiritual life. She may be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live her life in prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent...

, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer
Mental prayer
Mental prayer is a form of prayer recommended in the Catholic Church whereby one loves God through dialogue, meditating on God's words, and contemplation of his face. It is a time of silence focused on God...

. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be, along with John of the Cross
John of the Cross
John of the Cross , born Juan de Yepes Álvarez, was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, Catholic saint, Carmelite friar and priest, born at Fontiveros, Old Castile....

, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites
Discalced Carmelites
The Discalced Carmelites, or Barefoot Carmelites, is a Catholic mendicant order with roots in the eremitic tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers...

.

In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV
Pope Gregory XV
Pope Gregory XV , born Alessandro Ludovisi, was pope from 1621, succeeding Paul V on 9 February 1621...

, and in 1970 named a Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose...

 by Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...

. Her books, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus, and her seminal work, El Castillo Interior
El Castillo Interior
El Castillo Interior or Las Moradas was written by Saint Teresa of Ávila in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development, through service and prayer...

 (The Interior Castle), are an integral part of the Spanish Renaissance literature
Spanish Renaissance literature
Spanish Renaissance literature is the literature written in Spain during the Renaissance.-Introduction:The political, religious, literary, and war relations between Italy and Spain since the second half of the 15th century caused a remarkable cultural interchange between these two countries...

 as well as Christian mysticism
Christian mysticism
Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions...

 and Christian meditation
Christian meditation
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice...

 practices as she entails in her other important work Camino de Perfección
Camino de Perfección
El Camino de Perfección is a method for making progress in the contemplative life written by St. Teresa of Ávila for the sisters of her reformed convent of the Carmelite Order . St...

 (The Way of Perfection).

Early life


Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in 1515 in Gotarrendura, in the province of Ávila, Spain. Her paternal grandfather, Juan de Toledo, was a marrano
Marrano
Marranos were Jews living in the Iberian peninsula who converted to Christianity rather than be expelled but continued to observe rabbinic Judaism in secret...

 (Jewish forced-convert to Christianity) and was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition
Spanish Inquisition
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition , commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition , was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval...

 for allegedly returning to the Jewish faith. Her father, Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, bought knighthood and successfully assimilated into Christian society. Teresa's mother, Beatriz, was especially keen to raise her daughter as a pious Christian. Teresa was fascinated by accounts of the lives of the saints, and ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. Her uncle stopped them as he was returning to the city, having spotted the two outside the city walls.

In the cloister, she suffered greatly from illness. Early in her sickness, she experienced periods of religious ecstasy through the use of the devotional book "Tercer abecedario espiritual," translated as the Third Spiritual Alphabet (published in 1527 and written by Francisco de Osuna). This work, following the example of similar writings of medieval mystics, consisted of directions for examinations of conscience and for spiritual self-concentration and inner contemplation (known in mystical nomenclature as oratio recollectionis or oratio mentalis). She also employed other mystical ascetic works such as the Tractatus de oratione et meditatione of Saint Peter of Alcantara
Peter of Alcantara
Saint Peter of Alcántara, O.F.M. was a Spanish Franciscan friar.- Biography :He was born at Alcántara, Province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain. His father, Peter Garavito, was the governor of Alcántara, and his mother was of the noble family of Sanabia...

, and perhaps many of those upon which Saint Ignatius of Loyola based his Spiritual Exercises and possibly the Spiritual Exercises themselves.
She claimed that during her illness she rose from the lowest stage, "recollection", to the "devotions of silence" or even to the "devotions of ecstasy", which was one of perfect union with God. During this final stage, she said she frequently experienced a rich "blessing of tears." As the Catholic distinction between mortal
Mortal sin
Mortal sins are in the theology of some, but not all Christian denominations wrongful acts that condemn a person to Hell after death. These sins are considered "mortal" because they constitute a rupture in a person's link to God's saving grace: the person's soul becomes "dead", not merely weakened...

