St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) (1515-1582)

March 28, 1515–Born

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Monastery of the Incarnation

‘On Wednesday, the twenty-eighth day of the month March of the year 1515, about half an hour after five o’clock in the morning, with the first glimmer of the light of day, Teresa, my daughter was born.’

That very day saw the inauguration  of the convent of the Incarnation, a house of Carmelite nuns of Mitigated observance in Avila which she would later join and over fifty years later, reform…-St. Teresa of Avila, Marcella Auclair


1522–Childhood

I had one brother about my age: We used to get together and read the lives of the saints…When I considered the martyrdoms the saints suffered for God, it seemed to me that the price they paid for going to enjoy God was very cheap, and I greatly desired to die in the same way…my brother and I discussed together the means we should take to achieve this. We agreed to go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there.”  –  LIfe


1527–Mother Dies

“I remember that when my mother died I was twelve years old…When I began to understand what I lost, I went, afflicted, before an image of our Lady and besought her with many tears to be my mother. It seems to me that although I did this in simplicity it helped me. For I have found favor with this sovereign Virgin in everything I have asked of her, and in the end she has drawn me to herself.” –Life


Teens

It was said of her at Avila, ‘Teresa de Ahumada? She will marry whom she chooses.’

“I began to dress in finery and to desire to please and look pretty, taking great care of my hands and hair and about perfumes and all empty things in which one can indulge, and which were many for I was very vain…it doesn’t seem to me three months had gone by when my father brought me to a convent school…My soul began to return to the good habits of early childhood.-St. Teresa of Avila,  Marcella Auclair


1531–Vocation Beginnings

Our Lady of Grace Convent School …’There was a nun…in care of the dormitory…  ‘

“She began to tell me how she arrived at the decision to become a nun solely by reading what the Gospel says: many are called and few are chosen. She told me about the reward the Lord  grants those who give up all for Him.” –Life


1535–Carmel

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St. Teresa’s Cell

“I remember, clearly and truly, that when I left my father’s house I felt that separation so keenly that the feeling will not be greater when I die…As soon as I took the habit, the Lord gave me an understanding of how he favors those who use force with themselves to serve him. Within an hour, He gave me such great happiness as being in the religious state of life that it never left me too this day…Life


1538–Early Prayer

Recovering from an illness at her uncle’s house, at age 23,  her Uncle Don Pedro asked her how she prayed. She told him frankly of her struggles…

He shook his head, ‘It is essential to pray and to pray much.’

‘I do pray,’ she said.

‘How do you pray? ‘

‘Vocally.’

‘The only thing that counts is prayer, by which I mean mental prayer, recollection.’

He went to the bookshelf.

‘Here is a treatise on recollection for you; the Third Spiritual Alphabet’.

She opened at random.

…Vocal prayer, as you have seen, is a petition we make to God to ask him for what is necessary for us….The second form of prayer, that is without pronouncing words on the lips, leaves us free so that our heart alone speaks to Our Lord… The third, which may be termed mental or spiritual prayer, is that which the highest point of the soul, sustained by love, soars upward to God in the purest and most loving way possible on the wings of desire…”

‘Take it, it’s yours,’ said Don Pedro.

And so began St. Teresa’s introduction to mental prayer and recollection.–Life


1554–Holy Week Conversion Experience

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Our Lord with the Beautiful Eyes
St. Joseph’s Hermitage

“One day as I entered the oratory saw before me an image of the Savior that someone had placed there for an upcoming feast day. This image showed our divine Master covered with wounds and with such a peaceful expression that I was moved by it. More than before I apprehended what the Savior had suffered for us. At the same time I experienced my own lack of thankfulness so bitterly that it seemed my heart would break. I fell at the feet of my divine Master and through a stream of tears pleaded with Him to give me the strength not to offend Him anymore. I called on the presence of the holy Magdalene whom I already love fervently and whose conversion I revered. She came to my help. Without trusting my good intentions, I put my whole trust in God. If I still remember this correctly, I said to Him I would not get up until He had heard my plea and I knew for certain that He wanted to grant it. For on that day true life began for me and I never stopped improving.”–Letters 9,1-2


1560–The Reform

Since she could not, as she would have liked, extol God’s mercy throughout the entire world, she at least wanted to gather some select souls around her who would dedicate themselves to poverty, withdrawal, constant prayer, and the strictness of the primitive Rule, Already full of this thought, which was not a simple fantasy but a firm decision, she conceived of how she would surround herself with a small band of noble souls who were ready to join her in doing what was most perfect. She considered how she might pray day and night to be a constant support to those destined to save souls…It seemed to her as though she were already in the situation, which appeared to her as  paradise. She saw herself already living in the little house clad in sackcloth, enclosed behind the walls, only occupied with prayer, and hurrying with her companions to serve the Beloved. –St. Edith Stein, Essay on the Reform-The Hidden Life


