St Teresa of Avila
Virgin, Doctor of the Church (1515-1582)
Saint of the day October 15
Tresa Cepeda de Ahumada was born in Avila, Old Castille, some 50 miles N.W. of Madrid (Spain). At 20, after reading the letters of St Jerome, she entered the Carmelite convent, regarding it as the safest way to salvation, albeit without her father’s consent. “Prayer is the doorway to great graces; if this door is closed, I do not see how God can bestow any graces!” During a time of ill health she began to practise mental prayer, and the Confessions of St Augustiile inspired her to give herself unreservedly to God. For in many religious houses of that day discipline had become rather relaxed, what with frequent visitors providing worldly distractions. “Prayer and self-indulgence do not go together!” she was wont to say.
She now began to be overwhelmed with intellectual visions, ecstasies, levitations and other extraordinary graces. Our Lord himself repeatedly spoke to her, a seraph pierced her heart (Transverberation, 1559), and she experienced the spiritual espousal. For Teresa this resulted in years of ridicule and misunderstanding, as her early confessors considered her visions diabolical deceptions. Extrovert by nature and affectionate of disposition, Teresa had the ability to adapt herself quite easily to all kinds of people, places and circumstances. Through 20 years of spiritual struggle, Teresa slowly learnt detachment from all creatures, abnegation, and perfection in following Christ. “The prayer that pleases God most, is the one which brings about improvement, and which shows itself in good works, rather than the pleasure of one’s own satisfaction.”
Finally, St Peter of Alcantara, her spiritual director, and St Francis Borgia were able to discern the workings of God’s power In her, and in the year 1561 our Lord commanded her to reform the Carmelite Order. Then 46 years of age, during the remaining 21 years of her life she was able, despite violent opposition, to found 17 convents of discalced Carmelite nuns and 15 monasteries for friars under the severe, unmitigated rule of the Order. “Let nothing trouble or frighten you! All things pass away. Only God never changes. Patience obtains everything! God alone suffices!’ Under due obedience to her superiors Teresa wrote her life story “The Way of Perfection”, “The Interior Castle” and “Conception of the Love of God”. Teresa of Avila died on 4 October 1582 and was buried at Alba de Tomes. Canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV she was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.