 and venial sin became clear to her, she says she came to understand the awful terror of sin and the inherent nature of original sin. She also became conscious of her own natural impotence in confronting sin, and the necessity of absolute subjection to God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

.
Around 1556, various friends suggested that her newfound knowledge was diabolical
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

, not divine. She began to inflict various tortures and mortifications of the flesh
Mortification of the flesh
Mortification of the flesh literally means "putting the flesh to death". The term is primarily used in religious and spiritual contexts. The institutional and traditional terminology of this practice in Catholicism is corporal mortification....

 upon herself. But her confessor, the Jesuit Saint Francis Borgia
Francis Borgia
Saint Francis Borgia, 4th duke of Gandía, 3rd Father General of the Jesuit Order, Grandee of Spain, was a Spanish Jesuit and third Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was canonized on 20 June 1670.-Early life:He was born Francesco Borgia de Candia d'Aragon within the Duchy of Gandía,...

, reassured her of the divine inspiration of her thoughts. On St. Peter's Day in 1559, Teresa became firmly convinced that Jesus Christ presented himself to her in bodily form, though invisible. These visions lasted almost uninterrupted for more than two years. In another vision, a seraph drove the fiery point of a golden lance repeatedly through her heart, causing an ineffable spiritual-bodily pain.

This vision was the inspiration for one of Bernini's most famous works, the Ecstasy of St Teresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.

The memory of this episode served as an inspiration throughout the rest of her life, and motivated her life-long imitation of the life and suffering of Jesus, epitomized in the motto usually associated with her: Lord, either let me suffer or let me die.

Activities as reformer


The incentive to give outward practical expression to her inward motive was inspired in Teresa by the Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 priest Saint Peter of Alcantara
Peter of Alcantara
Saint Peter of Alcántara, O.F.M. was a Spanish Franciscan friar.- Biography :He was born at Alcántara, Province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain. His father, Peter Garavito, was the governor of Alcántara, and his mother was of the noble family of Sanabia...

 who became acquainted with her as Founder early in 1560, and became her spiritual guide and counselor. She now resolved to found a reformed Carmelite convent, correcting the laxity which she had found in the Cloister of the Incarnation and others. Guimara de Ulloa, a woman of wealth and a friend, supplied the funds. Teresa worked for many years encouraging the forcibly converted Jews of Spain to follow Christianity.

The absolute poverty of the new monastery, established in 1562 and named St. Joseph's (San José)
Convento de San José (Ávila)
The Convento de San José is a monastery of Discalced Carmelite nun in Ávila, Spain. It is situated not far from the center of the city but outside the medieval walls. Saint Teresa of Avila was the driving force behind the foundation of the monastery, which was built from 1562 onwards...

, at first excited a scandal among the citizens and authorities of Ávila, and the little house with its chapel was in peril of suppression; but powerful patrons, including the bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 himself, as well as the impression of well-secured subsistence and prosperity, turned animosity into applause.

In March 1563, when Teresa moved to the new cloister, she received the papal
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 sanction to her prime principle of absolute poverty and renunciation of property, which she proceeded to formulate into a "Constitution". Her plan was the revival of the earlier, stricter rules, supplemented by new regulations such as the three disciplines of ceremonial flagellation
Flagellation
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails and the sjambok...

 prescribed for the divine service every week, and the discalceation
Discalceation
Discalceation is a word that means "removal of footwear". St. Teresa of Ávila was one of a number of saints of the Roman Catholic Church who were "discalced," or shoeless. She was one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites religious order....

 of the nun. For the first five years, Teresa remained in pious seclusion, engaged in writing.
In 1567, she received a patent from the Carmelite general, Rubeo de Ravenna, to establish new houses of her order, and in this effort and later visitations she made long journeys through nearly all the provinces of Spain
Provinces of Spain
Spain and its autonomous communities are divided into fifty provinces .In other languages of Spain:*Catalan/Valencian , sing. província.*Galician , sing. provincia.*Basque |Galicia]] — are not also the capitals of provinces...

