St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila)
Doctor of the Church and Foundress of Discalced Carmelites
Feast Day: 15 October
Who was Teresa?
A brief biography
(taken from "A Little book of St Teresa by Don Mullen")
Quotes of St Teresa
of Avila, Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born during Spain's
Golden Age, on 28 March 1515, near Avila, just 23 years after
Christopher Columbus 'discovered' the Americas. Spain was then the most
powerful colonial power in the world.
Teresa was the third child of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and his
second wife, Dona Betriz Davila y Ahumada. Both parents were, she says,
''virtuous and God-fearing'. Teresa was in her early teens when her
mother died, aged 33. She had two sisters and nine brothers, including
a stepsister and brother, all of whom were supportive of her throughout
her life. Her brothers became conquistadors. Teresa, in her own unique
fashion was to become a conquistador of new and unexplored spiritual
Her father, Don Alonso, was stubborn and resolutely just. Despite his
wealth he was uncompromising in his refusal to keep slaves. In her
autobiographical writings Teresa describes him as 'charitable with the
poor and compassionate toward the sick...' He was, nonetheless, firmly
opposed to Teresa's entry into the Carmelite Order, which she entered
against his will.
As a child, Teresa showed signs of religious fervour but during
adolescence became frivolous and more concerned with her appearance.
However, as she approached adulthood she desired to singularly dedicate
her life to Jesus. Aged 21, Teresa joined the Carmelite convent of the
Incarnation, Avila - a bustling foundation with some 200 nuns and
associates. Due to ill health she left for two years during which she
was introduced to the practice of mental prayer. She was overwhelmed at
the discovery of God's merciful presence both in herself and all
sinners. This discovery became the core motivation of her reform of the
Carmelite way. After returning to the convent she felt called to a much
more contemplative life where solitude, silence and peace fostered a
deeply personal relationship with an all-forgiving God.
With great determination, fortitude and unshakable conviction, Teresa
faced down forceful opposition and every obstacle placed in her way.
On 24 August 1562 she founded the first of her reformed convents - St
Joseph's at Avila. She feared no one. With bold tenacity and her
infectious charm she
went on to found during her lifetime some 16 more monasteries that were
dedicated to the contemplative life through the practice of austerity
and simplicity. In 1567 she met St. John of the Cross and encouraged
him to pioneer similar reforms within the male branch of the Carmelite
St Teresa is also renowned for her autobiographical and mystical writings. In her book Life, she records her memories of childhood and adolescence and her early spiritual experiences. In her book The Foundations
she records the epic struggle of establishing her monasteries. In The
Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, and some other minor works
such as Spiritual Testimonies, Soliloquies, Meditations on the Song of
Songs and her Poetry, she shares the lessons derived from her many
challenging experiences, of striving always to live in the presence of
God's enduring Love. There are some 437 of her Letters preserved. They
make electrifying reading, intermingling spiritual teachings with minor
tittle-tattle, building suggestions and recipes!
St Teresa of Avila died at Alba de Tormes on 4 October 1582. She was
beatified in 1614 by Pope Paul V and canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory
XV. Pope Paul VI proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church in 1970. Her
feast day is 15th October.
|The important thing is not to think much but to love much.
||The soul's progress does not lie in thinking much
but in loving much.
|If life, which is so short, is to be of any use at all, its use is for gaining life eternal.
|I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ, our God and our Lord, present within me, and that was my way of prayer.
||God never tires of giving, nor can he exhaust his mercies.
Let us not tire of receiving.
|The Lord walks among the pots
If you are able you should occupy yourself in looking at Christ who is
looking at you, and you should speak, and petition, and humble
yourself, and delight in the Lord's presence, and remember that you are
unworthy of being there.
||Nothing is impossible when our Lord wants it.
St Teresa's Bookmark: Nada te turbe
One of St Teresa's most well-known pieces of writing is a short verse
known as her "Bookmark". It teaches us the simple message
of trust in God and total reliance on him:
Let nothing trouble
you, let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing; God never
Patience obtains all
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
St Teresa's Bookmark has been put to music and is a popular Taize chant.
You can watch it being sung at Taize on YouTube, here:
The 5th centenary of the birth of St Teresa
entire order of Discalced carmelites around the world are actively
preparing for the fifth centenary of the birth of St Teresa which will
come in 2015. In each of the five years coming up to this great event,
a different book of hers will be re-read and studied individually by
Carmelites, in communities and where possible in a setting where
members of the public can join in.
The order in which the books will be studied are as follows:
Oct 2009 - Oct 2010: Book of her Life
Oct 2010 - Oct 2011: Way of Perfection
Oct 2011 - Oct 2012: Foundations
Oct 2012 - Oct 2013: Interior Castle
Oct 2013 - Oct 2014: Spiritual relations, Poems and Letters
A special website with resources, reading guides, worksheets and blog
has been set up and can be accessed at this address: http://www.iwasbornforyou.com/
St Teresa's message for the 21st Century
Poem by St Teresa
If, Lord, Thy love for me is strong
As this which binds me unto Thee,
What holds me from Thee, Lord, so long,
What holds Thee, Lord, so long from me?
O soul, what then desirest thou?
- Lord, I would see Thee, who thus choose Thee.
What fears can yet assail thee now?
- All that I fear is but to lose Thee.
Love's whole possession I entreat,
Lord, make my soul Thine own abode,
And I will build a nest so sweet
It may not be too poor for God.
A soul in God hidden from sin,
What more desires for thee remain,
Save but to love, and love again,
And, all on flame with love within,
Love on, and turn to love again?
by your Spirit you raised up
Father in heaven,
St Teresa of Avila to show your Church the way to perfection.
May her inspired teaching
awaken in us a longing
for true holiness.
May we share her love for you and remain blameless through the
new life we receive.
Grant these graces through
Christ our Lord.
St Teresa of Avila,
pray for us.
Website for 5th centenary of her birth: www.iwasbornforyou.com
Read St. Teresa's Books Online:
Way of Perfection: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/way.toc.html
Interior Castle: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/castle2.toc.html
Book of her Life: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/life.toc.html
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