Transpiercing of Her Soul

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Bernini’s Sculpture

‘ …the angel was not large but small; he was very beautiful, and his face was so aflame that he seemed to be one of those very sublime angels that appear to be all afire. They must belong to those they call cherubim, for they didn’t tell me their names. But I see clearly that in heaven there is so much difference between some angels and others and between these latter and still others that I wouldn’t know how to explain it. I saw in his hands a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. It seemed to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart and that it reached deep within me. When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God.’ –Way of Perfection


Conversations with Jesus

One month after her soul was transpierced…

“On the vigil of St. Lawrence, just after receiving Communion, my mental faculties were so scattered and distracted I couldn’t help myself, and I began to envy those who live in deserts and to think that since they don’t hear or see anything they are free of this wandering of mind. I heard: “You are greatly mistaken, daughter; rather, the temptations of the devil there are stronger; be patient, for as long as you live, a wandering mind cannot be avoided.” –Spiritual Testimonies


Thoughts on Her Writing

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Autograph of The Way of Perfection

‘Why do they want me to write things? Let learned men, who have studied, do the writing. I am a stupid creature and I don’t know what I am saying. There are more than enough books written on prayer already. For the love of God, let me get on with my spinning and go to choir and do my religious duties like the other sisters. I am not meant for writing; I neither have the health nor the wits for it.’                 –Way of Perfection


Letters

To a friend in Salamanca on buying a house…(for the foundations)

“I beg you start negotiations about buying the house at once- without letting it be seen how much we want it- for if you do that the price will go up.”

It has been calculated that in the last twenty years of her life St. Teresa must of written between fifteen and twenty thousand letters…about five hundred survived.     Saint Teresa of Avila   A Spiritual Adventure

 


Spiritual Marriage

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Boston Carmel Chapel

When I was at the Incarnation, during the second year I was Prioress…(The Lord ) revealed Himself to me, in an imaginary vision, most interiorly, and He gave me His right hand, saying to me: “Behold this nail. It is a sign that from today onward you shall be my bride.“ –The Foundations


Salamanca

One Day while I was anxiously desiring to help the Order, the Lord told me: “ Do what  lies in your power; surrender yourself to me, and do not be disturbed about anything; rejoice in the good that has been given you, for it is very great; my Father takes His delight in you and the Holy Spirit loves you.” –Spiritual Testimonies


1575– New Foundation Adventures

Boston-Carmel_070bIn a covered wagon, with men, muleteers, leading the way for the Foundation of Beas along a treacherous mountain path.

‘Those men no longer know where they are going. Let us betake ourselves to prayer, Sisters, let us ask our Lord and St. Joseph to guide us!’

Then a voice rose…’Sto-o-op Sto-o-o-p! You will overturn and roll down the precipice if you go that w-a-ay! ‘

‘Where can we pass!’, the men exclaimed alarmed .

‘Go gently backwards, there’s no danger in that….you will find the right tack aga-a-ain!’ They were actually slipping down a very steep abyss.

They did as the voice commanded and were safe. Then the men began searching for the shepherd to thank him.

St. Teresa said to her daughters, ‘ I don’t like letting them go on looking ,for they will not find anybody.  However, we can’t tell them that the voice we heard is our father St. Joseph’s answer to our prayers.’ –The Foundations


"I don't know why they call me Foundress since it is God who has founded these houses!"

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October 4, 1582–Death

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Relic of St. Teresa’s Heart

On the morning of the feast of St. Francis, at about 7 o’clock, our Holy mother turned on her side toward the nuns, a crucifix in her hand, her expression more beautiful, more glowing, than I had ever seen it during her life. I do not know how her wrinkles disappeared, since our Holy Mother, in view of her great age and her continual suffering, had very deep ones. She remained in this position in prayer full of deep peace and great repose. ..it seemed as if she were hearing a voice that she answered. Her facial expression was so wondrously changed that it looked like a celestial body to us. Thus immersed in prayer, happy and smiling, she went out of this world into eternal life. –The Hidden life


First Woman Doctor of the Church

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St. Teresa’s doctoral cap

On October 15, 1967 Pope Paul Vl announced his intention of declaring St. Teresa a “Doctor of the Universal Church.” This unexpected announcement was a complete surprise because no woman had ever been given this official distinction. On September 27,1970  Pope Paul Vl declared   “Therefore, in complete certainty and after mature deliberation, with the fulness of the apostolic authority, We proclaim Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin from Avila, Doctor of the Universal Church.”

”It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” – St. Teresa of Jesus


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