. Of these she gives a description in her "Libro de las Fundaciones." Between 1567 and 1571, reform convents were established at Medina del Campo
Medina del Campo
Medina del Campo is a town located in the middle of the Spanish Meseta Central, in the province of Valladolid, Castile-Leon autonomous region, 45 km from Valladolid. It is the capital of a farming area, far away from the great economic centres.-History:...

, Malagon, Valladolid
Valladolid
Valladolid is a historic city and municipality in north-central Spain, situated at the confluence of the Pisuerga and Esgueva rivers, and located within three wine-making regions: Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Cigales...

, Toledo
Toledo, Spain
Toledo's Alcázar became renowned in the 19th and 20th centuries as a military academy. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 its garrison was famously besieged by Republican forces.-Economy:...

, Pastrana, Salamanca
Salamanca
Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to...

, and Alba de Tormes
Alba de Tormes
Alba de Tormes is a municipality in the province of Salamanca, western Spain, part of the autonomous community of Castile-Leon. The town is on the River Tormes upstream from the city of Salamanca. Alba gave its name to one of Spain's most important dukedoms. St Teresa of Ávila died at a convent...

.

As part of her original patent, Teresa was given permission to set up two houses for men who wished to adopt the reforms; she convinced John of the Cross
John of the Cross
John of the Cross , born Juan de Yepes Álvarez, was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, Catholic saint, Carmelite friar and priest, born at Fontiveros, Old Castile....

 and Anthony of Jesus to help with this. They founded the first convent of Discalced Carmelite Brethren in November 1568 at Duruello. Another friend, Gerónimo Grecian, Carmelite visitator of the older observance of Andalusia
Andalusia
Andalusia is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities of Spain. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a nationality of Spain. The territory is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and...

 and apostolic commissioner, and later provincial of the Teresian reforms, gave her powerful support in founding convents at Segovia
Segovia
Segovia is a city in Spain, the capital of Segovia Province in the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is situated north of Madrid, 30 minutes by high speed train. The municipality counts some 55,500 inhabitants.-Etymology:...

 (1571), Beas de Segura (1574), Seville
Seville
Seville is the artistic, historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of above sea level...

 (1575), and Caravaca de la Cruz
Caravaca de la Cruz
Caravaca de la Cruz is a town and municipality of southeastern Spain in the province of Murcia, near the left bank of the River Argos, a tributary of the Segura. This city is the capital of the northwest Region of Murcia. It has a population of 26,449 as of 2010...

 (Murcia, 1576), while the deeply mystical John, by his power as teacher and preacher, promoted the inner life of the movement.

In 1576 a series of persecutions began on the part of the older observant Carmelite order against Teresa, her friends, and her reforms. Pursuant to a body of resolutions adopted at the general chapter at Piacenza
Piacenza
Piacenza is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza...

, the "definitors" of the order forbade all further founding of convents. The general condemned her to voluntary retirement to one of her institutions. She obeyed and chose St. Joseph's at Toledo. Her friends and subordinates were subjected to greater trials.
Finally, after several years her pleadings by letter with King Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 secured relief. As a result, in 1579, the processes before the inquisition
Inquisition
The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis , was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy...

 against her, Grecian, and others were dropped, which allowed the reform to continue. A brief of Pope Gregory XIII
Pope Gregory XIII
Pope Gregory XIII , born Ugo Boncompagni, was Pope from 1572 to 1585. He is best known for commissioning and being the namesake for the Gregorian calendar, which remains the internationally-accepted civil calendar to this date.-Youth:He was born the son of Cristoforo Boncompagni and wife Angela...

 allowed a special provincial for the younger branch of the discalced nuns, and a royal rescript created a protective board of four assessors for the reform.

