St. Teresa of Avila
Doctor of the Church
Today is the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church. She is also known as St. Teresa of Jesus. This Carmelite nun was one of the great Spanish mystics, whose piercing writings on prayer have helped millions develop a deeper spirituality through contemplative prayer. She is also known as the Doctor of Prayer.
Recently, I missed out on a great opportunity to update my Doctors of the Universal Church series (scroll all the way to the bottom for the start of the series). There have been SEVERAL Doctors of the Church whose feasts I have missed. I’ll try to rectify that slowly.
Today, let us focus on St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa is one of just three women who are named Doctors of the Church.
- St. Teresa was born in Avila, Spain in 1515.
- When she was 17-years-old, she discovered her vocation through reading the Letters of St. Jerome (another Doctor of the Church). She entered a Carmelite monastery. (click here to read the Letters of St. Jerome on-line for free)
- She became extremely ill, falling into a coma and being paralyzed for almost 3 years. She attributed her healing to the intercession of St. Joseph.
- When she was 39-years-old, St. Teresa began to enjoy a vivid image of God’s presence within her. She fell into periods of ecstacy while praying.
- In one of these episodes, St. Teresa saw an angel with a golden lance above her. The angel drove the lance repeatedly through St. Teresa’s heart. This caused great pain, but also a great feeling of joy and love. This is called the Transverberation of St. Teresa.
- St. Teresa felt called to spiritual perfection. To that end, she established a reformed convent of Carmelite nuns. This reformed group, based on the rule of St. Peter of Alcantara, became known as the Discalced Carmelites. It was dedicated to St. Joseph.
- This reform of the Carmelites was done in association with St. John of the Cross, who also is a Doctor of the Church.
- The most famous of St. Teresa’s writings include her Autobiography; The Way of Perfection; and Interior Castle (click here to read a free on-line version of the book).
- Even from a purely secular point-of-view, St. Teresa’s writings are held in great esteem. They are considered some of the foundational prose writings of Spanish literature.
- St. Teresa died in 1582. Her life and work are prime examples of God’s intervention in the life of the Church. St. Teresa lived at a moment of crisis within the Church: the Protestant Reformation. Clearly, the Church was in need of reform. God granted the Church many great reformers during this period, including St. Teresa. She and others were major figures in the Catholic (or Counter) Reformation.
- SOURCES OF INFORMATION FOR THIS POST: article in the Catholic Encyclopedia at NewAdvent.org (my favortite place); article at a Carmelite website in Austria; article at Wikipedia.