Saint Teresa of Avila

Background

Teresa was born March 28. 1515 in Avila Spain. Between the ages of 7-20 she and her brother ran away three times to die a death in honor of God. When she was twelve, she strayed from religion and she may even have had a romantic interest in her early teens. This made her undesirable as a bride so her father sent her to a convent. There, she regained her spiritual interest. A little over a year after being there, she became sick and was on the verge of death from 1538-1543. As she got older, she began experiencing visions; in her most famous one, she felt like an angel was stabbing her heart. Many people were very skeptic of her visions and she was sometimes embarrassed to experience them in public. Teresa tried to incorporate a life of denial and poverty into everyday life.


Carmelite Establishments

In 1560, Teresa led a group of nuns in the more primitive Carmelite tradition. This meant they led a lead of prayer and poverty devoted to God. Two years later, she was granted permission to establish her own reform convent known as the barefoot Carmelites named after the Convent of St. Joseph. Teresa says that the five most peaceful years of her life were the ones led in the convent between 1562-1567. Giovanni Battista Rossi approved of Teresa's work in her own convent and instructed her to establish more. In the next nine years, she established 12 more convents throughout Spain. She then went on to establish two houses for men and her followers established many more in other countries. In 1571, the Carmelite Prronvincal asked her to return to Avila as a prioress at the Convent of the Incarnations. Although she did not want this position and the other nuns did not want her as their superior, she accepted and became a well liked prioress. As her popularity among the Carmelites grew, so did the dislike among the non-Carmelites. The Provincial of the Calced Carmelites prevented her reelection of prioress and forced her and her supporters out. Uneasiness remained betweeen the two groups until the Pope recognized the Discalced Carmelites as a seperate province in 1578 and a seperate order in 1594.


Guides to Spirituality

In 1562, Teresa began writing a book called Life, an autobiography describing her life devoted to God and her spiritual experiences. Later on, she added chapters comparing the stages of prayer to stages of watering a garden. She also went on to write Way of Perfection; a guide to other nuns on leading a monastic life. After establishing maany more convents, Teresa went on to write The Foundations; a book of encouragement and prayer; and The Interior Castle which describes the mental prayer and is a collection of her more spiritual thoughts. After her death, she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church for her writings which are still known as powerful guides to spirituality and prayer.


"Teresa of Avila." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Vol. 20. Detroit: Gale, 2000.Biography in Context. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.