During the last three years of her life, Teresa founded convents at Villanueva de la Jara in northern Andalusia
Andalusia
Andalusia is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities of Spain. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a nationality of Spain. The territory is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and...

 (1580), Palencia
Palencia
Palencia is a city south of Tierra de Campos, in north-northwest Spain, the capital of the province of Palencia in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon...

 (1580), Soria
Soria
Soria is a city in north-central Spain, the capital of the province of Soria in the autonomous community of Castile and León. , the municipality has a population of c. 39,500 inhabitants, nearly 40% of the population of the province...

 (1581), Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

, and Granada
Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

 (1582). In total seventeen convents, all but one founded by her, and as many men's cloisters were due to her reform activity of twenty years.

Her final illness overtook her on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes
Alba de Tormes
Alba de Tormes is a municipality in the province of Salamanca, western Spain, part of the autonomous community of Castile-Leon. The town is on the River Tormes upstream from the city of Salamanca. Alba gave its name to one of Spain's most important dukedoms. St Teresa of Ávila died at a convent...

. She died in 1582, just as Catholic nations were making the switch from the Julian
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 to the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

, which required the removal 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."

In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV
Pope Gregory XV
Pope Gregory XV , born Alessandro Ludovisi, was pope from 1621, succeeding Paul V on 9 February 1621...

. The Cortes
Cortes Generales
The Cortes Generales is the legislature of Spain. It is a bicameral parliament, composed of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate . The Cortes has power to enact any law and to amend the constitution...

 exalted her to patroness of Spain in 1617, and the University of Salamanca
University of Salamanca
The University of Salamanca is a Spanish higher education institution, located in the town of Salamanca, west of Madrid. It was founded in 1134 and given the Royal charter of foundation by King Alfonso IX in 1218. It is the oldest founded university in Spain and the third oldest European...

 previously conferred the title Doctor ecclesiae with a diploma. The title is Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 for Doctor of the Church, but is distinct from the papal honor of Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose...

, which is always conferred posthumously and was finally bestowed upon her by Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...

 in 1970 along with Saint Catherine of Siena making them the first women to be awarded the distinction. Teresa is revered as the Doctor of Prayer. The mysticism in her works exerted a formative influence upon many theologians of the following centuries, such as Francis of Sales, Fénelon, and the Port-Royal
Port-Royal
Port-Royal-des-Champs was an abbey of Cistercian nuns in Magny-les-Hameaux, in the Vallée de Chevreuse southwest of Paris that launched a number of culturally important institutions.-History:...

ists.

Mysticism



The kernel of Teresa's mystical thought throughout all her writings is the ascent of the soul in four stages (The Autobiography Chs. 10-22):

The first, or "mental prayer
Mental prayer
Mental prayer is a form of prayer recommended in the Catholic Church whereby one loves God through dialogue, meditating on God's words, and contemplation of his face. It is a time of silence focused on God...

", is that of devout contemplation or concentration, the withdrawal of the soul from without and specially the devout observance of the passion of Christ and penitence (Autobiography 11.20).

The second is the "prayer of quiet
Prayer of Quiet
The Prayer of Quiet is a term from Christian theology. It is regarded by writers on mystical theology as one of the degrees of contemplation or contemplative prayer, and must be distinguished therefore from meditation and from affective prayer. It holds an intermediary place between the latter and...

", in which at least the human will is lost in that of God by virtue of a charismatic, supernatural state given of God, while the other faculties, such as memory, reason, and imagination, are not yet secure from worldly distraction. While a partial distraction is due to outer performances such as repetition of prayers and writing down spiritual things, yet the prevailing state is one of quietude (Autobiography 14.1).

The "devotion of union" is not only a supernatural but an essentially ecstatic
Religious ecstasy
Religious ecstasy is an altered state of consciousness characterized by greatly reduced external awareness and expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness which is frequently accompanied by visions and emotional/intuitive euphoria...

 state. Here there is also an absorption of the reason in God, and only the memory and imagination are left to ramble. This state is characterized by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of at least the higher soul faculties, a conscious rapture in the love of God.

