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St. Teresa of Avila

Doctor of the Church

Saint Teresa was a Spanish nun, one of the great mystics and religious women of the Roman Catholic Church, and author of spiritual classics. She was the originator of the Carmelite Reform, which restored and emphasized the austerity and contemplative character of primitive Carmelite life.

St. Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, original name Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada. She was born on 28th March 1515, Ávila, Spain and died on the 4th October 1582.  Her mother died in 1529, and, despite her father’s opposition, Teresa entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Ávila in 1535.

While she was in the convent her health collapsed, and she was an invalid for three years, during which time she developed a love for mental prayer. Her family looked for solutions in different drugs, medical doctors and healers. After her recovery, however, she “stopped praying”.  She considered herself far from God, as if God would have left her.

She continued for 15 years in a state divided between a worldly and a divine spirit, until 1555 in which  she underwent a religious awakening. It was only then that she discovered the plans that God had for her: the reformation of the Carmelite order, and to contribute to the reformation of the Church, which was so divided due to the internal corruption and the Reformation.

In 1558 Teresa began to consider the restoration of Carmelite life to its original observance of austerity, which had relaxed in the 14th and 15th centuries. Her reform required utter withdrawal so that the nuns could meditate on divine law and, through a prayerful life of penance, exercise what she termed “our vocation of reparation” for the sins of humankind. In 1562, with Pope Pius IV’s authorization, she opened the first convent (St. Joseph’s) of the Carmelite Reform. A storm of hostility came from municipal and religious personages, especially because the convent existed without endowment, but she staunchly insisted on poverty and subsistence only through public alms. At that time there were many girls living inside the convent without a real vocation and not following the Carmelite rules.

John Baptist Rossi, the Carmelite prior general from Rome, went to Ávila in 1567 and approved the reform, directing Teresa to found more convents and to establish monasteries. In the same year, while at Medina del Campo, Spain, she met a young Carmelite priest, Juan de Yepes (later St. John of the Cross, the poet and mystic), who she realized could initiate the Carmelite Reform for men. A year later Juan opened the first monastery of the Primitive Rule at Duruelo, Spain.

Forty years after her death, in 1622, Teresa was canonized by Pope Gregory XV. St. James the Apostle is the Patron Saint of Spain. But the whole country has great devotion and pays reverence to the life and writings of St Teresa. She is called: the Great Teresa. However, not until 27 September 1970 did Pope Paul VI proclaim Teresa the first female Doctor of the Church in recognition of her centuries-long spiritual legacy to Catholicism.

Saint's Prayers

About the Saint

Feast Day:
The feast of Saint Teresa of Avila is celebrated on the 15th October.
Patron of:
She is the patron Saint of Writers and people who suffer from headaches.
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