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Saint Teresa of Avila

  • International
  • October 15, 2012
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Teresa Cepeda de Ahumada was born in Spain of an affluent family, and as a young woman opted to join the Carmelite order.

The religious orders of the day were lax and indisciplined - and the Carmelites were no exception. So Teresa’s early life as a religious was quite worldly. “I was so hard hearted,” she was to say in later life, “that I could read the Passion of the Lord and not even shed a tear.”

But in 1561, when she was about 46, she received a message from the Lord to reform the Carmelite order. This mission was accompanied by intense mystical graces, such as visions, ecstasies, levitation, and ‘spiritual espousal’ – the last described by Teresa as, “an angel pierced my heart with a burning shaft.” During this time the Jesuit, Francis Borgia helped her immensely to discern God’s will. It prompted Teresa, practical to the last, to say, “if given a choice for a spiritual guide, always choose a wise man over a holy man.”

The reform of Carmel was not easy, and she made many enemies. Still, she struggled on for the last 20 years of her life, and founded 17 convents of ‘barefoot’ Carmelite nuns and 15 monasteries of friars of the Reformed Carmel. St John of the Cross, the great Carmelite mystic poet, was her great friend and supporter.

Teresa of Avila was also a great spiritual writer, and her writings The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle, are perennial classics. She is one of the few women saints whose writings raised her to be ‘a doctor of the Church’ and she continues to inspire men and women today by her lofty inspiration and her practical wisdom. We leave you with one of her most famous quotes:
“Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass away.
Only God never changes. God alone suffices.”
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