The fourth is the "devotion of ecstasy or rapture," a passive state, in which the consciousness of being in the body disappears . Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, intermitted sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. From this the subject awakens in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, productive of the trance
Trance
Trance denotes a variety of processes, ecstasy, techniques, modalities and states of mind, awareness and consciousness. Trance states may occur involuntarily and unbidden.The term trance may be associated with meditation, magic, flow, and prayer...

. (Indeed, she was said to have been observed levitating during Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 on more than one occasion (The Interior Castle St Teresa Of Avila translated by Mirabai Starr.)

Teresa is one of the foremost writers on mental prayer
Mental prayer
Mental prayer is a form of prayer recommended in the Catholic Church whereby one loves God through dialogue, meditating on God's words, and contemplation of his face. It is a time of silence focused on God...

, and her position among writers on mystical theology is unique. In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight and analytical gifts enabled her to explain clearly. Her definition was used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us."

Throughout her writings, persistent metaphors provide a vivid illustration of the image of mystic prayer as watering a garden.

Writings


Teresa's writings, produced for didactic purposes, stand among the most remarkable in the mystical literature
Christian mysticism
Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions...

 of the Catholic Church:
  • The "Autobiography," written before 1567, under the direction of her confessor, Fr Pedro Ibáñez;
  • " El Camino de Perfección
    Camino de Perfección
    El Camino de Perfección is a method for making progress in the contemplative life written by St. Teresa of Ávila for the sisters of her reformed convent of the Carmelite Order . St...

    ", written also before 1567, at the direction of her confessor;
  • "Meditations on Song of Songs", 1567, written nominally for her daughters at the convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
  • "El Castillo Interior
    El Castillo Interior
    El Castillo Interior or Las Moradas was written by Saint Teresa of Ávila in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development, through service and prayer...

    ", written in 1577;
  • "Relaciones", an extension of the autobiography giving her inner and outer experiences in epistolary form.

  • Two smaller works are the "Conceptos del Amor" ("Concepts of Love") and "Exclamaciones". In addition, there are "Las Cartas" (Saragossa, 1671), or her correspondence, of which there are 342 extant letters and 87 fragments of others. St Teresa's prose is marked by an unaffected grace, an ornate neatness, and charming power of expression, together placing her in the front rank of Spanish prose writers; and her rare poems ("Todas las poesías", Munster
    Munster
    Munster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the south of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes...

    , 1854) are distinguished for tenderness of feeling and rhythm of thought.

Excerpts



Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All thing are passing;
God never changeth;
Patient endurance
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting
Alone God sufficeth.
-Liturgy of the Hours



In Spanish, it is a song called "Nada te turbe" after the first line.

Saint Teresa, who reported visions of Jesus and Mary
Visions of Jesus and Mary
Since the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary until today, a number of people have claimed to have had visions of Christ and personal conversations with him. Some people make similar claims regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary. Discussions about the authenticity of these visions have often invited...

, was a strong believer in the power of holy water
Holy water
Holy water is water that, in Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and some other churches, has been sanctified by a priest for the purpose of baptism, the blessing of persons, places, and objects; or as a means of repelling evil.The use for baptism and...

 and wrote that she used it with success to repel evil and temptations. She wrote:


I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to
flight like holy water.



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.
~The bookmark of Teresa of Avila


Portrayals

  • "St. Teresa" was painted in 1819–20 by François Gérard, a French neoclassical painter.
  • Saint Teresa was the inspiration for one of Bernini's most famous works, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria
    Santa Maria della Vittoria
    Santa Maria della Vittoria is a roman catholic titular church and minor basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in Rome, Italy. The church is known for the masterpiece of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa....

     in Rome.
  • Simone de Beauvoir
    Simone de Beauvoir
    Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, often shortened to Simone de Beauvoir , was a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, and social theorist. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography in several volumes, and monographs on philosophy, politics, and...

     singles out Teresa as a woman who lived her life for herself (perhaps the only woman to do so) in her book The Second Sex
    The Second Sex
    The Second Sex is one of the best-known works of the French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir. It is a work on the treatment of women throughout history and often regarded as a major work of feminist literature and the starting point of second-wave feminism. Beauvoir researched and wrote the book...

    .
  • Saint Teresa features prominently in Joan Osborne
    Joan Osborne
    Joan Elizabeth Osborne is an American singer-songwriter. She is best known for her song "One of Us". She has toured with Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers and was featured in the documentary film about them, Standing in the Shadows of Motown.-Biography:Originally from Anchorage, Kentucky, a suburb...

    's song with the same name.
  • She is a principal character of the opera Four Saints in Three Acts
    Four Saints in Three Acts
    Four Saints in Three Acts is an opera by American composer Virgil Thomson with a libretto by Gertrude Stein. Written in 1927-8, it contains about 20 saints, and is in at least four acts...

     by the composer Virgil Thomson
    Virgil Thomson
    Virgil Thomson was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music...

     with a libretto by Gertrude Stein
    Gertrude Stein
    Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

    .
  • She is mentioned prominently in Kathryn Harrison
    Kathryn Harrison
    Kathryn Harrison is an American author.-Background and education:Harrison's maternal grandparents raised her in Los Angeles, California...

    's novel Poison. The main character, Francisca De Luarca, is fascinated by her life.
  • R. A. Lafferty
    R. A. Lafferty
    Raphael Aloysius Lafferty was an American science fiction and fantasy writer known for his original use of language, metaphor, and narrative structure, as well as for his etymological wit...

     was strongly inspired by El Castillo Interior
    El Castillo Interior
    El Castillo Interior or Las Moradas was written by Saint Teresa of Ávila in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development, through service and prayer...

     when he wrote his novel Fourth Mansions. Quotations from St. Teresa's work are frequently used as chapter headings.
  • Pierre Klossowski
    Pierre Klossowski
    Pierre Klossowski was a French writer, translator and artist. He was the eldest son of the artists Erich Klossowski and Baladine Klossowska, and his younger brother was the painter Balthus.-Life:...

     prominently features Saint Teresa of Ávila in his metaphysical novel Baphomet
    Baphomet
    Baphomet is an imagined pagan deity , revived in the 19th century as a figure of occultism and Satanism. It appeared as a term for a pagan idol in trial transcripts of the Inquisition of the Knights Templar in the early 14th century...

    .
  • George Eliot
    George Eliot
    Mary Anne Evans , better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era...

     compared Dorothea Brooke to St. Teresa in Middlemarch
    Middlemarch
    Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, later Marian Evans. It is her seventh novel, begun in 1869 and then put aside during the final illness of Thornton Lewes, the son of her companion George Henry Lewes...

     (1871–1872) and wrote briefly about the life and works of St. Teresa in the "Prelude" to the novel.
  • The contemporary poet Jorie Graham
    Jorie Graham
    Jorie Graham is an American poet. The U.S. Poetry Foundation suggests "She is perhaps the most celebrated poet of the American post-war generation". She replaced poet Seamus Heaney as Boylston Professor at Harvard, becoming the first woman to be appointed to this position...

     features Saint Teresa in the poem Breakdancing in her volume The End of Beauty.
  • Paz Vega
    Paz Vega
    Paz Campos Trigo , better known as Paz Vega, is a Spanish actress.- Early life :Vega was born in Seville, Andalusia, Spain to a homemaker mother and a retired bullfighter father. Vega's younger sister has performed as a flamenco dancer. Vega has described her family as "traditional" and Catholic....

     stars as Teresa in Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo, a 2007 Spanish biopic
    Biographical film
    A biographical film, or biopic , is a film that dramatizes the life of an actual person or people. They differ from films “based on a true story” or “historical films” in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a person’s life story or at least the most historically important years of their...

     directed by Ray Loriga
    Ray Loriga
    Jorge Loriga Torrenova also known as Ray Loriga, is a Spanish author, screenwriter, and director . His first novel Lo Peor de todo , was published in 1992, and was followed by Héroes in 1993....

    .
  • Barbara Mujica
    Barbara Mujica
    Barbara Mujica is an American novelist, short story writer and critic.Her latest novels are Sister Teresa , based on the life of Saint Teresa of Ávila, and Frida, based on the life of Frida Kahlo...

    's novel Sister Teresa, while not strictly hagiographical, is based upon Teresa's life.
  • St. Teresa was the subject of a 1959 play, "La Madre"; she was portrayed by actress Kate Wilkinson
    Kate Wilkinson
    Kate Wilkinson was an American stage, film and television actress, best known for her roles as Viola Stapleton in the CBS soap opera Guiding Light, a role she played from 1976 to 1981, and Clara Hudson on the NBC soap opera Another World, which she played from 1987 to 1989.In addition to...

    .
  • Performance art
    Performance art
    In art, performance art is a performance presented to an audience, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or...

    ist Linda Montano
    Linda Montano
    Linda Mary Montano is a central figure in contemporary performance art. She was raised in a devoutly Roman Catholic household, partly Irish and partly Italian, that was surrounded by artistic activity...

     has cited Teresa of Ávila as one of the most important influences on her work and since her return to Catholicism in the 2000s has done performances of her life.
  • Concha Velasco
    Concha Velasco
    Concepción Velasco Varona, known as Concha Velasco or Conchita Velasco, is a Spanish film actress, theatre actress, singer, and TV conductor. She was born at Valladolid November 29, 1939...

     portrays Teresa in Teresa de Jesús (film)
    Teresa de Jesús (film)
    Teresa de Jesús is a 1984 film mini-series that premiered on Spanish television in 1984. It presents the life of Teresa of Avila, a Spanish saint, mystic, and doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. Its dialogue is in Spanish, but versions with English subtitles are available. The film stars Concha...

    , a 1984 television miniseries directed by Josefina Molina
    Josefina Molina
    Josefina Molina is a Spanish film director and screenwriter. Her 1989 film Esquilache was entered into the 39th Berlin International Film Festival...

    .

See also

  • Visions of Jesus and Mary
    Visions of Jesus and Mary
    Since the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary until today, a number of people have claimed to have had visions of Christ and personal conversations with him. Some people make similar claims regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary. Discussions about the authenticity of these visions have often invited...

  • Saints and levitation
    Saints and levitation
    There are numerous saints to whom the ability to fly or levitate has been attributed. Most of these "flying saints" are mentioned as such in literature and sources associated with them....

  • Carmelite Rule of St. Albert
    Carmelite Rule of St. Albert
    The eremitic Rule of St. Albert is the shortest of the rules of consecrated life in existence of the Roman Catholic spiritual tradition. St. Albert Avogadro, a priest of the Canons Regular and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote the Rule in the early 13th century. The Rule is directed to Brother...

  • Book of the First Monks
    Book of the First Monks
    The Book of the First Monks is a medieval Christian work in the contemplative and eremetic tradition of the Carmelites. It is one of the most important documents of the Order, because it shaped many of the Saints from the Carmelite Order in the basic spirituality of the first Hermits...

  • Constitutions of the Carmelite Order
    Constitutions of the Carmelite Order
    The stand as an expression of the ideals and spirit of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.Foundational sources for the Constitutions include the desert hermit vocation as exemplified in the life of the Prophet Elijah. For the Carmelite the contemplative vocation is exemplified par excellence...

  • Byzantine Discalced Carmelites
    Byzantine Discalced Carmelites
    The Byzantine Discalced Carmelites are a community of cloistered nuns of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church living committed to a life of prayer, according to the eremitic tradition and lifestyle of the Discalced Carmelites....

  • Spanish Renaissance literature
    Spanish Renaissance literature
    Spanish Renaissance literature is the literature written in Spain during the Renaissance.-Introduction:The political, religious, literary, and war relations between Italy and Spain since the second half of the 15th century caused a remarkable cultural interchange between these two countries...

  • Asín on mystical analogies in St. Teresa of Avila and Islam
  • Mental prayer
    Mental prayer
    Mental prayer is a form of prayer recommended in the Catholic Church whereby one loves God through dialogue, meditating on God's words, and contemplation of his face. It is a time of silence focused on God...

  • Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites
    Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites
    The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites , officially Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum Saecularis, and formerly known as the Third Secular Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and of the Holy Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, is an association in the Roman Catholic Church, with lay persons...

  • Teresa de Jesús
    Teresa de Jesús (film)
    Teresa de Jesús is a 1984 film mini-series that premiered on Spanish television in 1984. It presents the life of Teresa of Avila, a Spanish saint, mystic, and doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. Its dialogue is in Spanish, but versions with English subtitles are available. The film stars Concha...

    , 1994 Spanish language mini-series

Further reading

  • "The Interior Castle - The Mansions," TAN Books, 1997. ISBN 9780895556042
  • "The Way of Perfection," TAN Books, 1997. ISBN 9780895556028
  • Teresa of Avila, "The Book of Her Life" (Translated, with Notes, by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD. Introduction by Jodi Bilinkoff). Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company
    Hackett Publishing Company
    Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. is an academic publishing house based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since beginning operations in 1972, Hackett has concentrated mainly on humanities, especially classical and philosophical texts. Many Hackett titles are used as textbooks, making the company very...

    , 2008. ISBN 978-0-87220-907-7
  • "The Delighted Angel" drama about Teresa of Ávila and Rabija al-Adavija by Dževad Karahasan, Vienna-Salzburg-Klagenfurt, ARBOS 1995.
  • "The Interior Castle (Edited by E. Allison Peers)," Doubleday, 1972. ISBN 978-0-385-03643-6
  • "The Way of Perfection (Translated and Edited by E. Allison Peers)," Doubleday, 1991. ISBN 978-0-385-06539-9
  • "The Life of Teresa of Jesus: The Autobiography of Teresa of Avila (Translated by E. Allison Peers)," Doubleday, 1991. ISBN 978-0-385-01109-9
  • "Teresa of Avila: An Extraordinary Life", Shirley du Boulay, Bluebridge, 1995 ISBN 978-09742-4052-7
  • "Teresa: Outstanding Christian Thinkers," Rowan Williams
    Rowan Williams
    Rowan Douglas Williams FRSL, FBA, FLSW is an Anglican bishop, poet and theologian. He is the 104th and current Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and Primate of All England, offices he has held since early 2003.Williams was previously Bishop of Monmouth and...

    , Continuum, 1991. ISBN 0-8264-5081-4
  • "The Eagle and the Dove" Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. by Vita Sackville-West
    Vita Sackville-West
    The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, CH , best known as Vita Sackville-West, was an English author, poet and gardener. She won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927 and 1933...

    . First published in 1943 by Michael Joseph LTD, 26 Bloomsbury Street, London, W.C.1
  • "Castles in the Sand" fiction with cited sources about Teresa of Avila by Carolyn A. Greene, Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9791315-4-7
  • "15 Days of Prayer with Saint Teresa of Avila" by Jean Abiven, New City Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-56548-366-8
  • Bárbara Mujica, Teresa de Ávila: Lettered Woman (Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press, 2009).
  • E. Rhodes, "Teresa de Jesus's Book and the Reform of the Religious Man in Sixteenth Century Spain," in Laurence Lux-Sterritt and Carmen Mangion (eds), Gender, Catholicism and Spirituality: Women and the Roman Catholic Church in Britain and Europe, 1200-1900 (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011),

External links